The Stans and Russia
-Go to June Log-
Just rolled into Mary, its
8.30pm, we have been riding in the Karakorum desert all day, pretty tired but happy to get here before
People here are ultra
curious and really friendly too. Hurt my thumb fixing a flat today so cant sms very well, hi to all, more from
computer next time we get net access
We are in Turkmenabad waiting a day for the validity of our UZ viss to
This wasn't important in Africa but apparently over here they are big
on the details and would have made us wait in no mans land until tomorrow so it's good thing our guide
niticed the date.
TM has been fun, Murad (our guide) only speaks a few words of english
but manages to communicate with them (and lots of grunting and clicking noises) surprisingly
well, Staying in an old Soviet era hotel tonight, quite fascinating
Went to Derveza burning gas crater this week, pretty amazing thing to
see at night time, a bit like what you would think hell should look like.
E and J - The last few km to the gas crater had some deep soft sand
(the rest was bitumen) which was a bit tricky, also might be hard to find, we rode past the turnoff
before Murad caught up with us, it was dark though.
Really friendly people here. had some locals give us their watermelon
when we stopped for a rest on the way to Ashgabat, and others had us sit and drink chai (tea) with them on
the way back from Derveza, and everyone that sees us wants us to do a wheelie! "oh ok, if i really have
Bike 36 had a small hiccup a few days ago, the voltage regulator
gave up so it was overcharging the battery. We pulled up for fuel and Murad noticed my bike making a
high pitched screaming noise, the noise batteries make just before they explode! No one here speaks
much english but the crowd of people that congregated all understood "explode" when paul said it because they
all went running :) Lucky to catch it before that happened! Rode the following 2 days by
continually unplugging the alternator to let the voltage drop, then replugging to top it up, surprising the
battery still holds a charge...
An old friend of mine Holger has been a champion by finding a new one
along with a remote for pauls video camera and DHLing it to Tashkent ready for when we arrive, a big thankyou
to you mate! In the meantime, a friend of Murad's found a secondhand one from a honda that we butchered
to fit the katoom so it's running again for now, the capacity is well down on the original one so i have no
headlight or heated grips but at least we're still moving.
Tomorrow we head to Tashkent (Uzbekistan) where we will apply for our
Russian visas, after that it's only Mongolia and the visa circus will be over! Hooray for
Much has happened here, some of it pretty hilarious so i will write a
bigger update tonight and try to get it off in a day or so, hi to all back home,
We said goodbye to our TM guide Murat
this morning which was quite sad as we’d grown to really love him. He had us in laughing fits continually
with his rants in English. No matter how hard it was to communicate with us he never gave
An example of this was his concern at a
bout of the runs Paul had…
Murat “Paul… is good or no good, Paul
bottom?” points to his bum, and makes a wet farting noise, then cracks a cheesey
Paul “No Murat, no
Murat “mmm, tack, grunt, click, Paul
have BIG PROBLEM!” then does a bike riding while pooing mime, all in front of hotel
Dean in more
We finally made it to Toshkent today,
but not before escaping 2 speeding fines, and having to bribe our way out of running a red light and riding
the wrong way down the motorway (don’t ask).
We were very lucky to bump into Oxiana
this evening as we meandered the streets looking for accomodation, she’s a Russian lady now living in Ireland
(visiting Toshkent) who we asked for directions to the centre of town, but ended up helping us find a place
to stay, and then leading us there and negotiating a rate for us. Oxiana has since offered her friends
apartment for a day or two while we are here! How Kind!
800km today, the last 200 in the dark.
Me tired boy off to sleep.
Bye all xoxo.
Tonight we're a little gobsmaked.
We are staying in a very cool little apartment in Toshkent belonging to one
of 3 lovely ladies we met at some traffic lights yesterday, the apartment is Valentina's home.
Her friend Oxana befriended and doted over us
initially as she speaks english better than Valentina and Larissa (who made dinner for us tonight (along with her
daughter and grandaughter).
Now Valentina has gone to sleep at Larissa's so we
can sleep in her place...
Oh, did i mention we only met them a day ago at the
traffic lights while asking for directions?? Well in case i forgot to mention it, we met a day ago at the...
We both feel rather small in the face of such blind
kindness and trust from strangers. We're speechless actually.
Valentina even laid out breakfast for us, and they
found a garage nearby for us to park the bikes!
Not much else to say, but if you 3 ever read this,
meeting you really has been like a chance meeting with 3 angels.
