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High Altitude Riding - or was that High Attitude?
Submitted by Tiffany on 8 July, 2009 - 10:33
A long stretch again with no Internet and in fact no electricity most of the time.
We had reunions and rough riding along the Afghan border, as we encountered other travellers we'd previously met and tackled tracks that were steep and narrow and which were covered in sandy gravel. Our loose front indicator went flying off along one precipitous track, I had to retrace our route to find it. Not that indicators are any use out here as they are never used, but I know that in Kazakhstan and Russia, the police are very keen to pull foreign motorists over on the slightest pretext and a missing indicator will be a big bribe.
It is now safely re-attached with trusty gaffer tape to the rescue once more, one of my bodge job specials, the local Tajiki drivers have already re-done my rear indicator, they thought my twigs and tape repair was hysterical and highly ineffective (which I'm inclined to agree with them), so they have done a much better job.
Tape is also holding the windscreen on- I don't think there is much point in repairing the windscreen properly until we are on roads that make it seem unlikely we will drop the bike - so that might be in about another 10,000 miles.
We took the long loop round through Wakhan Valley - seems like it was nicer and more interesting than going straight across the Pamir Highway- which is all tarmac, though the tarmac was a lovely treat after the high and incredibly remote mountain pass out of the Wakhan Valley. My last glimpse of Talibans was a group of them leading some donkeys north alongside the river, again no sign of a destination after 20 miles of nothingness. We were also treated to the sight of some camels at 3800 metres, I didn't know camels lived at such heights - I think they are wild ones, they were on the Afghan side of the border. We also had a wildlife spotting of ... Siberian beavers (or according to Shaia, an Israeli backpacker we met) that's waht they are, they're golden coloured with long tails and live in holes in the ground, they moved too fast for us to get a photo or a clear look at them.
More soldiers playing silly games and they tried to hold us up on the Wakhan Valley - only two of them and my theory is that they're not going to waste their expensive bullets (if they've got any in the first place). So although they had stopped us and pointed a large gun at us I told them
"This is NOT a checkpoint, you get no documents"
and we rode on - I did advise Annie to duck down in the unlikely event that they might start shooting.
The only place to show documents is at the proper checkpoints where there are barriers across the road and there is a some sort of officer in charge, not the young conscripts that are out on foot patrol and answerable to no-one.
We bumped into my support van from the Kazakh desert halfway up a Pamir mountain - he had even remembered to bring hot chocolate as requested, we again went opposite directions after a beer evening - Baltic 7 the beer of choice, though transporting 10 bottles of it three miles up a mountain side in my topbox probably wasn't such a good idea - lager-scented sleeping bag anyone?
Out of the valley and onto the plateau that forms the Pamir Highway - it is reminds me of the Bolivian altiplano - high altitude, ringed by mountains and fairly flat for hundreds of miles. We had our first sight of yurts and also a yak, though to be honest it was just the severed head of one - it looked huge. They took it off to the kitchen before Annie managed to get a photo of it.