Saturday, September 26, 2009

Afghan Blasting

fri 11sep
afgan blasting
We went to the market and looked for a ride back to Dushanbe.e found a 4 wheel drive pretty fast so we loaded our bikes on top and onces the car was full with 6 passengers we left.
We rode the 500km all the way back to Dushanbe were we cycled before. It is somehow nice to see what you have cycled already. We enjoyed again the views and laughed once in a while when we remembered a spot and a connecting story with it.
Around 6 hours after we started we stoped for lunch at a nice restaurant beside the river facing Afghanistan. We ordered food and enjoyed the rest when suddenly the owner of the restaurant approached us and said something in Tajik. All jumped of put their shoes on and were hiding behind the restaurant. The 1st blast happend followed by a 2nd one. When the 3rd blast happened we also ran and took cover behind the restaurant. Suddenly we saw the (head size) stones scattered beside the restaurant which flew from the other side of the river. Now we realized in what a danger we have been and all of that just because the Afghans trying to make some trails on rocky terain.
When we left and went to our car the rear window had a big hole done by one of the stones.
This was quite a weird experience.

On our way back we realized that some things have changed: the old geezer with the bees has gone, the kids where we slept - close to the pass have gone and thats because the winter is coming ... also time for us to go. THANK YOU Tajikistan - see you again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bartang Valley

Camp 9 - Camp10
su 6 sep
Another day starting with serious headwind. It should be like that the next days ... for the whole valley. The views are just unbelievable and that valley is really unique. In the morning we passed a small house, where an old guy lived with his woman and 2 kids. It is in the middle of nowhere but we were not complaining coz it was a nice break for us. We continued and besides the headwind, the road was really in serious condition. Rough road, bolder stones and deep sand.
We arrived at a nice open area with amazing views at snow covered peaks ... and suddenly we found ourselves in a kind of moon valley ... a lot of big stones sqauttering around and we cycled through it ... it was just unbelievable ... in the evening we started to hallucinate ... we saw a yurt which turned out to be only a stone ... anyway we had enough food and decided to just have our rest. After our dinner (we cooked in the tent coz it was still very cold at night.

Camp 10 -Ghudara
mo 7 sep
Most probably this was the hardest day of our trip. We heard a lot of Kog Jar and we were eager to reach it ...but before that there was still some serious climbing. The road conditions got worst and some stretches where impossible to bike.
Finally we made it and the views into the valley were unique. We enjoyed the downhill, dropping down around 400 high meters but then the worst part of the day started. Crossing river dried beds with serious bolder stones got us to our limit. After we then cycled into a deep sand area ... we had to stop and recharge. Luckily we still have some muesli, which you can just mixed with cold water ...and that recharged us again. The rest of the day the conditons didn´t really change and we were just looking forward to Ghudara. Finally we reached it ... craving already for some chocolate bars and other stuff ... we had to learn there is no store. The next store is 2 day rides away. Luckily Boby, the only person in the village who spoke english gave us shelter and some delicious food. He offered us to sleep in his "winter house". The villages here in the Bartang valley are amazingliny nice (even though they don´t have stores), all old Pamiri houses with fields around each house.

Ghudara - camp 11
tue 8 sep
we had a nice breakfast with boby. after that we continued our ride. The last info we got was the road is going all the way down and the road is getting better. Straight after the start we had some climbing to do ... not serious but climbing, and the road got better. sus i think then we went the wrong road abd luckily we had no serious head wind .... the scenery got more and more impressive. The valley got narrower and road bended its way through the giant stones. Before we reached Savnob we had to climb up from 2400m up to 2700m. The climb was quite tough specially if you dont expect 1. But finally we reached Savnob. A nice small viallage laying in between the valley with amazing views of the revolution peak. We were looking for a "magazine" but all we found was a 2 hand shoe store. I almost freaked out ... everybody told us there is a magazine in Savnob ... which they were right with but nobody told us they sell only shoes.
That makes you once again aware, how we take things for granted. If you want to have something in civilization ... you just buy it. But here ... there is nothing to buy
We found a nice guy, neighbor of a homestay, who made us tea and some potatoes.
After that we continued cycling and climbing again. We had to climb up to 3000 m before finally it really went down. 2 km later we found ourselves in a river bed ... seeing the track going all the way inside the valley to come back out on the other side after going over a bridge. we tried several times to cross the river ...not to cycle around 2km detour on copple stone ... Finally we made it over the bridge, back on track to find out 1 km later that the official road has gone, taken away by the current ... so we have to cross the river. The scenery became at every bend more impressive ... our goal for today was to cycle to Basid, but after i had a flat tire close to dusk? we knew we can not make it. After repairing the tire we continued another 5 km, to find out at a road side house, that Basid is still 14 km to go. We actually realized that this house at the road side was a very nice spot for staying overnight. the owners, a couple with here son, living here to go ibex hunting once in a while brought us some tea and bread and we cooked on of our outdoor meals. The place was great, right at the greek with a terrace kind of thing, where we sleped packed in our sleeping bags. Thanks to my flat tire otherwise we might never have stayed overnight here.