Thank You so much :)
Hi dear boys, thanks a lot for such warm and beautiful words to
us, we are admiring your courage and great sense of humor!!!
Hugs and kisses from Russia-Uzbekistan with love -
Oxana, Valentina and Larisa.
Today we serviced bikes, picked up
russian visas and ate lunch with Eugene, Elena and her parents (all of whom who were complete strangers until
5mins before that).
People over here are just so friendly,
Eugene walked past us while we were working on the bikes today, stopped for a chat, offered to help in any way he
So he changed some money for us on the
black, and then came back 2 hrs later with icecream, cold water and a invitation to lunch! So 10 mins later we were
sitting in Elenas parents dining room eating the greatest cold soup ever made, followed by chai and pancakes with
home made jam...
We rode to Samarkand yesterday after saying a sad goodbye to Valentina, Oxana and Larisa.
We had such a great time with those guys, and feel incredibly lucky to have been given the chance to get to know
I know you'll be reading, so Thank You one last time for your help and hospitality (Good directions to Samarkand
After a flat tyre, blocked fuel filter and 2 meetings
with police (who wanted to impound my bike!!) we arrived really late in Samarkand so were lucky to find
accommodation cheap and easy at a backpackers for US$6 each.
Spent this morning being underwhelmed by the sights
there before making a run for the border as our UZ visas expired today.
This was waylaid because all but one of the petrol
stations in Samarkand ran out of fuel, but we found some after an hour and even avoided the 100m lineup at the
Both border posts were straightforward, the Tajik
side was actually friendly!
Leaving the border post we were greeted with an
amazing scene, the sun setting at our backs, lush green fields both sides of the road, enormous mountains further
off, people working the fields in brightly coloured robes all smiling and waving, and seas of yellow sunflowers as
far as we could see.
It was just one of those moments that make us stop
and stare at the beauty of it all.
We have found a guest house in Panjikent to spend the
night, where we are invited to eat dinner with the owners and their family.
Life doesnt get much better
Hi from Dashunbe!
We arrived here yesterday afternoon after an amazing ride from Panjikent through the mountains.
I have written it up but not much net access here so struggling to send it, but will try again in the morning,
along with lots of pics from the past few weeks too.
Hope all is well w you guys back home, tomorrow we head for the roof of the world, the Pamirs, pretty excited to
A Retrospective account of the past 2
we sent some sms and maybe an update from Georgia too as that was the last time we had some space to work on
the computer so I wont repeat it again now.
want to put in a big thankyou to the guys from Tbilisi, especially Gex and Vahco who really went out of their
way to show us around the town, and see some of traditional Tbilisi that we otherwise would have
group of friends is as wacky a bunch of motorcycle crazy lads as we have ever met, made all the better by
them living in a lawless town where doing a wheelie down the main street with no helmet on seems to be more
accepted than riding slowly.
out with the guys a few times, they wouldn’t hear about us paying for anything - “this is the way we do it in
Georgia, please stop arguing!”, but more than that, the guys treated us like old friends. We were really very sad to say goodbye to them, and as Vahco escorted us to the road
out of town I remember saying to Paul – “I think this is the only bad part about this trip, it’s saying
goodbye to such amazing people, they made us feel so welcome I could easily stay here for a
didn’t spend much time in AZ, basically we just rode to Baku and spent the rest of the time trying to
leave. The ‘ferry’ from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan was quite an
experience to put it mildly. It all started when we went to the
customs area to try to get a straight answer on the temporary import issues with the bikes in Azerbaijan, and
they wanted to impound the bikes there and then.
shouting and yelling later (something I am getting better and better at nowdays) I established that within
24hrs the bikes would need to be parked at customs until we left the country.
it’s very safe to leave them in the dark secluded carpark overnight…”
a while to find the ticket office because it was just a grotty little door a short distance from the boat,
behind which was a dirty little desk, run by… you guessed it, a sweaty fat ‘captain’. The process went like
Step 1 –
go to ticket office and ask for a ticket
Step 2 –
Captain says “no boat today, maybe tomorrow, you come back 4 hours for more
Step 3 –
wait for 4 hours
Step 4 –
repeat steps 1-3, 4 times
Step 5 –
Captain says “yes boat soon”
eventually we got tickets, and were told to return at 2am to board. We packed up at the backpackers and got a cab (which are incredibly cheap in this
part of the world), to the wharf where of course there was no boat.
