A lost valley
An extremely remote valley of 300-400km going up to 4000m alt. with no reception, no traffic, no road, almost no population, unpredictable weather, landslides and floods.
Bartang: For some this is considered a notorious valley full of dangers, for other a playground!
This is the notoriously Bartang Valley in a nutshell. If you haven’t heard of it, it is like the Pamir highway but on steroids! Tajikistan certainly has some spectacular roads. And this is exactly where our friend almost died.
Quote of the year: “If my heart stops beating, hit me hard on the chest, I’ve had it before” – Frederich – 73y, Bartang Valley.
They say I should be prepared for anything: landslides, river crossings, flooded roads, altitude sickness, mosquitos and unbelievable beauty…
I go to the last town, fill up some spare fuel in plastic bottles, buy my last ice-cream and food for 5 days. Let the adventure begin!
So far, no major river crossings or blocked roads. Only stunning views and amazing tracks. I did cross past a recently cleared landslide where four guys I met previously in Dushanbe where stuck for four days because it took a while to clear the road. Sounds exciting!
After a while a REAL flooded road came up. The first part was ok but deep (about 70cm). The second part was the real deal and quite scary since the current was very strong and unpredictable. Even the locals didn’t dare to cross it with their 4WD’s. since it was the first day, I was quite determined and with the help of some locals we gave it a try. First, we carried my luggage through the grey, wild water. Rocks rolling and hitting our shoes trying to kick us out of balance. Now my bike had to go through. With four people we pushed her inch by inch through the strong current. On each side they held her tight to prevent the wheels from slipping and catching the current. Then came the bottleneck: a small rocky patch, sliding towards the river. This was the only safe way to get the bike over but depending on the rivers flow-rhythm the water rose from fifty centimeters to more than a meter in seconds. We carefully synchronized with the rhythm of the river and pushed her finally through. What a scary but adventurous victory! And then, like it always goes here, we celebrated with a shot of vodka!
The road was getting tougher, rivers deeper, wilder and the views more spectacular. What a crazy Valley full of adventure! Luckily all my GIVI soft bags and top roll stayed dry during the multiple, scary deep, river crossings!
By the end of day two I met two other riders:
Roberto is from Texas and bought a brand new KTM1290, never rode off road in America, shipped his bike to central Asia and came specifically here to ride the Bartang Valley, what a guy!
Frederick is a German man who is 73, rides a Beta motorcycle with some complication, broken suspension, has some cardiac arrhythmias and only had two breads and a can of fish before going into Bartang valley. Adventure guaranteed!
They were riding for already three days in Bartang valley and going slow but steady. I happily joined them and from now on we were with three musketeers.
Man, this valley kept on surprising me. I felt in love with it! Stunning views, extremely remote villages with the most friendly and hospitable people and good riding company!
We were climbing towards the highest point of Bartang Valley, a steep mountain pass at 4000m alt. with loose gravel, steep cliffs and stunning views. Suddenly Frederich’s sub frame broke and we were stuck in the middle of the day in an open space. Hot temperatures and no shade! We opened up the bike and noticed a broken bolt. He changed it already in India he said but of course it broke again… Indian quality steel, right?
Luckily, we were able to fix it with some steel wires, zip ties and a piece of rope. Off we go again!
My trusty Belle was having a bit of difficulties breathing but we finally made it to the “Altiplano” where we happily set up camp. Due to the mountain plateau the ground was very soft and covered with fine gravel, resulting in a big BIG playground for drifting, sliding and just having some fun like a small child with his toys!
We slept at 4000m alt. and in the morning Frederich was not feeling well… He was short of breath, had high heart rate and was feeling dizzy. After a constant sequence of one-minute packing and one-minute flat rest, we suggest Frederich to lie down for a while because… he looked like shit. After all he is 73 with a heart condition and were already three days riding on hard terrain.
He rests for a while and we measure his heart rate: 60BPM for a few seconds, then 120BPM for a few seconds and so on… This combined with an altitude sickness, short of breath and a soaring heat… “FUCK, this is not good!” what do we have to do?!
Going back was no option since we didn’t have enough food and fuel. Going further was the only option but also tricky since we still needed to climb about 300 altimeters higher, so in case of altitude sickness, we do have an additional problem…
Luckily, we arrived sound and safe at the end of the Bartang valley and met up with Danielle and Klaas from the Netherlands (Left and Ride). We took a selfie at the highest point of Pamir Highway (Ak Baital pass @ 4655m) and went down towards Karakul lake.
We set up camp, have a cold beer (and a second, …) make some food and luckily everything was alright the next morning! Nobody died after all…
Frederich felt better after the ride and is now reborn after a good night of sleep! He was suffering from Atrial Fibrillation, which is not even deadly apparently… but I think he should go check a doctor someday… or at least don’t do crazy stuff like this anymore with total strangers like us.