Suspension in suspense
After riding with my broken rear shock for over 4 weeks, 6000km, crossing 4 countries, several mountain passes & off road tracks, I got notice that my new shock has arrived in Uzbekistan. My old one was blown since Iran and with several delays and uncertainties considering custom clearance, I’m quite pleased she made it!
I ride back to Tashkent and with the help of the Uzbekistan Bikers club I find a workshop to fit my new shock for free. What a fantastic community! My Belle is again good and well!
Never joke with a girl
Back in the hostel I joke with a girl that if she wants a lift for a few days on my motorbike, she better buys a helmet…
And so she did!
Two days later Irene and I leave Tashkent on a tractor: my overloaded, underpowered, suffering from altitude sickness Belle with a pillion, all my gear + her backpackers backpack full of backpacking gear AND also food for a few days. Somehow she pulled through and kept on running! Still can’t believe how we did it…
First destination? Kulikalon Glacial Lakes in North Tajikistan! Going up this gravel track is quite a ride. 60km of off road tracks with an overloaded bike, two-up and loose gravel ended up being impossible: I was constantly pulling unwanted wheelies and when this didn’t happen, my back wheel slipped. Consequently, I ditch my hitchhiker and let her walk up the mountain. Not a real gentleman’s move but luckily a few minutes later she gets a lift and dropped off after the steepest part. We arrive exhausted in the mountain hut and order some awesome traditional Tajikistan food: a nice thick meat soup with salad and bread.
We wake up early to start our mountain hike. Sweating in our boots, the locals overtake us almost running up the mountain with flip-flops and luggage of some tourists. Absolutely amazing! Silly and weak western breed we are…
Two hours later, we arrive at this rewarding place: several glacial Lakes at more than 3000m altitude with stunning glaciers and steep cliffs in the background. They are cold, very cold, but certainly refreshing to swim in!
Sick as hell and vodka as a remedy
Going up the seven lakes valley goes a bit better than the other day but the sun is setting and we end up riding in the dark. Maybe it was good we didn’t see too much since there were some dodgy parts with steep cliffs going straight into ice cold water!
We find a little guesthouse at the fifth lake a decide to call it a day. Tajikistan is known for being very rough, lots of high mountains with narrow valleys and loose rocks everywhere. This valley is no difference but there are seven lakes over a stretch of 20km which serve as a meandering green vein in the valley resulting in lush green trees, crop fields, happy cows, goats and children. Having some nice beers, food and off course vodka we happily tuck ourselves in for the night.
The next morning, I wake up with the worst gut feeling ever. I think I’ve been eating something wrong. It must be that (really delicious) wrap from down in the valley. I try to eat some rice and milk as breakfast but am forced to lie down due to heavy nausea.
A group of local tourists invite us to join them at their table. I grab some watermelon and kindly reject the offered vodka. One of the guys (who might have been a doctor) insists that a double shot of vodka with salt would help my upset guts and stomach. I couldn’t really figure out if he was a real doctor or not but gave it a shot anyway.
After a proper three days of serious illness I finally feel a bit better and we slowely ride towards Panjakent, a border city with Uzbekistan. We say goodbye to eachother since Irene has to go home and I’m ready to explore the pamir mountains!
Bullets and touching Afghanistan
The Pamir Highway (or M41) in Tajikistan is the second highest “highway” in the world going up to 4655m altitude.
Although it’s considered a highway, it’s still a bit different than our European ones. Belgium has “bad” highways but this is a completely new dimension! Off road, sand, river crossings land slides, mud and putholes. For some paradise, for others hell…
Seeing Afghanistan on the right side of the river, I wounder how it must be there. No proper government, corruption, guerilla groups, terrorism, poverty? I honestly have no clue and feel sorry for the people since it looks like a beautiful country! Too bad it’s considered a bit dangerous and nearly impossible to cross. I pick up an AK47 bullet on the side of the road and keep it as a reminder that we should be happy with what we have.
I ride till Rushon and gear up for Bartang Valley! They say I should be prepared for anything: landslides, river crossings, flooded roads, altitude sickness, bad weather, unspoiled nature and friendly people. Let’s see!