to do there so we put our riding suits on the ground and slept on them in the carpark until around 8am when
we were finally processed at customs, including several requests for money for imaginary fees that evaporated
when we insisted on a receipt… surprise surprise.
we boarded at about 10am, strapped the bikes down with the same chains they use for train wagons in the hull
and were directed to our rooms by a grumpy old lady with a hunchback in a pale blue
was actually better than I had expected, which I think says more about my low expectations than the
room. Once upon a time it would have been quite ok, but after years
of neglect it was pretty rough. Holes in the floor, the bottom of
the door was rusted away and the drain for the shower didn’t work, resulting in the water from our first
showers staying in a 50mm puddle in the floor for the remainder of the trip. It was also infested with mosquitoes, and while I was busy swatting at them with my
map of central asia the one and only fluoro left in the ceiling fell out…
public toilets were pretty ordinary too, as was the kitchen, but we did meet a great couple of guys on
holiday from Baku who let us share in a couple of bottles of wine they had brought on board – thanks Richard
sailed in the morning, and arrived into the Turkmenbashi port late that evening. This didn’t mean that we could disembark though as there were 4 other boats also
there waiting ahead of us. We waited until the following morning
before the engines started again and we pulled into port.
customs and immigration area at Turkmenbashi was clean and tidy, but it took 5 and a half hours to get out of
there, more forms and passport checks than we have ever seen before. If the border crossing into the DRC was chaos at it’s best, this one was red tape at
night we stayed in our first old soviet era hotel. They don’t
really look like hotels, and certainly don’t have “Hotel” written on them so can be hard to find, but this
one was a pearler. Our guide Murat found it for us after we
complained that the last one was too nice… well he certainly found us a shit hole that
Reception had long ago been walled up, leaving only a very small hole in a mirror glass
wall through which you can neither see nor hear anything. This
results in people bending over in a (vain) attempt to see the person on the other side, and yelling loudly in
another vain attempt to be heard. (It’s the same arrangement at all
the petrol stations since Turkmenistan, which are just some pumps and a hole in the wall of a building nearby
to pass money through).
was very small, badly painted, and smelled a little of shit. The
beds were about the size of beds on a boat, i.e. tiny, the old tv was painted pink and didn’t work, and all
but one of the power points was not working. The orange carpet was
worn through from use, and some tiles were missing in the toilet/shower. It did have hot water, although the smell in the bathroom meant short showers anyway.
arrived quite late so there wasn’t anywhere open to buy food nearby, but Murat sensing that we were peckish,
suggested that he may be able to organise some room service.
of this seemed a little crazy given the condition of the hotel, but he got to chatting to Tanya (the cleaner
working on that level), and she rustled up some tomatoes, peppers and bread, and guided Paul through the
canned food available from a table adjacent to reception…
good, this no good, this no good, this no good, this no good… only this ok” - canned sardines.
bought beer, Murat a bottle of vodka, and I fetched some salt and olive oil from my bike,
was really just big enough for the 2 single beds, but Tanya dragged a small table in between the beds, and
the four of us sat, (2 on each bed) and ate supper together. Around
about the point where we had finished all the beer and were near the end of the bottle of vodka, I was
stretching my sore shoulder when Tanya looked at me with a gleam in her eye and asked
“problem?” I said it was only a little sore, and she asked
“trauma?”, “no no an old injury”.
warning, she jumped up on the bed and started to push and pull at my shoulder, contorting it into totally
unnatural positions, I think she threw a leg over my shoulder at one point, and there was a bear hug in there
somewhere too. Try to imagine a tipsy 65 year old woman, a little
plump, wearing a pale blue cleaners costume, standing over me on a small single bed in an old soviet era
hotel trying to fix my sore shoulder while speaking in Russian the whole time, with Paul yelling out
WOMANTOUCHING and Murat looking from across the table trying to communicate with the words “good” “bad”
“tack” “and” “Olympics”.
I was in
tears laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, as was Paul, so when she finally finished I said thank you
and suggested that Paul had a bad knee that she might be able to help with too
J (It turned out that Tanya used to work for the Russian athletics team as a
found us a better place to stay in Turkmenabad (for even less
money) the next night.
