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This is Pamir! / Le Pamir, c’est ça!

Diary of our crossing of Pamir:

November 10th, 6:30pm.
After a first fail to spring upon Pamir, We’re back in Dushanbe.
Cycling in snow is nice, but we are not so far ahead, in contrast, our visa do, we still have less than ten days before we have to leave Tajikistan
Impossible to cross the Pamir in these conditions, we need almost one week to cycle to Khorog, the first city. If we want to cross the Pamir, the only solution is taking a taxi up to Khorog to catch up lost time.

November 12th, 8:00am.
After a day of rest/cleaning bikes/repair/laundry/… Here we are gone, charging our bikes on a 4WD taxi, ready to catch us on Tajik unpaved roads 600km far away, to catch up the gap. Well, that is what we expected.
The travel was supposed to be less than 12 hours. Leaving at 8am makes us in Khorog for the night, but that was without our usual luck…

November 12th, 10:00pm.
After more than 12 hours to drive on bumpy tracks (more some hours to make some breaks), our driver begins to frown; his engine seems to be dead, since few hours it shown some serious failure sign, but now, it refuses to start again. Nothing to do, except waiting.
After 1 or 2 hours to (almost) sleeping at 6 on the 4WD, an other vehicle came to pick us for Khorog, the driver propose us to get in, but obviously, our bikes don’t have their place there. No hesitation, we refuse, no way we leave our bikes, even if we have to spend our night in the 4WD.

November 13th, 4:50am
A Tajik truck accepts to tow us. With some end of cables fixed with a pipe wrench, we harness the 4WD.
The vehicle is a bit heavy and the cable constantly breaks, but a small node here, another there, and we did it (or rather, the driver did it, cause we stay warm in the taxi). After few hours and many cable break, here we are in Khorog, we just have to push the taxi up to a safety place, then joining our guesthouse

November 13th, 6:00am.
Is it still needed going sleeping? The sun start shining, we will therefore set 22h to join Khorog.

November 13th, 10:00am.
Finally, after a (very) short night, we leave on the M41, we have more than 500km and 4 pass over 4000m before getting in Kyrgyzstan.
To comfort us in our adventure the day before, landscapes are up to their reputation, wonderful. We cross many villages and sun in there, if temperatures were following it would be nice, meanwhile we are frozen.

November 15th, 3:00pm.
We arrive down to the first of four passes over 4000m, this one is 4300m. A small lunch break is needed before continuing, we are just 7km from the pass and we have little bit more than 2 hours of sunlight, perfect to get over the pass and get down on the other side. But that was without counting on our usual luck.
The road is completely icy, inclination over 10% and of course, here it’s unpaved road now. So it’s more than 2 hours that we needed to make those 7 km. Time to get up and the night was coming, we tried to get far away, but passed under -10°c we stop, we still have the tent to mount and try to cook. To continue on our way, we don’t have water anymore (at least not « liquid » water), impossible to cook like that, we will have to stop cars and trucks to ask water… Well, a good evening is preparing, and temperature is getting lower and lower.

November 16th, 8:00am.
The sun’s ray warm slowly our tent, now it’s « only » -16°c. Outside temperature is around -18°c -20°c. This night has been fresh and short. Our sleeping bags aren’t really made for this kind of temperatures, particularly Amir’s one, which was almost good when temperatures get negatives. Well, almost wake up, we start being cold, no time to waste, we unmounts the tent and get back on our bikes.

November 17th, 8:30pm.
After cycling more than one hour on the glow of our bikes, we finally find a house in the dark of the night, just a window was shining. It’s Marsoud who lives here, when he show us on his door, his only question has been « are you cold? », then without waiting an answer, he make us go home. Time his wife make us a cup of hot tea, he already put our bikes away from snow and cold.
His house is tiny but he lives here with his wife and his 3 children. Tajik hospitality is no longer un doubt, and once more, we paid the price, impossible to sleep in the kitchen or other room, it’s their bedroom they leave us, them they will pile up to 5 in the kitchen.

November 19th, 10:30am.
Here we are, after more than an hour to make less than 2km, we are arriving on the Ak-Baital pass. Littered at 4655m it’s the second highest paved road in the world, and the highest point of the Pamir Highway (M41). At this altitude it’s difficult to pedal more than 100m without running out of steam, so I stop 5 minutes each 100m… obviously we need little bit more time. Impossible to enjoy the view from this pass, too much wind, too much snow, too cold, so we get back on our bikes and we get down on the north side, quietly towards Kyrgyzstan.

November 20th, 4:20pm.
After a hard day with a cold face wind, rain then snow, we officially get out of Pamir, or at least of the autonomous region of Pamir, it was time, our visa end today and the night will be there in half an hour… Phew, we did it. Again few meters and we also get out of Tajikistan. The entry border to Kyrgyzstan is few kilometers away, so all right, we will sleep between the two border this night.

