Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TAJIKISTAN - Into the Wild (Murghab to Khargush)

Murgab to Khargush via Zor Kul
May 23-27
Distance: 215kms
Elevation gain: 1245m
Sealed:  28kms    Dirt: 187kms
Odometer: 2858kms

I left Murghab late in the morning and was growing a little bored with sealed highway and constant km markers. I had carried a weeks' supply of food from Osh just in case I went 'wild'. i glimpsed this striking landscape through a  wide flat valley so I turned off onto the 4WD track for Jarty Gumbez. I had reliable maps and I knew there was a route through to Zor Kul (lake) and the Pamir river. The only problem was I didn't have the necesssary permit to enter the area around Zor Kul.......It was a hard but exhilirating ride through wild country.

From my campsite, the dry valley looking south to Jarty Gumbez
I camped in a dry river bed near this ancient cemetery.

The skull and horns of a Marco Polo sheep. These bleached bones lay scattered by the roadside, relics of slaughter.

Descending from Yangidawan pass 4455m, down a rough sandy and rocky road.
One of 2 lakes above Zor Kul. The Wakhan Mts. and Afghanistan in the background. The peak on the far right bore a striking resemblance to Cradle Mt. in Tasmania 

A  Kyrgyz yurt at Kara Jilga

Their goats in the stone corrall

In the yurt, Akunbek, plays his komuz, a 3-stringed lute. He's only 50 years old but the hard nomadic life at altitudes over 4000m has aged him.

Hiding from the bitterly cold headwinds. I found some firewood scattered around an abandoned cabin and had a warming campfire sheltered from the blasting wind.

Up at first light to beat the headwinds, I set out on the obscure 4WD track to Zor Kul. The Southern Alichur range in the distance.

Zor Kul, a 20km-long lake in the Pamiri wilderness. Originally named Lake Victoria byBritish explorers it sits at 4200m. It is the source of the Pamir river and was 50% iced over. A swirling storm is sweeping across the Wakhan Mts. and is  about to hit me violently with sleet and blasting wind.

No bridge, just a snow bridge. No wonder I hadn't seen a soul for 2 days, nor the remnants of passing tyre tracks. The iron bridge here must have been destroyed last year in the floods and no motorised traffic had been up the 4WD track for a while.
One of the peaks of the Wakhan range

The Wakhan range at dawn. Another early start for the cyclist (6am) avoiding the impending westerly headwind.

The young Pamir river flowing below the Wakhan range.

More ice sheets across the 'road'.

Border markers on both the Tajik and Afghan sides of the Pamir river. I was very worried about landmines along this route, so did a bit of boulder-hopping to fetch water. Watchtowers and sentry boxes around Zor Kul completed the bizarre 'Great Game' atmosphere.

Snow banks on the Pamir river

The road leaves the Pamir river and climbs onto a sandy plain. The grassy edges were marginally better than the thick sand, but the premature wind was detemined to slow me down.

A Bactrian camel on the Afghan side of the river.

Yaks and the Wakhan range

A yak herder who invited me to his house for lunch. He tried out my bike and rode with adroitness and perfect balance.

1 comment:

  1. at the same point


    G + W