we 9 Sep
After breakfast and a tea we continued our ride. The scenery was amazing like the days before and so was the headwind. Also the road was not really improving ... but we were already used to it and the scenery made up for it. At least the amount of villages was improving. We stopped several times, in villages got invited for tea and bread. At 5 pm before we decided to make the final strtch for today we asked in a village for hot water , to make some coffee. After we made ourself understand with the villagers a man brought us to his place. His mother, an old lady, spoke very good english and she was proud of it. She was a teacher when she was young. They provided us with the hot water and also offered us bread. We actually only wanted the coffee and she got really upset, that we refuse her offer. She insisted that we try her bread and so we finally did. The hospitality is just amazing. We in the western world can definitely learn a lot from that.
After another 20km we reached our homestay for today. We arrived at dusk and the last 2 km was paved. A fact, after 7 days in that rough valley with its serious roads wich we really enjoyed.

thrsdy 10sep
Cycling was like flying today. For sure we knew its the last day and we were looking forward to some good food but it was more the fact that we cycled on paved road without headwind.
We were trained the last days with serious rough road and headwinds. The 1st 17 km out of the valley were immediatly done and our focus was Khorog. After two short stops and 6 hours we saw the bridge to Afghanistan and we already got the smell of a cold beer in our nose.We stopped at the market in Khorog and bought some beers, a sausage and some bread and went to the homestay we stayed before. Our "house" was still free. We took the well deserved bucket shower and washed the sand of the 7 days Bartang Valley away. Sittng in front of the house with a cold beer made us realize what an awesome ride we just finished. 1511km on rough roads wild countryside with awesome people everywhere.

Yashir Kul - Murghab - Ak Baital (Pamir Highway)

Yahsil Kul - Neizatash Pass - Homestay
Tue 1 Sep
Burbing Gasoline
The day started with pushing the bike up a hill (hard work - but the camsite made it worse it). The views overlooking the lake where just unbelievable. After that we cycled into another valley (well pushed our bikes down hehehe) to pass by a yurt. There we had our breakfast (tea and bread and yoghurt). After that pushing the bikes back up again. The ride to Alichur was again unbelievable in terms of country side and views ... marmots where passing our road, yaks were gazeing on the grass areas ... It seemed like the ride will never √©nd ... and we got desperate coz we didn´t had any more water and we were ready for a break ... but there was always another small hill to conquer. Finally we reached Alichur and found a nice plaqce to have some catfish. Before we continued we passed by a "magazine". To our surprise we found "Snickers" chocolate bars ... and immediatly started eating them. Suddenly we both smelled gasoline ... looking around to find the source for it ... before we realized it was the snickers. Having eaten 1/2 of it already ... would keep us burbing gasoline the rest of the day ... a horrible experience. We actually wanted to cycle only a few kilometers more ...but the tail wind and the scenery made us continue and continue (Yurts, Yaks and moon valley like scenery). On the map we saw that there is a homestay behind the Neizatesh Pass and we decided to make it till there. The light at that time of the day was just amazing and the pass turned out to be smooth and easy. We reached the home stay with the last light of the day and liked the place till the guy started to make fire there. After 2 min we couldn´t see anything in the room anymore because of the smoke, the fire man created. He got replaced by a lady who seemingly know how to make fire and 15min later the room was cozy warm and smoke free.
They served us great food (soup, yoghurt and tea) and we called it a day.

