The Wakhan Valley is a small stretch of land belonging both to Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The Afghan section of the valley is enclosed by Tajikistan in the north and the high mountains of Pakistan’s Hindukusch in the south. In the next two to three days we will have to follow this scenic valley towards North-East for around 100 km before we will cross the 4344 m high Khargush Pass to reach the Pamir Highway that will take us via Murghab to Kyrgyzstan.
In perfect weather we started cycling this morning from Ishkashim upstream on the Tajik side of the Wakhan Valley. Always visible were the snowy peaks of the Tajik and Afghan / Pakistani Mountains. Many of them are above 6000 m high, and Kohe Shakhawr even 7116 m. Compared to the days before, the valley at this point is several kilometers wide, leaving a lot of space for agriculture and hence renders the valley floor green at many places. While we had perfectly blue sky in the morning, in the afternoon some harmless cumulus clouds appeared, giving us some shadow for cycling and at the same time making the photos more interesting.
The Wakhan Valley is very remote, which was easily seen by the fact that there was almost no traffic at all on the road. We encountered maybe around 5 cars per hour, if not less. A dream for cyclists.
The road surface was also in excellent conditions in the first 40 km after Ishkashim. Unfortunately, this rapidly changed afterwards. We were cycling another 30 km on gravel roads of the worst kind. Some stretches were filled with deep sand, making cycling almost impossible. Other stretches were full of loose big rocks, also not a dream for cyclists. Combined with steep ascents and descents, it was really challenging to cycle on these roads – both for me and my bicycle who had to take a lot of hits today.
End of the day
After 70 km and about 6 hours of cycling we had enough of the tough road conditions, so we stopped near Yamchun. Above Yamchun, there are ruins of a historical fortress and also some hot springs. Both of them we intend to visit tomorrow morning. As they are far up the mountains, we will most likely do so by car.
Like yesterday, we found a family that accommodates us for the night. We are not unhappy about that, as we are already in 2750 m altitude and the nights tend to get quite chilly outside in the tent. However, once entering the high plateau of the Pamirs, we will have to camp on altitudes of up to 4000 m.
As for the road conditions: we better get used to them because this is what the Pamir is famous for and in the next few days we will most likely spend much time on such roads.
Max elevation: 2935 m
Min elevation: 2551 m
Total climbing: 1585 m
Total descent: -1377 m
Total time: 10:27:49