Uzbekistan, Toshkent. 8-7-10
at Valentina’s computer as I write this, we have just spent the morning picking up a package from DHL and
sending some stuff home. It’s amazing how much time these things
can take, back home you walk into a post office, drop a box on the desk, give them some money, write the
address on the box and you leave.
it’s a little different… first you get a cab who drops you off at an isolated park instead of a post
office. Spasiba!So it takes a
while to find another cab (I wonder if he drops all the tourists he gets there?), then you get taken to the
train station, and finally the post office, which is closed for an hour for
you wait for an hour, then go in and wait your turn. They ask you
to weight each item individually, before they personally inspect each item in the box, then have you write
out the same information 5 times on 5 different sheets of paper. Then they weigh the whole box, wrap it in white cotton and sew it shut by
hand. Then they pour globs of wax onto the seams and stamp it with
a seal in about 12 places. True
need to write the address on the cotton, but not before you have gone to buy a pen because they do not
provide them. Ok so now we need to pay, but we only have USD so off
we go to change some money. The local currency CYM is about as
valuable as toilet paper, so you get a wad of notes 6 inces thick for US100.
took about 4 hours.
meantime Larisa and Valentina have been cooking Borsh for lunch, so we head back to Larissa’s and eat an
enormous meal of Borsch, Bread, Peas, Chaslicks and Salad, then get coffee, tea and chocolates for
kindness the girls have shown us has been just amazing, and it seems to know no bounds. The delay in getting this package has meant we have been here for 3 nights, and will
also spend tonight here, but they wouldn’t hear about our plan to get a hotel tonight (so Valentina could
have her apartment back!),
no no, please please, stay as long as you like” and that was that.
even cooking eggs and potatoes to give us tomorrow for the ride to Samarkand. I have the feeling we will be leaving with an enormous hamper strapped to a
met the trio…
from Turkmenabat to Toshkent in one day, it’s about 800km, with a border crossing early on that took a couple
of hours, so we did the last 100km in the dark (again. Just outside
Toshkent Paul was pulled up by the police for running a red light - easy to do when most of them don’t work,
and the locals all ignore them anyway, but we stand out like dogs b…. so they were on to
stopped down the road wondering where he was, and eventually decided to turn back to go find
him. There was concrete barrier on the road so I just went very
slowly on the right until I saw the police cars who were very happy to see me too as they could then fine me
too for riding in the wrong direction.
played good cop bad cop for a while and eventually paid a ridiculous bribe to avoid a night in the cell and
get moving again.
all this we followed the gps to a hostel we had found a day before, but it took us to an abandoned lot in the
middle of nowhere, so instead we went in search of the city centre to find a cheap hotel, intending on
searching out the hostel the next night.
riding around for an hour we were no closer to the city centre, it was late and we were really
tired. It had been a really long day and we just desperately wanted
to find somewhere to crash for the night - but it wasn’t happening.
resorted to asking for directions from random people while at traffic lights.
pulled up to a cabbie as asked “priviet, centre?” (excuse me, the
in the passenger seat pressed past the cabbie and yelled back in an Irish/Russian accent
you guys Aussies?? What the hell are you doing
stopped for a chat, and the three women in the cab were Oksana, Larissa and Valentina. They got out of the cab and
started calling people on their mobiles, eventually finding a hotel for US20each, and had us follow the cab
to it so we wouldn’t get lost.
they came in, helped us register and we swapped phone numbers on the understanding that we would call if we
needed anything. I remember thinking at the time that it had been
incredibly kind of them to help 2 strangers like that, and feeling totally relieved to be off the road for
the night. An hour later Oksana called to let us know that she had
found an apartment for us to stay in for free if we wanted to. “um…
day we came back from the Russian embassy (nightmare) to find Oksana waiting for us at the hotel
lobby! She had a beer with us, helped us load our gear into a cab
and we followed it to Larisa’s house, who had cooked us a delicious dinner, ready on the table when we
arrived. After eating we moved the bikes into Larisa’s garage
nearby and then followed the girls to another big old soviet era building and up 4 flights of stairs in a
totally dark, dusty staircase.
take a small tangent… Paul and I have this little joke running that revolves around the film
‘Misery’. In the plot a famous writer is helped by a stranger after
he has a car accident in an isolated area, but the help turns to Misery when she won’t let him
leave. He ends up tied to a bed and has his ankles broken by the crazy woman to make sure he
never leaves again.
sometimes when we end up following people into the bad end of town, or the gps into an abandoned lot, or we
sit down to lunch with total strangers who are being incredibly friendly, one of us will murmur something
like… “broken ankles this time for sure!”
