The next 3 weeks is possibly the most thrilling bicycle tour section ever attempted.
From Kashgar, we head towards the Irkeshtam Pass and Kyrgyzstan, the most accessible of the former Soviet Asian Republics, known for its responsible tourism and hospitable nomadic peoples. After the border formalities we arrive at the junction town of Sary-Tash. At first one senses this new frontier will mark a profound shift in cultures, but in reality Central Asian and Turkic peoples share much of their heritage with the Uyghurs of Western China.
Then it’s into Tajikistan, a remote country described by Lonely Planet as “a patchwork of self-contained valleys and regional contrasts, forged together by Soviet nation-building and shared pride in a Persian cultural heritage that is claimed as the oldest and most influential in the Silk Road region.”
Here we will embark on our own “Great Game,” as the first cycling expedition organized by “foreign devils” to navigate the fabled Pamir Highway, which was off-limits to travelers until recently. Known locally as Bam-i-Dunya (Roof of the World), the Pamirs lie at the heart of the Hindu Kush, Tien Shan and Karakorum ranges, reaching skywards to 7495 meters. Afghanistan beckons to the south, China and Kyrgyzstan to the northeast. Here we face magnificent desolation, and a grueling test of physical and mental strength.
Nomadic herders, warm nights in Yurts, the indescribable beauty of Kara-Kul Lake, and the literally breath taking 4,665 meter Ak-Baital Pass are some of the highlights of this route. Amidst such stunning scenery, travelers should be on the lookout for the giant Marco Polo sheep and the elusive snow leopard, while guarding themselves against altitude sickness.
After crossing our 4th pass of more than 4000 meters, we will reach Khorog, a stones throw from Afghanistan, and the site of our second rest day in this stretch after Kara-kul. From there it’s on to the Tajik capital of Dushanbe; transformed from a small village into a city by the Bolsheviks, it will grant us a day to explore its busy markets, and to experience a bit of luxury after the trials of the Pamirs.
Countries: China, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan
Far Out Factor
July 9, 2014
July 27, 2014
17 Days Riding
2 Days Resting
China, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan