Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cycling Day 6-8 - Along the Afghan Border

Kala-i-Khumb - Khorog

Kala-i-Khumb (1300m) - Camp 4 -Vanj Valley (1600m)

Sun 23 Aug. 09
Today we started to ride along the Afgan - Tajik border. The two countries are only devided by a river and we will cycle for the next 3 days along that river.
Its amazing but entering that area we have the impression, people are getting friendlier and friendlier. The scenery is just incredible on the afgan side side you see serious mountain trails and people walking there with their mules and we on the other side have a "fairly" well paved road and going along on it. The secenery changes, sometimes you only see rocks and sand, sometime green areas ... this for sure mostly there where water is coming down the mountains and thats where you also find the settlements. It is extremly hot ... we have 44 degrees and i got blisters on my sshoulders ... we got warned already from some soldiers which are patrouling along the border. Those are 16 - 18 year old guys fully armed and seem to be bored ... so they stop cyclist, ask for the passports and then try to get some money out of it. We heard people given theri passports and had to pay a lot of money to get them back. This day we met 2 on the road but we just passed them and cycled with our noirmal speed today we were lucky.
We looked for a place to pitch our tent and found a bice spot. We decided to not pitch the tent and sleep under free sky. The stones on the floor where giving us a hard time and then the wind started ... we woke up in the morning and both agrred that it wasnt the most comfortable night we had in our lives even so it was worth it to sleep in with the soundtrack "Into the wild".

Camp 4 -Vanj Valley (1600m) - Vomar

Mon 24 Aug. 09
The scenery gets every day more impressive. The heat stays the same 44 degrees. Early in the morning we bumped again into 3 soldiers. This time we had to stop. I bribed them with some candies out of my BloodRed - chocolate bar bag but still they insisted on passports and money. We showed them the copies and gave them 5 Somoni (less then a Euro) and they let us pass. The 1st 35km went quite fast, and we were enjoying the countryside. The road is definitl improving and watching over to the Afghan viallages ... let the kilometers pass.
The next 25km was a torture ... the heat got almost unbearable and we missed the "lunch" place. There are not so many places and if you miss the view existing onces that will give you a hard time. We had a climb to get over and with the heat and no shadow ... that wasn't so easy. But at the end we reached Shidz, a nice place at a lake (or better saying where the river gets wider) where we had tea, bread and a melon. The local "chief" tried Martins bike and we had a lot of fun, because he couldnt find the breaks and thats why he didn't turn but continued cycling and cycling ... Martin got already nervous but finally he came back. After that welcome break and the fact that the temperature went down ... we started with the last 30 km of the day. It went very fast on good road and nice scenery. The last 5 km before Vomar was like cycling the last few kms into Paris of the Tour de France. Kids and farmers were greeting us from the fields and we heard at least a 100 times "Ad Kuda" ... what we later found out means where are you coming from.
We had a nice sausage and a beer before we tried to find a place in Vomar. With some local help we stayed in the governors place ... not such a bad option, except that the shower water was black ... and we were wondering if he never has guests or what ... anyway there was some much water flowing in the city that we were able to was ourselves.

Vomar - Khorog
Di 25 aug
It was a nice and easy ride ...the 60 last km to Khorog. We found a nice spot 10km after Vomar where it would be nice to have a coffee but we were to much in the mood for Khorog and continued cycling. Another 10km later we stopped at a creek, where kids and young girls sold Cocoa Cola, Snickers , Mars and Beer cooled by the running water. We had a tea and chatted with the girl to find out that she studies english and german in Dushanbe. It was quite impressive what she had learned alreday adn we were impressed by her business idea. For 8 days along the road from Dushanbe to here we were looking for something like that.
We continued and had another stop around 20km later on a well, where we hadf a coffee ebfore we continued our way to Khorog. Khorog was in a way disapointing. You expect for such places an oasis to chill out and rest before you continue ... like Pokhara in Nepal, or ... but this wasn´t really it.
We found ourserlfes anyhow a nice spot at the river and celebraeted our first 500km with some cold beerOur guesthouse was an old house we had totally for ourselves, 2 rooms 10 USD each. On our serach to some decent food we found a coffee at the river side (quite fancy) and they serve westernb dishes cheeseburger and chips was a nice decision.

