September 22, 2010

Travelling to Pamirs

So, we travelled to Pamirs last week. Pamirs are a mountain range situated in Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. It is called the Roof of the World, and its highest peak, Ismoil Sumoni peak, is 7 495 m tall.

We started our trip in Dushanbe where we had arrived the night before. From there you can fly to Pamirs or take the car. Flying would take 45 minutes. By road, we heard, it takes 15-20 hours. We chose driving because we were crazy because we wanted to see the landscape and experience the road travel. We decided to fly back after the trip.

We agreed to meet the drivers 5 am. It was still dark and the weather was cool. By 6 am we had loaded the cars and people (15 travellers and 2 drivers) and filled the cars with gas. On the road! The drivers smoked a lot. I guess it keeps them going without much to eat and drink, not to mention the lack of sleep. I cannot imagine driving 15+ hours myself!

The trip started. The landscapes in Central Asia are always very interesting. Very different from Northern Europe.

We took naps.

And stopped couple of times...mainly because of the police check points. They like to write down the passport details, so it would have been clever to have lots of copies with us. These kind of stops took at least an hour total of our drive.

A village in the morning sun.

The first break down. Our drivers were cousins, so they kept close contact with each other on the road. The Jeep was faster, but it turned around to help with the repairs.

It took awhile, but finally we could continue.

And then we were driving again. Kids had some books, they listened to mp3 stories, and played some, slept some and drove us nuts some. I had to explain many times that we would 'be there' only after dark, that we would sit in this car for a whole day and more. It is a looong time for young active minds and bodies, but they did great.

Dry hillside.

We had lunch in a road side tea house after the city of Kulob. They served all kinds of local soups, bread and tea. We had taken dry noodles for the kids with us, and the owners were happy to provide a bowl of hot water for them. We did not want to get a traveler's tummy right a way.
Again a stop and we had a chance to check if we are on the map yet.

My boy, the size of a truck wheel.

Happy travelers. My daughter is missing a sock. She stepped into mud and it got dirty.

Break down number two. While the drivers were fixing this poor wheel, we took a break eating apples and throwing rocks into the river. The fixing took some time. We took video interviewing people about the estimate travel time. The estimates were from 5-7 hours. I said we should stop for the night, because it is too long. How prophetic those words were! But we did not stop for the night.

The road to Pamirs is a narrow road, very bumpy. The higher we got, the worse the roads got. For the most part of the drive the river Panj marks the border to Afghanistan. The road is right next to a steep, deep river bank, and if you sit on the side of the river it sometimes feels like the car is just inches from falling to the cold fast running river. Maybe because it is.

At least our side had roads. The Afghan side had a path and we watched Afghan people walking, riding a donkey or occasionally a motorcycle through some pretty amazing and narrow trails between the rapid river and steep, tall mountains.

We had dinner in a small village called Kalay Kum. We debated whether to stay for the night or to continue on. It was 7 pm, and we had been on the road for 13 hours already. But we decided to continue on, because the drivers told us we would be in Khorog by midnight.

This is one of the many police posts between Dushanbe and Khorog.

After dark the drive got really tiring. I was nodding off, the kids were asleep. Suddenly someone shone a bright big light on my face and I opened my eyes, half asleep. In front of our car I saw two bright head lights pointing directly to us. As suddenly as it had appeared, the car driving towards us disappeared. This scared our drivers. They were getting tired. At midnight they requested a break. What could we say? We thought we would be in Khorog by midnight. But we were in a middle of nowhere, on a narrow, dangerous road with tired drivers. Of course we agreed on the break. They said they wanted to sleep for half and hour and got out of the car. The stop had awakened the kids, and I took the baby to lay on me, hoping she would sleep some more.

After two hours, 2 am, the drivers got back, shivering with cold. We continued driving, and as I was falling a sleep in 5 second intervals I was just praying the drivers would not fall asleep. And they did not. They stopped to wash their faces in cold creeks flowing down from the mountains, played music and kept their windows open. In the other car our traveling buddies talked non stop to their driver in order to keep him awake.

We were finally in Khorog 5 am, 24 hours after we had started our day. I was exhausted. We had booked Pamir Lodge for all of us, but they had only one room available when we got there. There was a home stay very close, where two more rooms were waiting. Our family got there. The owner was lovely and fixed us breakfast 6 am before we crawled to our beds.

I will write more about our home stay (picture above), Khorog and what we did in the Pamirs later. Right now remembering the trip made me very very tired! Yawn!


  1. Hi, I see you are using my Pamir map. There are also maps of the rest of the country published by Geckomaps and available in Dushanbe if you don't know yet! Enjoy the Pamirs!
    Best wishes
    markus h.

  2. Markus, welcome! How did you find me? I was actually wondering what kind of people draw maps of Pamirs when I was looking at the map! You must have been travelling there a lot and know all the bumpy roads! I need to check on finding maps about the region. Thank you for the tip!


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