November 21th, 11:00am.
Here we are, the Kyrgyz border, militaries in every direction, and a particular sense of hospitality. Just we get our input stamp, they ask us to leave immediately the area, without more explications. So, as good cyclists we are, we left. We were hoping for a beautiful cleared of snow road, and once again we should not have the same dictionary. Here « cleared of snow » means « which can be done by 4WD or trucks » but if you are cycling… so, you push..

November 22th, 10:00am.
We just have a very fresh night (-20°c), tents are directly on snow. The Pamir is over, but the Pamir Highway continues in Kyrgyzstan, up to Bishkek. So after pushing our bikes all the day long the day before, we start again up to Sary-Tash, from there we will be on the only road crossing all the country, so we are hoping, little bit more cleared of snow…

November 22th, 3:00pm.
There it is, back on dry land, or rather on paved road little bit less covered by snow. So we push almost 40km this last two days, it’s with a great pleasure that we can get back on our bikes.

December 4th 5:00am.
Night arrival in Bishkek. From Kyrgyzstan, we just have seen frog, rain and snow. Temperatures side, we struggled get over 0°c. So we will have to came back to enjoy nice Kyrgyz landscapes. Meanwhile we can consider that we get over this legendary road for cyclists, which is the Pamir Highway.

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We tried the Pamir… / On a tenté le Pamir…

Here we are, Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, located down of the Pamir. It make long time I dream of cycling these mountains, now it’s time to go.
First days are just road, but it’s the « M41 », also named « The Pamir Highway », here we are!

Here, everything begins, no more paved road, we engage on unpaved track for some hundred of kilometers, but spring landscapes keeps magic, more we go, and more the road is landlocked in mountains, unfortunately, these same mountains keep cloud, temperatures get down and rain stay with us.

The first pass is +3200m over sea level. Slowly we get up, and, slowly, temperatures get down, and rain become snow.
Here we arrive on Pamir, this part of Tajikistan claim being autonomous, so we have a special permit to access it. Permit friendly controlled by three drunken militaries, smelling vodka over 10m. Here, things begin harder!
The simply refuse we access to the Pamir, even with our permit. We should kindly get back, but we don’t come here to get out so easily. Negotiations begin.
Now, they pretend the pass is under snow… It’s not enough to stop us! Them neither, after few minutes, it should have 50cm of snow, and few minutes later, it’s over 1.80m of snow. We wait 5min more and now it’s the hierarchy who give the order to « don’t let anybody go »… So, we are not arrived.
Drunken militaries are not so cool, but on this drunkenness, and with a misheard, we take our passports and we go, pretending we won’t go to the pass and we’ll be back from the first village. Ok, we pass.

Here we are, leaving for 3000m ascending, on a muddy track. But landscapes keep our morale looking good.
After 2 days ascending, snow is more and more present, it covers the road now, and more worrying, we haven’t seen any trucks since two days…
Anyway, we decide to persevere a bit, we push our bikes, push and push again. Then, night came, so we quickly have a look on the pass without our bikes. It was predictably, but the pass is under 70cm of snow on some places.
Once more, weather hasn’t been on our side, and it starts snowing. Soon we can’t see over 20m. With this weather, impossible to turn around with our bikes, we leave them on road’s side and we flee with one tent and our sleeping bags to a shelter 2km down.
On the morning, we have snow, 20 to 30 cm more. Add to 70cm that we seen day before and that we haven’t any food, we decide to turn around and came back in Dushanbe. It’s under rain and grey sky that we came back
Proud being as far as we can with our bikes, but little bit sad stopping 4km to the pass. We had been at 3100m
Just to achieve us, on the way back, we achieve our break pads, and our moral with it. Since we came, it snow on valley, and we also have to push to get down…

So, we take a taxi to Dushanbe, coming back to starting point.
We tried Pamir!

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Winter is comming / L’hiver arrive

7 month ago I left for a round the world tour. It’s now time to have a break, pass and road are under snow, temperatures don’t get over 5°c (at the best of day) and get down to -30°c at night. So, it’s good time to have a winter break. I left the bike and wait for spring.
Quick review of this first months:
16 country crossed (France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovaquia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan)
Coldest night at -25°c (on Pamir, -18°c on wake up)
Hotest day at 51°c in Maku (Iran)
Highest pass at +4655m
0 puncture
3 disk break pads used
6794 pictures taken (I kept around 400)
2 toothbrush used
and thousands of memories…

A great thank you to everybody for your messages, comments on my blog. Unfortunately I don’t have time to answer all, but they often make my day.
This winterbreak will be occasion to update my blog, and if I have a good Internet connection, add pictures.

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Here it is ! After little bit more than 5 month, I’m over 10.000km and a bit more than 40.000m of positive altitude… the worst is to come, but it’s still nice.

Et voila ! après un peu plus de 5 mois, j’ai passé le cap des 10000 km, et un peu plus de 40000m de dénivelé positif… le plus dur reste à venir, mais ça fait quand même plaisir.