were walking up that dark staircase with Oksana, Valentina and Larissa, we were both a little unsure about
what was going to happen next, so to lighten the mood there was a bit of ‘broken ankles for sure’ being
point, at best we were expecting an old, run down, dusty apartment with no power or water, (and at worst
broken ankles), but Valentina turned the key on a shiny new door, walked in and turned on some lights to
reveal a gorgeous little apartment, recently renovated in impeccable style – her
explain that the apartment they had found was a false lead, so Valentina was going to stay with Larisa for a
couple of days and we were to stay here. Having spent a total sum
of 5 mins with these guys we were pretty taken aback, and protested that it was totally unnecessary, but they
wouldn’t take no for an answer, Valentina left some food for breakfast and they bade us
hard to put into words the generosity and kindness of these guys, particularly for Larisa and Vanentina
because we really couldn’t converse with them past basic hello and goodbye, (although we got a long way with
sign language and the universal language of laughter). Larisa
cooked us every meal we ate for the next 3 days, and Valentina stayed in Larisa’s apartment, where Oksana,
Ella (Larisa’s daughter) and her baby Sophie were all staying too!
later confided in us that they were a little hesitant too, but that Valentina had reasoned that if we could
manage to ride our motorbikes from Africa to Uzbekistan without too many problems, then we should be able to
stay in her house for a couple of nights without breaking anything, even if Larisa was a little freaked out
by my hair when I first took off the helmet to say hi!
day Oksana went with us to help find some bike oil for a service, which is much harder than it sounds, and
might have been impossible without Oksana’s help, but even then it took a few hours. When we were done we went back to Larissa’s for lunch of course.
wanted to take them out for dinner to say thankyou for all their help, but it took some convincing for
Valentina who was really concerned about us spending any money on them. At dinner they were fretting about the prices and Valentina said something that set
off Oksana and Larissa laughing hysterically. When they checked us
into the first hotel we decided not to take the breakfast to save some money, so Valentina said something
like, “the poor boys, they can’t even afford to eat breakfast and now they are spending all their money
buying us dinner!”
the last few days we have had the 3 girls doting on us, feeding us and helping with anything we
need. Valentina is a retired teacher so she has been teaching us
some Russian which has been really cool too.
Valentina “Spa see ba” (thankyou)
Valentina “no no no… spaaaa”
get the picture.
amazing to meet 3 such amazing women, all very individual strong characters, all with a certain something
that made them interesting and great company too. THANK YOU
tired now so will leave it there, hi to all back home,
we promise we’ll leave tomorrow morning!
Yesterday we said a sad goodbye to the girls, they insisted on cooking us breakfast and
sending us off with a hamper of boiled eggs and potatoes, if we’d left it up to them it would have been 4
times as much food but we can only carry so much on the bikes.
to Samarkand was eventful, first Paul got a flat, then a blocked fuel filter, then I was pulled up for
speeding and the police wanted to impound my bike (another frikkin bribe), then Paul was pulled over too, we
were pretty frustrated with the policing in the end, so Paul resorted to screaming at the last guy who pulled
us up, he couldn’t understand a thing and let us go!
luck was shining on us as we rode into Samarkand… the owner of a hostel pulled up next to us just as we were
about to start asking people for directions, and said hi do you need a place to stay? His rooms were US$6 each including brekky, and they had cold beer.
followed him there and checked in.
spent the morning being underwhelmed by Samarkand before heading off to Tajikistan. Our visa for Uzbek expired
today so it was important we get to the border, not helped by the fuel shortage in Uzbek, which saw us riding
around the city a total of 30km to finally find one petrol station still selling fuel. We were running late to get to the border so were pretty worried about the enormous
lineup for petrol, but managed to jump in the line and get a full tank without pissing off too many
processing was pretty good, the Tajiks even smiled at us, but the view a little way into Tajikistan was
riding with the sun low in the sky at our backs, so it threw an amazing light onto all the surfaces
reflecting back at us. There was an enormous mountain range a long
way off the road in the distance to our left, and a smaller one to the right, but on both sides of the road
there was lush green plantation, and amazing yellow fields of sunflowers. There were lots of people working in the fields dressed in bright patterned cloth,
donkeys pulling carts and children smiling and waving as we rode past.
stopped a few times to take some pictures, it was just so beautiful.
