Updated: Oct 24, 2018
From Tashkent, we crossed the border into Tajikistan and rode straight to Dushanbe, after staying in the city a couple of days we started our way on the M41, known more commonly as the Pamir Highway. We had one main trail we wanted to ride in Tajikistan, a place we had been researching for a long time and knew only a handful of motorcyclists ride each year. Our biggest challenge yet, The Bartang Valley.
The Bartang Valley is the most challenging and beautiful route we have ever ridden. It’s a remote and wild way of crossing the Pamirs, tracks consisted of landslides, water crossings, deep sand, stark walls of rock with huge drops on the mountain passes.
We started our adventure in Rushon, about 60 km North of Khorugh. The trail leads all the way from Rushon to lake Karakul, our Garmin Inreach registered us climbing to 4,003 meters and from start to finish we clocked about 287 km. It took us 3 days to complete, we had planned to do it in 2 but punctures and an electrical breakdown cost us half a day.
The Bartang has quite a few little villages dotted along the first half so on the first day we met a handful of people going about their everyday lives, cattle herders and children. They were all so friendly and excited about the bikes, pointing us onwards and keeping us on the track! In terms of terrain on the first day we came across large boulders, random patches of sand and deep puddles. It was all pretty tough going but nothing that freaked us out too much! We started riding at about 8am and set up camp at 7pm, the weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot.
The second and third days were a different story! We began climbing the mountain passes, this is where things got a little sketchy. The track turned into tight vertical switch backs on sand and boulders, not our favourite! Our wheels were skidding all over the place and we had to keep on the gas to reach the tops. This terrain would be hard work on the flat but on these angles and with a sheer drop next to us, our hearts were going pretty fast! Once reaching the tops, we’d then have the same situation but obviously on the way down, so we kept on the back brake and took it easy, trying our best to keep away from side. Although when we got too close to the walls our panniers would get bashed and ricochet us over edge. After these passes the track opened out into the most beautiful plains we’ve ever seen.
By the end of the first day we saw less and less people, by the second and third we didn’t see another person until we nearly reached the road again. The people we did meet were always extremely shocked we were riding this track. They found it confusing that we were taking the route for fun, as they avoided it at all costs. we're sure we looked pretty strange to them!
These were the villages as we came across them:
There was usually a shop per village, but don’t be expecting to buy a can of coke. These shops only have locally produced food, so only really eggs and fresh meat.
Once we were about 30 miles from getting back onto the road the temperature dropped massively and the sky became moody, we came to our final (and largest) river crossing yet and typically, it began snowing! Actually, more like heavy hail, doing river crossings in heat is easy but in the freezing cold, it gets harder. We got in there though and felt the ice-cold water soak us through. We carried on with the trail. And then saw the perfectly straight tarmacked road ahead of us, the M41. We made it! Once back on the road we chatted about how proud we were of each other. How odd it was that we were sad the challenge had come to an end.
It had been a long day riding off road. We were freezing but decided to push through cross the Kyrgyzstan border, which was about 45 km away. The border was closing quite soon so we got moving. The crazy thing was we were riding next to a barbed wire fence to us on the right which we realised was China. We have ridden to China?!
The views while riding this Valley were truly magical. We’ll always remember the kindness of the locals we met along the way. What an incredible adventure we had ourselves!