homestay - murghab

We 2 Sep
Today was an easy cycling day with the target Murghab. It was more or less 40 km downhill and we were looking forwqard to our Restday. We started early, packed in gloves and jackets. We reached Murghab at 11am. average 21 km per hour ...The setting of Murghab is quite nice ... In Murghab we found a nice Guesthouse and a
market (bazaar) That´s more or less all Murghab has to over. We tried to find internet - but none. We had a coffee in one of the funny tea houses at the bazaar (with separees) and watched the life passing by. 60-70% of the inhabitants are Kirgis and we asked ourselfes the question what purpose that Kirgis hat might have ... the question is still not answered. We went back to our Guesthouse and had "bird balls" together with Thomas and Michelle, a swiss couple. This night it should snow and good that we had a rest day the next day, because all ou shoes were left outside and wet
Murghab (restday)

we enjoyed waking up and seeing all peaks powedered with snow. It stayed cloudy and it would snow for the next view hours. In the evening it cleared up and we wenrt for a walk.

Murghab - Camp (close to Ak Baital Pass)
fr 4 sep
65km on the way to the pass. The area had nothing special to offer and it got more and more remote. We tried tolook for a place around 4200m high (close to the pass) to get more aclimatised and have it easy getting over the pass next day. Suddenly i found my self in a snow storm and no sigh of martin. I waited , sure that he hasnt continued but i couldnt see any sign from him. After the snowstorm calmed down a bit i suddenly saw some movement on the road maybe 2 km back, well i was sure it was martin. So I cycled back and heard that he already enjpoyed a hot tea and some bread with a familie. We cycled there ...enjoyed more tea and pitched our tent. It was the coldest night with around -10 degrees.

Ak Baital
sa 5 sep.
after a coffee and breakfast with the familie we ...exchanged some gifts batteries, tshirt soup and got some bread from the familie.
We continued. The pass was 11 km away and luckily not seriously step ...coz the altitude is already a challange. We found another "tea" around 5 km before the pass. After that we started cycling in the hight of the snow and crossed the 4655m Ak Baital Pass. On our way down we met 2 more cyclist and contined. Around ??? after the pass we turned left to cycle through the Bartang Valley. Immediatly head wind started ...serious head wind... that is what the girl 4 days ago ment when she said ...the wind started winter is coming ... this serious headwind should be 1 of our challanges the next days.
This valley is totally different form the rest we cycled so far is "wild" ... quite open (that should change in the next days. We were amazed by the country side not really by the wind ...but you can not have it all.
In the evening we pitched our tent at a creek and as soon we stopped cycling ...the wind stopped also ... hmm weird ... but true.

Wakhan Valley - Kargush Pass

khorog rest day
mi 26 aug
today rest day. meaning, cleaning the bike, do some internet, some shopping and be happy that your butt has a breka from the bike. We went to the museeum, which was not so interesting because it is only in russian/tajik language. Since ytereday I started to have some itchiness on the eyes and today one was already covererd... and puss everywhere
At least we could have a look at the marco polo sheeps which are really huge sheeps.
For the evening we found the most amazing indian restaurant I have ever seen... most amazingh not because of the dishes , which were great but because of the menu. I have necver seen so much information on a few pages - reminds me of my teaching time when 1 of my students showed me his presentation in powerpoint, where he was able to put the information for 25 slides and only 1. We could n t really read the menu and so we asked what food they had. write about the house

Khorog - Ishkashim (Wakhan Valley)
do 27 aug
The indian spices kept our stomachs busy the whole night. We woke up in the morning ready for another cycling day. The next days would bring us along the Afgan border threough the Wakhan Valley. We started at 7 and cyled to the market. We could buy what we wanted but we didn´t find a coffee so we decided to start cycle out of Khorog. 2h later we had our breakfast on a nice side stop. Continuing cycling we made another breaqk at 3 pm, after 70km. We were slowly looking for a place to stay but 1st had a nother teabreak. After that break we suddenly had tail wind and we continued and continued cycling. Once we had 85 km we decided to go all the way to Ishkashim (who knows if there is such a wind tomorrow - in the Bartang valley we would find out there is still more than enough)
The last km we were almost flying with all those tail winds and the views to the Hindukush was just incredible. This day we really realized there are even less cars then the days before .... we found a nice guest house and after our well deserved cold beer we fell a sleep