arrived in Panjikent there was a road sign for accommodation which turned out to be a bit of a
score. As we unpacked, the owners invited us to eat dinner with
them, so we ended up in the courtyard eating some stew with yogurt , sharing some beers and finishing with a
few cups of chai. A pretty good way to finish a day on the
in another old Soviet hotel today in Dashunbe (the capital of Tajikistan). The ride from Panjikent to here was absolutely brilliant. We started with a fairly flat run between adjacent mountain ranges following a river
back to its source in the mountains. There was a lot of farming on
both sides of the road, and kids in all the small towns we passed would run onto the road wanting to high
five us. The road snaked it’s way between 2 enormous mountain
ranges, coloured in grey and reds, the scale of it all was overwhelming.
itself was half bad bitumen and the rest dirt, it’s times like that when I really appreciate the bike and
what it’s capable of, cruising along badly corrugated or washed out roads where the rest of the traffic is
reduced to first gear and we barely need to break stride.
the day the road we were on hit the main road connecting Toshkent to Dashunbe, so it widened and was all
newish tar, but it snaked its way up to 2650m all the while the river we were following got more and more
narrow, until eventually we were in the snow and then over the other side of the
through a tunnel 5km long, unlit and not ventilated, with standing water through most of
it. It was a pretty strange experience, actually a bit of worry
given the amount of diesel smoke in the air and the bits of concrete reinforcing sticking out of the
concrete, I felt really sorry for the poor guys who had to work in
it repairing the road. After 15mins all I could taste in my mouth
was diesel, I couldn’t imagine spending all day in there.
arriving at Dashunbe late afternoon, we decided to have a down day to catch up on some bike maintenance and
on some website stuff, (so here I am). We haven’t posted any photos
in a while so will get all that organized too before heading off again in the morning.
planning to head to Kulob tomorrow, then follow the road on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan all
the way to Chorug, then do a circuit around the Pamir and back to Chorug again before following a smaller
road back to the Pamir and then north to Kyrgyzstan. It has been
some spectacular scenery here already so we are both really looking forward to the rest of
Quick update while i have wifi...
Sitting in a cafe in Dushanbe struggling with net access trying to send a pile of pics to hamster
the webman, this has taken 5 hours but thankfully we got there in the end!
I dont think we will have any access until
Bishkek in Kirgyzstan now so that will be it for a couple of weeks, will keep the sms coming thru
Dushanbe is a small city full of drug trafficking gangsters so we fit right in with our soiled
Something like half the worlds heroin passes thru here, lots of kids driving mercedes and
Anyhow, we are about to hit the road so bye all!
Today several interesting things have occurred.
1) paul was propositioned for sex by an old lady with
a mouth full of gold teeth. 'you make sex with me, is no money, i clean...is free, Yes?'
2) pauls mobile has gone missing, so dont try calling
or messaging for a while.
3) we were stopped by police for speeding (again) and
avoided a fine by jumping up and down like kangaroos and making oink oink noises at the same time.
4) the police gave us a full loaf of bread to take
with us, even though we didnt want it, they insisted!
5) i bartered the price of a hotel down by giving the
loaf of bread to the lady at reception, i told her it was from Australia..
Goodnight all xo
Hi from Kharugh on the Pamir highway!!!
We finally made it here.
Left Dushanbe 2 days ago, and went south to Wase,
then Kulab, then Zigar and followed the Panj river all the way here.
Afghanistan is on the other side of the river, pretty
amazing place to find ourselves.
Parked on the side of the road trying to decide if we
should go nth east on the Pamir to Charsem, South east to Midensharw or keep following the river/border to
Either way its stunning scenery, there is still snow
on the peaks but it's 30deg, mountains loom at 5000m in the distance.
Sitting outside a netcafe in chorug
waiting for paul to finish some email, we are headed south along the afghan border today, the map shows some
hot springs along the way so hopefully we can get some washing done too!
Stayed in a home-stay night before last,
that was where a young boy showed paul his recently circumcised penis, and the family vacated the bug ridden
communal bedroom so we could sleep there at a total cost of US10 for both of us, including breakfast and
dinner. You can more or less ask anyone anywhere around here if they know of a lodging, and they will
put you up and feed you. I guess it’s a bit like couch surfing, except that there is never a shower or
Riding in the pamir has so far been
pretty easy going, if a little slow at times, the dirt road is all hard packed so although it’s very bumpy in
places it’s pretty straightforward riding. We are following the Panj river which is snowmelt, so it’s
really cold water.
However it’s really hot here right now,
but when we are close to the river the spray from the rapids cools the surrounding area so it’s really
pleasant, we can actually feel it get hotter immediately when the road turns temporarily away from the
Lots of water around though even though
its full summer, day before yesterday we took a shower in a waterfall, and yesterday went for a swim in a
lake created by the road being raised above the river level.
