Rally Day 26 – 29
Pamir Highway Foreword
Our main purpose driving into Tajikistan was to get on the famous Pamir Highway. In terms of altitude it is the second highest international highway in the world, reaching as far as 4.655 meters at one point. Some parts run along the border to Afghanistan, other parts in the remote eastern part of Tajikistan. The road is terrible at many places due to erosion, earthquakes, landslides and avalanches. In short it is not suited in any way for a small car like the Nissan Micra. You also need a special permit to enter the whole region due to instability as the population there would like to form their own nation.
Fixing our car
We headed to the nearest car repair shop in the small town we were staying at to fix our missing gears problem. Another team had a member that could speak Russian so he helped us out with the local mechanic and in the end Christian did the repair himself after borrowing the needed tools. Good language skills always comes in handy.
At the car shop there were other teams trying to fix up their vehicles as well, some of them we highly doubt would ever make it to the finish line. To make matters worse they were stuck in the middle of nowhere in Tajikistan with visas running out.
Bad roads again
Driving towards Khorugh was painful since the roads were mostly bone breakers but we were now officially driving on the Pamir Highway. To bad it was hard to enjoy the view when our internal organs were being shaken to death… The other side of the river in the photos below is Afghanistan.
We made it to the city late in the night and as usual found a worn out hotel to stay at plus something to eat. Sleeping in Soviet hotels from the 70’s that are worn down is an experience in itself but after a few stays it gets kind of frustrating to not have functional toilets, proper beds etc.
We left our hotel in the morning hoping for better roads to come. Soon we started climbing up the mountains and our poor old Micra was struggling even in first gear. At our highest point we reached 4200 meters and the air was quite thin! After that the landscape flattened at around 4000 meters with all our candy packets looking funny due to the altitude. Our intel had told us the roads were good and indeed they proved to be better than the last two days, thus making the whole drive more enjoyable. We also met a fair number of people on bicycles who rides the Pamir Highway taking a few weeks – pretty tough.
Camping of death
As the last light of the day was leaving us we were still 80 km from Murghab, which is the only “city” in eastern Tajikistan. After chatting a bit with Team Raven Shoe we had the brilliant idea of camping in the middle of nowhere, with heavy winds and thin air due to the altitude. It turned out to be another camping disaster for Team No Khan Do (read earlier experience in Turkey with gun salvos etc.). Andreas’ stomach started acting up in the evening and the temperature dropped to just above freezing, meanwhile the wind almost blew our tents away and everybody had a very bad sleep. Some freezing, some with stomach aches and some with bad cough. The altitude also made everything more taxing since there is only half the oxygen at 4000 meters compared to sea level.
Sick people all around
We packed up early in the morning and desperately needed to get the cars running to get some warmth in our frozen bodies. Andreas had a troublesome stomach and was pretty hazy and Bejay from Team Raven Shoe was hit by the flue, two men down out of five. We drove towards Murghab 80 km away hoping to buy some supplies and get at least 500 meters down in altitude. In reality the city turned out to be a dump and quite small but we did get repairs done for the cars and some food.
Afterwards we set off to the Kyrgistan border 200 km to the north with no cities in between. Unfortunately soon after Christian also started feeling bad and we think we might have drunk contaminated water. The landscape was beautiful but it was the worst day of the rally, we felt really bad and had to cross a mountain pass at 4500 meters… The car barely made it in first gear and at the top It looked like this:
In the end we were so worn down we had Ben from the other team drive our car for a while. Sometimes Mongol Rally totally sucks!
Snow in the summer
Early in the evening we crossed from Tajikistan into Kyrgistan and for once the papers and customs went smoothly. This was nice since we were both now sick with fever and stomach trouble. One oddity was that we had to drive 20 km in No Man’s Land between the countries, to make matters worse it had started snowing and there was fog so we couldn’t see much. We managed to find a guesthouse to stay at and get a good night’s sleep in a remote mountain town, no more camping for now.
Waking up and getting out into the beautiful Kyrgistan mountainside lifted Andreas’ mood to the point of ignoring his sickness, so Team No Khan Do was able to drive on. Christian half slept most of the day because of his fever, nothing to do about it.
In the afternoon we arrived at the end of the Pamir Highway in the city of Osh in central Kyrgistan. Here we decided to check into a luxury hotel to recover and hopefully get rid of all the sickness that had plagued the two teams. The last two days was hell to get through but we did try to enjoy the view between our stomach pains, frequent visits to the “toilet” etc.
– Team No Khan Do