Cycling Day 5 - Hindukush

Camp 3 (2800m) - Kala-I-Kum (1300m)

We decided to have 1/2 rest day in Kal-I-Kum. It was only 30km cycling and all downhill.
Nice cycling along a creek with a lot of villages to pass and everywhere you have to great "Salom" while putting your right hand towards your hard. People are very friendly here.
In Kala-I-Kum we found a nice homestay, looking at the Hindukush. We had lunch in a restaurant where they don't serve drinks. So we bought drinks outside and went back to have our lunch. We walked around the village and found to our surprise some cheese and some sausages and had a feast for dinner in our "homestay". After that we aclled it a day and went to sleep in our room without beds. It is normal here to have just a big carpet in the room and people sleep on it. The "hang out" area in the tea houses here is very interesting and for those who want to know more should visit me in Cebu when I am back coz i am planning to build one on my terrace :)

Info for bikers:
day km 30
total 328 km
high up 50
high up total 5427
down : 1500
total : 4646
last 10 km to Kal-I kum all paved ... nice riding along a creek

Cycling Day 4 - The 1st challenge

Tavildara (1581 m) - Khaburabot Pass (3200M) - Camp 3 (2800m)

Lets get it on. The 1st 10 km have been flat ... but we were prepared about what would happen that day. We had to climb from 1581m up to 3200m - this was a 40km climb. It was an awesome ride ...seriously tough , because of the rough road but with amazing scenery. We were focusing on the top and when we arrived there we just had to figure out this was by far not it. On our way up we got invited by an old guy living in his tent and taking care of his bees for some tea and honey ... and he didn't wanted to let us go. Anyway we continued and it got slowly dark already. I was definitely on my limit which I would say was 80% of the pysical part and the rest 20% the serious road conditions.
We reached the top and had to find out that camping there was not allowed coz it is military area.
We cycled 200 hight meters down (wearing our warm fleece jakets , glooves and beanies ... that was a first test for the Pamirs) and pitched our tent in the dark to a family who is living there with there caddle. We had some chili con carne ... martin still can't believe how great the taste is ... and had our well deserved rest.

Info for bikers:
day km 52
total 298 km
high up 1900
high up total 5377
down : 300
total : 3146

seriously rough road but great scenery. 10 km from Tavildara are flat and after the bridge a 40 km climb follows ... not really steep but hard because of the road condition

Cycling Day 3 - 20 Aug

Camp2 - Tavildara

Meet the 7 brothers
20 Aug
We were looking for a breakfast stop but nothing to find ... besides that I ran out of water. We found a remote house and asked for water. Immediatly we got invited in for tea and a some bread. Then, the suffering started. Seriously rough road very dusty and after each truck who overtook us or came from the other side we had to stop for a few minutes to wait till the dust clouds had past.
The scenery was paying of for that and we still enjoyed the ride. Finally we found a place to eat. After some yoghurt, soup and some nice meat we both fel asleep immediatly. Seems the ride was seriously tiring. We finally could make the last stretch of 7 km to reach Tavildara.

Once we reached Tavildara we had a cold beer (its rare to find here) at a shop and ask the owner where to stay. He told us we will stay in his house. He drawed a picture of a boy and a animal (I guess its supposed to be a donkey. And he cut the donkeys head off ... .
We waited for another hour till he closed his shop and went to his place. He and his wife offered us food ... from soup (with lamp meat) , yoghurt, tea, biscuits, candys ...honey ... and lamb everything .... amazing ... and finally I knew the animal in the picture was the lamb ... and we slept in the boys room :)
After that some of his brothers arrived and wanted to talk with us ... we were quite tired and Martin wanted to sleep but they kept talking and talking ...
Finally they understood it and left the room so we could get our well deserved rest.