Local people are really friendly but not over the top
like in Africa, it’s an interesting place in that there is very little western influence, as an example the
girls all wear the same clothes, or the same style I should say, it’s a short sleeved baggy shirt thing that
comes to somewhere between the waist and a bit below the knees, and a matching pair of pants, usually in a
really bright colour (often blue or orange), always patterned with some glittery stuff (girls help me out
here – is there a technical name for this?). I guess it’s not that different to back home where
everyone wears jeans, but it just feels I little like a ?? commune. They are however very friendly and
happy to chat unlike the women in most of muslim Africa who were nowhere to be seen. We had a bunch of
girls sell us fuel from buckets on the side of the road yesterday, and they asked us to stay a while, even
offered free beer, which actually had Paul thinking about it for a moment J
The bikes are a little unhappy at the
moment, either the altitude or the fuel have upset them, every time I try to get moving from standstill I
check that I am not in third gear as the thing just wont get moving. On a hill it’s really
difficult. I’m hoping it’s just bad fuel because we need to go much higher than this
This is officially a record, my brother
is in bed at 9pm.
We are in another homestay tonight,
where we negotiated US$15 for both of us for dinner, lodging and brekky. Pretty cheap I think, but gee
dinner was a cracker! We were served, in order of appearance: 5 plates of lollies, 4 vanilla
wafers, 2 loaves of bread, 2 plates of watermelon, tea and hot water, instant coffee, boiled rice with onion
and miniature biscuits. It was so strange that we just sat and looked at it in silence, and nodded that
it was fine when they asked.
The lodging is pretty cool though. In
this part of the world they don’t really eat at a table, or sleep in a bed. Instead they have low
platform things that look a bit like a bed, that everyone sits at cross legged to eat, and they serve the
food on a towel in the middle of the platform. Think of a daybed covered in Persian carpets and you’d
be close. Then later on they set up a few layers of foam or thick blankets on the same platform and that is
the bed. At this place we have a whole room raised at various levels, all covered in Persian carpets.
Hard to explain but I’ll get hamster to post a pic.
Internet here is really hard to find,
and the mobile drops out whenever I try to make a call, a bit hopeless really, (sorry Molly – I tried),
tonight we are in a little valley in town called ??, we hope to complete the lap through the pamirs tomorrow
and arrive in Chorug again this time tomorrow.
We went to see a hot spring today which
took us up to 3200m, what a struggle with the bikes, they just won’t come on song in first gear if there is
any sort of an incline at all, I wouldn’t have believed that the altitude could make such a difference but
there it is. They have gone from fire breathing dragons to Puff the Magic dragon! Tomorrow we hope to
make a pass across a range at about 4200m, which will be pretty tricky if we need to slow down too much on
any of the climbs.
It’s now 10.15pm, I think I might be
able to sleep now too. Gdnight all xo
Hi there, back in phone range again!!
Crossed into Kyrgyzstan yesterday and stayed in a
town called Gullcho last night.
The Pamirs were absolutely breathtaking, literally so
We rode from Kharugh to Murghab along the southern
route along the Panj river, then stopped in Murgab 2 days because I had a fever of 39.6deg!!
Next night in Qarakol and now here.
Staying with local familes all through this area, for
a few dollars they feed you and give you a warm bed for the night.
Hi to all back home, Dean.
I rise from a sleepless night with a slight headache to find Paul busy adjusting the needle setting
on toom 38.
He’s not quite finished yet so I wander outside to inspect the damage I did to my pannier in one of
4 stupid falls I had the previous day.
It’s pretty badly squashed, but has been several times before, so I borrow a small hammer from the
owners of the homestay and go to work trying to get it straight enough so the lid will seal
I’m starting to feel pretty awful but figure it’s just another case of diarrhea, so when we’re both
done we pack up, say farewell to the family who put us up the previous night, and ride a few km to check out
the Pamir horse festival.
(I can hear Bryster laughing from
I can feel myself going downhill pretty fast so keep movements to a minimum, but there isn’t a speck
of shade in the high plains of the pamir near Murgab, and when a local comes over to chat I’m starting to
feel dizzy, so I leave it to Paul and kneel down in the dirt trying to get some shade from them on the
The race is about to start so we wander off to the form up area to see it kick off. Six jockeys ride horses of all shapes and sizes off into the distance
around a nearby mountain and then back again. It takes maybe ten
minutes for the first one to return, welcomed by cheers from the small crowd.
