Cycling the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan

Tajikistan: up into the snow

by Bicycle Junkies

I find myself deeply tucked away into my coat. My hat almost hiding my eyes, only the tip of my nose is visible and facing the cold air. In front of me is Elmar cycling exactly in the same way. The snow is blowing horizontally, straigth into our faces. I feel the flocks melt on my cheeks.

I feel a shivering going down my spine. It’s cold. The altimeter on our GPS tells me we are closing in at 4000 meter above sea level. In the mean time, the road turned into a dirt track with mud sticking to our tires and brakes. We have to stop every 10 or so meters to remove the clay. It’s useless. When we stop, the mud also sticks to the bottom of our hiking shoes, which makes me look taller. There’s ice on the road as well and it gets slippery at times. It’s hard, nearly impossible, to keep riding and many times we are pushing our bicycles up the mountain.

Cycling in Kyrgyzstan

Ak-Baital Pass

It’s a tough ride. The world around us a white one. My breath forms clear white clouds and there’s condensation sticking to my jacket.
“What do you think the temperature will be at night?”
“I don’t know. As long as we keep moving, we’ll be alright..”
“Right! Last night the water in our bottles was already frozen and now we are a lot higher!”
“Well.., snow isolates!”

Cycling in Kyrgyzstan

Towards the Tajik border

We climb higher and higher and I’m trying to remember the times when it was so bloody hot in Kazachstan. It seems so long ago…
Just keep moving. Walking, cycling, pushing our bikes, it all keeps me warm. The water in my bottles is too cold to drink, I need to keep moving. I can’t get back in the saddle, as soon as I try the tires keep slipping in the mud, there is no movement. One more time. Yes! No more than 3,5 kilometers per hour and my heart is pumping out of my chest. Keep pedalling! Elmar is moving slowly up in front of me, even he is having a hard time. “Come on!” Keep pedalling, left, right. My whole body is moving. Cycling should be all about the legs! At a very low speed I’m following Elmar, I can see the summit now. That gives me more energy; 4 kilometers per hour! I’m cycling like a drunk, seeing every corner of the road, but I’m getting there. Wow! 4,5 kilometers per hour, crazy. Elmar already made it, he’s drinking cold water and yells at me. “You’re almost there!” The altimeter reads 4630 meters… another 25 meter to go… With a few last kicks I finally reach the summit.
“So, we made it!”

Cycling the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan

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Jeffrey Waldo June 26, 2016 - 14:32

Your few words and wonderful photos captured the Pamir Plateau and the 4655 meter Ak-Baital pass more than any book I’ve read about it, or seen with my own eyes during several trips over it via Toyota Landcruiser. My trips were much easier but I know yours were more rewarding. Congratulations on your success.

Bicycle Junkies July 3, 2016 - 13:37

Thank you very much Jeffrey!


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