The end of the Murghab era was there. One more diesel fetching session and Fanny (who was going to travel with me for a short while) and I left the town for Karakul lake and the border of Kyrgyzstan. On the way to Karakul is the highest pass of the country, the 4.655 meter high Ak-Baital pass. Again, the pass itself is not very impressive. There is a sign before you go over, but nothing to indicate that you’re actually at 4.655 meters. But the air is thin and because we drove up rather quickly, it feels kind of funny and lightheaded sets in.
On the way to the village Karakul, we came across Sophie and Tali again. They had just also done the pass and told us it was pure terror. We agreed to wait for them and meet in Karakul. When they arrived we decided to find a camping spot together near the lake. Fanny and I set out to scout near the coast of the lake but about 10 minutes into the drive we got quite stuck in a boggy patch of what seemed like perfectly firm grassland. Fanny suggested to walk back to the village (2.5 km) and ask for help. In the meantime I modified the hilift jack, jacked up the wheels and put rocks under them. For the other wheels I used the Traxx plates and after an hour of being stuck I was able to drive out before help had arrived! When I arrived in the village, a german dude which we also met in the hotel arrived on his motorcycle. He had heard in a hostel in town that I was stuck. Small world. We invited him to come camp with us. After the whole ordeal we drove north and found a spot near the road. A bit dusty and windy but it would have to do. We made a nice meal and had a cosy evening in the tent.
The next morning we all went our separate ways. Sophie and Tali continued towards Kygryzstan, the German dude went back to get his friends, and we also went back a few kilometers to the southeast side of the lake. We saw on the map that there is a “viewpoint” there at about 5000 meters. So we thought it would be fun to climb a mountain that day. We drove uphill for quite a bit until we had to stop at a little house with a family and some live stock (at about 4000 meters). They invited us in for tea, but we declined because we wanted to start walking up as soon as possible. So we started our ascent of, what we would later call, Fifteen Flower mountain, due to the fifteen types of flowers we found on while climbing up. The way up was truly awe inspiring. The lake became bigger and bigger as we reached higher altitudes. Breathing became harder and once in a while I got a little dizziness. It’s funny how you just don’t sweat at these heights. The water just evaporates immediately. About 3 to 4 hours later we arrived at the top. The view was stunning.
When we came back down, we took the family up on their offer. We entered their cabin and received tea and bread with the best kefir and condensed milk I have had in Kyrgyzstan. They even offered some sheep meat, which I later suspected to have given me stomach problems for about a week. But I can’t be very sure about that. It was tasty nonetheless. After our meal we went outside where the women were milking yaks. We were allowed to try as well but it was rather difficult to get some milk out and to aim it into the bucket. After saying goodbye we drove down to the lake and made a camp at the shore. It was rather windy the rest of the day. We made dinner and watched a movie in the car while the view over the lake got darker and darker. We stayed at the lake shore for another day, reading and walking for a bit.
This day we drove towards the border to cross into Kyrgyzstan. It was a beautiful road along the border with China. When crossing the Tajik side of the border into no mans land, everything suddenly changes into a green version of what we’ve seen before. It’s really awesome to see such a sudden change. Also, this border was probably the easiest I’ve ever crossed. My car was officially allowed to stay for 2 weeks, but I’ve stayed a bit over 4. So I was a bit worried they would be annoyed over this. But the border guy just asked me if we have had a good time, put the exit stamp in my passport and told us to “come again”. We tried to set and set up camp in no mans land but were soon told to move on to the Kyrgyz side of the border.