We arrived in Murghab and went straight to the Bazaar, and then the Pamir hotel. There we took a room for 8 dollars and hung around for a while and met new people. All travelers that do the Pamir highway or Wakan valley (or go through Tadjikistan for that matter) got through Murghab, and most of them end up in this hotel. The place has hot showers twice a day, after a huge reservoir has been warmed up with animal dung, and the power goes on for a few hours in the morning and evening when they start the generator. People that we met on the way were also pouring in and before we knew it we had filled a room up with a bunch of people that all knew each other in some way. There was a birthday and lots of drinks going around. The party ended at 4 in the night and it was all good.
The day after we woke up slightly groggy and late, and Ed had decided that he would move on to Kyrgyzstan by shared taxi. That early afternoon we said goodbye while Daniel and I made a plan to go to an old hot spring near Modyan, about 45 kilometers west of Murghab. The road to Modyan was terrible. Corrugation to the max and it was only possible to drive either 15- kmh, or 80+ kmh. When we arrived there, there were two roads leading close to the hot spring point on the map. First we took the wrong one, but a nice walk along the river was worth the extra effort. After that we took the north route over the mountain and arrived to a point where the road was washed away, and someone had stashed an old yurt. We walked down to find a rather strong river blocking our path. So we fetched our sandals and tried to cross without pants on. After some attempt at different places in the river we succeeded and went looking for the actual hot spots. The location was completely abandoned and most of the infrastructure that was clearly once there, was destroyed and scattered over the place. The little bath house was only filled with cold bath water and there were three small puddles of extremely hot water on the side. So we hung out there for a while to enjoy the scenery before heading back up to the car.
We drove off, back to the direction of Modyan and headed into the valley nearby to find a camp spot. We found a beautiful patch of grass right next to the river with few bugs and animal shit.
When we drove back to Murghab, we drove past Modyan again an were waved at by some locals who were preparing some food near their house. We had some of the stuff they were making and some bread and sugar. I’m still not sire what it was but it was very sour and goaty. After half an hour we said thanks, made a group pic and took one of them along to Murghab, where he wanted to go to the market.
In Murghab, Daniel and I split up after 3 excellent weeks of traveling together. Sad, but also necessary because I wanted to go to the southeast on my own. So, at the Pamir hotel we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Me in the direction of Ravar, and Daniel towards Kyrgyzstan. But first to get some diesel. From a barrel. Syphoned with an old leaky bucket.
On the road to Ravar, I met the Belgian cyclists again. We talked a bit and thought it would be nice to make a camp together at one of the 2 lakes on the way. So I scouted ahead to wait for them to arrive. But when I got out of the car I was overwhelmed by the amount of mosquitos trying to get to my blood. I tried a few different sites near the lake but when the Belgians arrived we were not able to get them off us. There were thousands of the fuckers around so they decided to head back to the main road, and I drove on towards Ravar. On the way there I noticed some people waving at me again. They were stuck in the mud at the lake shore, covered in mosquitoes, frantically trying to get out again. I lent them my towing rope. In the meantime A local UAZ truck arrived to pull them out. They thanked me for the rope and I got the hell out of there again. The road to Ravar might even be worse than the one to Modyan. It’s ultra corrugated and there are new paths next to the road that are only slightly better to drive on. While I was taking a small break next to the “road” in Ravar, the truck that dragged out the car near the lake stopped next to me and a guy asked me if I would like some tea. When I followed him home, he got stuck himself and I had to drag him out of the dust. Once at his place we communicated some with a dictionary that I gave him as a present. I had a great time there, talking about his family, the surroundings and life in Ravar. He also drew me a map to drive over the mountain range without accidentally ending up in China. He invited me to a family dinner at his wive’s mother’s place where we had sheep backbone with bread that evening, and of course kefir. No pictures of this event sadly.
After a night at their place, we had some breakfast, shaved a sheep and I was back on my way towards the mountains, to eventually drive towards Shaymac. The map that was drawn for me worked pretty good. “go right after 2 sheep farms, pass 3 sheep farms and go right, when you see 2 sheep farms nearby, go right again. I stopped at a yurt where I was invited inside to eat bread and kefir while drinking goat milk and tea. Again, they were very nice people. At some point the path sort of stopped and I had to really search for a horse track up the hill. The highest point was about 4400 meters which was where I got a massive headache and was happy to drive down again, back into higher pressure. I did manage to snap some pictures and even laugh on them a little.
When I was down, there was a big hole in a fence through which a path was visible. I followed the tracks and ended up behind the fence. After driving for about 20 minutes, I noticed a gate with a small hut near it. I realized now that I ended up behind the official border fence and that it was probably a good idea to turn around before they saw me. So I turned, went back through the hole in the fence and found a different path, back to the main road. From here I found the “road” to Shaymac. The road started ok, but quickly turned into one of the most awful hell path I’ve ever seen. It was not even possible to drive on it and multiple tracks had formed left and right of it. Rivers had washed away all the bridges so driving through the streams was necessary sometimes. I drove until I found a nice spot near a river, but after staying for about half an hour I left again because of the many flies and mosquitos. I continued until past Shaymac and decided to sleep in the car, next to a rock face and behind a hill.
The night was nice and cool and I woke up at around 7 from the sound of sheep being close by. After some breakfast I drove into Shaymac and went for a little stroll. When I got back to the car, a guy asked me if I wanted to have some tea in his house. I followed him and the standard batch of food was rolled out for me. Tea, kefir, naan bread, condensed milk and in this case, they also baked a special type of bread for me. Very tasty stuff. In the meantime we tried to talk a little about family and work and stuff, but the communication was tough without my trusty dictionary. They did managed to explain to me where the hot spring was, which people told me about in Murghab. It’s nice how the people in Tajikistan are inviting but not pushy or invasive (to my fragile western standards). So when it was time to leave they said and waved goodbye. I drove to the hot spring which was located behind a big military border complex, which I was allowed to pass for 1 hour. The hot spring was pretty nice but there were some noisy kids there and a soldier washing his trousers.
On Maps.me I found a path that went to the right from the main path, and turned in there. After some off roading I ended up at an old abandoned military complex next to a nice lake. Awesome for post apocalyptic style photography. From there I continued into the direction of China and found a nice spot out of the (pretty strong) wind, made tuna pasta, watched a movie with a few beers, and slept a night in the car.
When I woke up the next day, I continued down the path I was following the day before. When slowly the (what I thought was the OLD) border fence returned to full glory I noticed I was in no mans land again. But this time I wasn’t able to return anymore because the soldiers at the same fence as last time, but from the other direction, had seen me and told me to come to them. They asked me what I was doing there and that I had to go back to Tokhtamysh, where Ieft the main road. But after pleading and asking for about 20 minutes and showing my visa, the soldier at the fence called 3 people, on 3 different phones, and finally let me back into the country. It was time to go back to Murghab, but not before checking out an old meteor impact on the side of a mountain that was on the way.
In Murghab I went back to the Hotel, where I met Fanny, which I had met before in Dushanbe. She had travelled more or less the same route and had ended up there that day. We talked for a bit and decided to drive on towards Kyrgyzstan together the next day. The last leg of the Tajikistan trip I will leave for another post.