Info for bikers
day trip: 62 km
total: 246 km
high up: 1100 m
high up total: 3477 m
down: 593 m
down total : 2746 m
road conditions: serious rough road with a lot of dust ... not so much climbing but quite hot and the dusty road gives you the rest. Very nice scenery

Cycling day 2

Camp1 - Camp2
We started early and approached Ob-I-Garm soon. We had a break there, got some frozen RC Cola (this will follow us the rest of our trip) and had some tea and some Samosas.
After Ob-I-Garm we realized why people told us about rough riding here. The road got really bad and seriously dusty. At least the scenery got a lot better so we still could enjoy our ride.
At the end of the day we looked for a nice spot to camp and found a great place overlooking a valley. We didn't even pitch a tent we just slept under the blue sky.

Info for bikers
day trip: 82 km total: 184 km
high up: 1187 m
high up total: 2377 m
down: 1480 m
down total : 1953 m
road conditions: after ObiGarm its serious rough road with lose gravel; rolling up and down
scenery gets very nice and interesting ... people are very friendly
nice riding

CylingDay 1 - Out of Dushanbe (18 Aug)

Dushanbe - Camp 1
Don't use new gadgets on a trip - try them before hand
We started early in the morning, cycling out of Dushanbe.
I tried to test my new gadget (my battery charger, which recharches batteries while biking with a dynamo). Luckily Martin had to stop after a few km ... so i checked the dynamo and I realized that it almost ruined my tire. I think a few km more and my tire would have been gone :(
The 1st day was nothing special and good to get into the cycling again.
There are really almost no stores on the road and its good to bring your own food.
At the end of the day we found a nice spot (tea house) were we pitched our tent and fell asleep.

Info for bikers
day trip: 69 km (79 incl km in Dushanbe)
total: 102 km (incl. the 23 in Dushanbe on 1st day)
high up: 1013 m
high up total: 1190 m
down: 351 m
down total : 462 m

road conditions: all paved - nothing special


So 16 Aug. 2009
After a nice party night in Martins home town "Rotterdam" where we had some beers in a nice pub and Pizza from outside (for sure the last for the next month) we left the house the following day at 8 am in the morning heading to Schipol International Airport.
4h to Istanbul and after a few hours in transit we continued 9pm to Dushanbe, where we we arrived the following day.
Mo 17 Aug. 2009
At 3.30am we arrived in Dushanbe. It is quite a small airport and everything looked somehow improvised. We lined up and after around 30 min we passed the immigration. Tajikistan we have finally arrived.
Picking up our stuff we found ourselves soon outside. 7km to the city center, so we decided to assemble the bikes right here. A german guy was waiting at the airport by bike - waiting for a spare part from Germany. He escorted us into the city and gave us some useful advice about dos and don't ... like don't give away your passport to "not officials" (always carry a copy of your passport ...). Once wer arrived in the center Martin and me sat down at the "Somoni Monument" - the founder of Tajikistan and studied our guide book. After not even 2 minutes 3 policemen approached us from different sides and made us clear we are not allowed to sit here. We moved a few meters followed by them and the words: "bucks, money , passport". Ok, that's how it goes. We just jumped on our bikes and biked in the direction of our proposed hotel. We stayed in the "Adventures Inn" a highly recommended chilled out place with a small garden to relax.
There we met a dutch cyclist with a special own story. She gave us some more advice in travelling by bike in Tajikistan, especially on the young soldiers, walking around the afghan/tajik border and trying to get some money.
We then went into the cicty, bought some stuff for the trip and went back to our guest house. Here we met Nicolas , an interesting and very nice guy. With him we visited an "Ecuatorian Restaurant" - yes something like that is existing in Tajikistan. We had some "Somoni" Vodka ... and after a few beers got ready for bed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ready - Let's get it on

The tickets are booked, The visa in our hands ... lets get it on.
We will fluy 15 Aug from Amsterdam via Istanbul to Dushanbe ...

more updates soon.