Through the Pamir Highway

My hotel after Akbaital Pass (4'655m)
My hotel after Akbaital Pass (4'655m)

After two days in Khorog Fred & Wendy and I split because I had a less time in the Pamir on my visa, whereas they could afford a detour. From Khorog the highway starts climbing from 2'100m to some 4'200m. Already after two days a heavy dhiarrea forced me to make a stop at the hot springs of Jelandy, a so called sanatorium from soviet times in the middle of nowhere. After one day resting I continued and started the big climb to the first pass of 4'200m. After a few kilometers I met Fred & Wendy again coming down from a sidepass pushing their bikes down the really bad road...


We climbed together the pass and it was a great feeling entering the Pamir Plateau that would be for the next few days our road between 3500 an 4600m. Right after the top we split again because I wanted to make a little detour to a remote lake, so we said goodbye again the same day. The Pamir Plateau is a beautiful desertlike plateau surrounded by 6'000m and 7'000m snowcapped peakes with only few people living here and also little or almost nonexistent traffic. Beautiful and quiet up here.


The road after two weeks of bad loose gravel on the way to Khorog, the pamir highway was mostly paved with only little bits of no asphalt. At one time I had such good tailwinds I was able to make more than 100km on a single day despite a little detour with bad dirtroads. Camping on 4'000m was no problem, though one night it was quite windy and there was just an open field with almost no protection. But it was ok. The food- and watersituation was always ok. I could filter water from little rivers every day and I allways carried food for around two or three days with me and I stocked them up in the few little tows of Alichur and Murghab.


The highlight was the 4655m Akbaital (White Horse) Pass and the night in the beautiful Kyrgyz Yurt just after the pass. Although windy and sometimes even a little snow, in the Yurt it was perfectly warm an quiet. Very good fresh kefir, bread and Kyrgyz blacktea with yakmilk and salt there. After this it was only some 50km to the high and lifeless saltlake of Karakol. At this altitude surrounded by mountains the weather is always chanching and you can see rain and black clouds on the other side of the lake while here the sun is shining. Don't underestimate the altitude and the colder and windy weather. I met some cyclists that had some problems with it (cold, headache, feeling sick). Between Murghab and the border to Kyrgystan there is very little traffic: some days only 4-5 cars the whole day! I loved it.


After 10 days of riding through the Pamir I crossed the border to Kyrgystan on 13.7. and suddenly it went down from 4'200m to around 3'000m, the valley became very wide and green, horses, yaks and sheep where grazing on the pastures and eagles were sitting on the telephone poles next to the road. It was getting warmer and the body relaxed after the harsh Pamir clima.


In Kyrgystan I changed my bike for a horse and went for a two day horse trip to the foot of 7'200m Pik Lenin and spent a night there in a Yurt. It was the first time I was sitting on a horse and it was ok. Not to different from camels or bicycles...


After a week I said goodbye to Turdubai and his family where I stayed the last few days and made my way to China. I crossed the border on the 19.7. without any problems and felt very welcome in China. On the Chinese side from time to time a group of camels crossed the road and the scenery got again more desertlike with few green and hardly any villages. From the border it was still a two days trip down from 3'000m to 1'400m to Kashgar, an important Silkraod town at the edge of the Taklamakan desert.


Jounal in German

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Kommentare: 1
  • #1

    Robert (Mittwoch, 27 Juli 2011 08:02)

    Ciao Philip, dass Du noch Zeit findest zum schreiben... Ich werde mehr von Dir lesen, wenn ich pensioniert bin :-)(d.h. ab 1.9.2011) Pass auf Dich auf!


Coming home 2

Coming home 10 months after I have left
Coming home 10 months after I have left

Going for a big journey is one thing, but coming home is another. Just today I've got a qoutation from Albert Camus from a cycling buddy:


"What gives value to travel is fear. It breaks down a kind of inner structure we have... Far from our own language, stripped of all our props... we are completely on the surface of ourselves. But also, soul-sick, we restore to every being and every object its miraculous value."


I think this is very true and gets the very point of the adventure of going for a big journey. And now coming home is another adventure. And it breaks down another inner structure again. After so many months on the road with no home but the tent or a hotelroom, the routine of getting on the bike every morning, looking at the sky and the weather, the impression of so many so different people, animals, landscapes, sounds, smells coming home is like another big adventure. An adventure at least as big as the going away. Coming home with all these impressions, life will never be the same again.


After two months of asylum at my parents house in the north east of Switzerland I found a place to stay in Zurich in April. So it was time to go for the last bit of my journey: riding the 80km back home to Zurich. I took some small roads through the hills of the Hinterthurgau, crossed the Lake of Zurich on a ferry and reached Zurich Wollishofen almost exactly 10 months after I have left the town by bike (see photo).


This is the end of my journey.

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From +30 to -20 degrees Celsius

Snowcovered hills back home
Snowcovered hills back home

Taking a plane with a bicycle always makes me a little bit nervous since there seem not to exist any definitive regulations and it always depends partly on the goodwill of the clerk at the check-in desk. After organizing a carboard-box for the bike and a taxiride to Bangkok International Airport I was checking in as early as possible with 38kg instead of the allowed 30kg. The woman at the counter did some phonecalls but in the end gave me boardingpass and ticket and I didn't have to pay any overweight!! Yeeeesss! It could have been 40$/kg overweight!


After one night in Colombo my plane to Switzerland took off at noon on February, 3 and by sunset we landed in Zurich. The temperature outside: minus 11 degrees Celsius and still dropping! And it dropped as far as minus 22 degrees the following night. The next day - exactly eight months after my departure - I cycled the last few km back home through a beautiful snowcovered landscape.


Total time: 8 months

Total km: 8'864 km

Total countries: 7 (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgistan, China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand)

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The dewdrop has reached the ocean

After more or less eight months and 8800km of cycling I have reached the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand.


After two weeks in Chiang Rai I missed my bicycle. So I took a bus down to Bangkok again just to take my bicycle on the train and head for the Cambodian border at Aranya Prathet where I crossed the border three weeks before. I decided to make a little detour through Cambodia before heading south to the sea. I passed through the colonial City of Battambang and continued from there south to the borderprovince of Pailin, known for gemstones and beeing the last "Khmer Rouge Resort". From here I cycled straight down to Trat at the Gulf of Thailand and took a boat to the remote jungle-island of Koh Kut (picture).


The Island is the perfect lonely-beach-paradise and endpoint of my pilgrimage from the Central Asian deserts over the Himalayan Plateau to the jungles of Southeast Asia. So I pass my remaining days here at the white beaches of Koh Kut.


On february, 2 my flight leaves at 7 p.m. from Bangkok International Airport direction Switzerland...

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