Leaving Khorog we said goodbye to the Afghan border as the route took us inland. I knew the next few days were all ascent. We had two full days of climbing, taking us through some small towns. These will be the last communities we see for a while.
After a stay in the famous hot springs in the small village of Jelondy we tackled the first major pass of the route, 4300m, down the other side to the small isolated settlement of Alichur. Flanked by towering mountains and vast open space . Now we were truly in the Pamirs.
Electricity, drinking water, fresh produce, wifi, anything refrigerated… suspend your expectations for pretty much all the comforts of home. The upper elevations of the Pamir highway is known as the ‘Roof of the World’ for good reason. With the bleak, barren loneliness is a poignantly stoic reminder of the extreme isolation that still exists around us. Chiseled mountains fill the periphery from miles and miles of uninhabited, uninterrupted broken tarmac. It is moving in multiple senses, there’s a legendary wind on this high plateau giving you a sense of vulnerability like a small sailboat on the open water.
The road and the ride to Murghab, the biggest town in the region, was spectacular. The road surface was better than I thought and the wind blew us along… blew and blew. Weaving around potholes and mountains we plodded on. The sun plays a trick at this altitude that can catch out the unwitting. The temperature hovers around 20 degrees, but up so high the sun is much more potent than the temperature suggests. I didn’t realize and combined with a stomach bug, ended up pretty dehydrated and on a drip at the hospital in Murghab. The joy of travel. It was nothing too serious and after a rest day we’re ready to set off and tackle the highest pass of the entire route tomorrow.