Ishkashim - Btup (Homestay)

fr 28 august
Very amazing ride. The 40km after Ishakashim were paved and the valley opened up ... we had nice views of snowpeaked mountains in afghanistan and ahead of us (Lenin and Marx Peak). Suddenly Jeff a french guy was catching up with us. Martin met him already a few days agon in Khorog and we decided to cycle a bit together. Martin and me had a tea break in a small place were we got invited for the 1st timne in a real Pamir House. The freindliness is really amazing. We continued cycling and the road got seriously rough ... so rough that suddenly my rack fell of. We fixed the problem and continued cycling. Jeff decided to put his hammock inbetween trees while Martin aqnd me decided to experience a night in a real Pamir House. Luckily we found a homestay - young boy taking care of everything ....

Btup - Camp 5 (3400m) Kargush Pass

sa 29 aug
Today the road continued beeing rough. The valley opened more and more upand we enjoyed the incredible views. Langar is the last town, before the long way contiues over the Kargush Pass. We stopped in Langar (46km) had some of our food and tried to find juice water and chocoloate in one of the "magazines". After around 2 hours of lunch, siesta and we started with the Kargush Pass. Immediatly after Langar a serious climb started. Very steep rough road and loose stones combined with deep sands gave us a hard time. We managed to bike it all up (with some breaks inbetween to get back the breath again once in a while) ... and were hoping it will not continue all the way up to the pass like that. Luckily after that steep beginning the road calmed down a bit and we could again enjoy the countryside. At around 6 we decided to pitch our tent at the side of the road. We camped at 3400m to aclimatize for the next days. The next week we will spend around 4000m and its good to have aclimatized by then. We were amazed coz in the middle of the night we still heard a shepperd passing by and where wondering coz for sure he had to go all the way to Langar, which was already 10km away.

Camp 5 - Camp 6
So 30 Aug
It is quite a long ride before reaching the Kargush Pass and be back on the Pamir Highway. The views were amazing and the cycling was just amazing (in the beginning). After around 20km and a break on a stream we had to go down. Which is on one hand nice, but if you know that at the end of the day we have to go over a pass which is 4300m ... we knew we have to cycle all up again. The area is really remote and nothing to expect in terms of food or restocking ... we had a brak and made some noodles and a coffee before we continued. There is a police checkpoint at the "foot" of the pass and once we saw it we started smiling , knowing that will be the next rest. The 3-4 km there was a torture ...on rough road, washboard with bolder stones seemed the police check point never comes closer. Finally we made it, passed the checkpoint and looked for a nice spot to pitch our tent at an elevation of 4000m.

Camp6 - Camp7 (Yashil Kul)
Mo 31 Aug
We packed our bikes and started the climb up to the pass. 11km of smooth climbing ... Martin saw Marco Polo Sheeps everywhere ... at the end they turned out being donkeys (sorry Martin).
The views during the downhill where very amazing and incredible. 11 km after the pass we reached a small Lake. The problem is the lakes in that area are all salt water lakes. Anyway we were hungry and I decided cooking a soup with this salty water. It was the saltiest soup I ever had ... and after that I was craving for weater wich we didn´t had. 11km after the Lake we reach back to the Pamir Highway ... but this stretch was also serious suffering on washboard road. I thought I had enough washboard road in Mongolia last year ...but this was definitly worse.
From the highway it was another 22km to Yashil Kul(=Lake) were we wanted to camp for the night. This 22km again was serious riding on washboard and we were really happy once we saw a small settlement close to the lake. Once we reached the settlement we looked for a shop, went inside and got disapionted when we found out that the only stocks they had was cooking oil and 3 bars of soap. Finally we found a "homestay" place and they cooked us nice potatoes and we were able to get water from their well.
Totally recharged we cycled the last 4 km to the Lake where we found a very nice campsite, pitched our tent , had some food and called it a day.
In the settlement we got a bit confused coz our time was 4pm and they had it already 5pm. Later we found out that that region has a different time zone to Dushanbe ... we never realized that ... anyway on a trip like that time is the last thing that matters.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Biker data / statistics

Kala-i-Khumb - Khorog

Kala-i-Khumb - Vanj Valley
(87 km / total 415 km - high up: 900m / high up total: 6327 m - down: 600m / total : 5246m
some smaller climbs nothing serious; the problem is the heat we had 44 degrees around 2pm

will be updated soon

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