We look at each other and
silently agree that this festival is a bit shit, so we walk back to the bikes to head off for the day, destined
for the Kyrgyzstan border. I’m fading pretty fast by now and
starting to get concerned about another full day in the saddle.
The tanks are empty so we ride up and down the main street asking people where we can get some
‘benzine’. Eventually we find the petrol station but it’s dry
too. We persevere and are eventually pointed to the bazaar,
where we are directed to a small alleyway that turns a corner behind the main shops, eventually arriving at a
makeshift door in a mud wall with ‘benzine’ written on it in faded white paint.
I park my bike and look at paul, “not feeling too good bro, can you look after this please?”, I
wander over to the mudbrick wall and try to get some shade from it, but the sun is high in the sky so there’s
only the smallest shadow.
I can remember seeing a lady come out and explain the price to paul, then bring out 10 x 5lt plastic
cooking oil containers (one at a time) filled with “fuel”, and one by one they are poured into the
bikes. For the first time in weeks our 30lt tanks have taken
less than 30lt of fuel… we’ve started calling it the tourist pour!
I’m squatting on my haunches with my head in my hands, and feel a tap on my shoulder, the lady who
was bringing out the fuel has brought me a bowl of yogurt, puts it in my hands and passes me a table
spoon. My instinct is to refuse it, I feel queasy enough as it
is so don’t want to make things even worse, but I’m not in any shape to argue, she motions for me to eat it,
I look at paul who shrugs his shoulders and decide that I should just get it over with. When it’s finished I pass the bowl back to the lady who asks if I want
more, “niet niet spasiba”
I stand up and walk over to the bike, but now everything is a little wonky, I’m off balance and only
just barely able to get my leg over the high seat. My stomach is
cramping and my head is pounding, and worse, I have the shakes, it’s hot as hell outside but I’m freezing
Paul has a worried look on his face,
“Are you ok
“um no not really, I don’t think I can do this today, I don’t think I can ride”
“ok, so what do you want to do… shall we go back to the homestay?”
“yeah I think so, I really need to lay down right now”
“ok, are you ok to ride back? I can take you back
otherwise and come back for the bike later”
I consider this for a moment, it’s actually a good idea, the ride back up the track to the main road
isn’t hard by any stretch, but I really feel off balance…
“no I’ll be ok”
I manage to get back to the main road and breathe a sigh of relief, but we are up around 4000m in
altitude so the windchill is ferocious, after the 2 minute ride on the tar road we arrive back at the gates
of the homestay, I stop the bike, beep the horn and climb off shivering waiting for the door to
Mansur, the owners 12 yr old son opens the gate with a beaming smile, I look at him and make the
sleeping mime, he nods and I walk past him back to the door, take off my boots and return to the bed I had
left several hours earlier to find the same torn sheets that were there last time.
I pull off my riding pants, curl into a ball and lay down shivering. A minute or so later I hear paul in the room
“is there anything I can do?”
I’m worried about malaria…
“yeah there’s a thermometer in the kit, it’s in my right hand pannier, at the bottom
I try to put it under my
tongue but I’m having trouble breathing, the air is so thin that I cant get enough through my nose so am taking
big gulps through my mouth too, so the thermometer isn’t really sitting in there too well. I take it out in frustration and try to focus on the thin sliver of silver,
this takes a while but eventually I read 38.4 deg.
“38.4, not good”
I shake the mercury back down and stick it under my armpit, curl up again and forget about it for a
moment. Paul comes back into the room with a handful of malaria
test kits we picked up in Kano, he’s swearing about something, the instructions aren’t in English, and
there’s no pin to prick the skin with, I can tell he’s worried.
I remember the thermometer and pull it out again, this time I try to sit up but the room spins and I
can’t keep my eyes open so I lay back down, and again try to find the level.
The thermometer is really old, actually it’s probably older than I am as it’s the one mum used to
use on us when we were kids. The scale starts at 35, it has a
red line on it at 37 and it stops at 40. My reading is 39.6.
Shit. I pass it to Paul to check, and ask him to check his to
make sure the old thing is reading ok.
It reads 36.5 on paul and I hear him say something about getting a doctor, but I wonder whether this
tiny community in the pamir mountains would even have one.
Paul is pouring through the medicine kit mum put together for us looking for something for a fever,
he finds some panamax and I take a couple.
“did you keep the booklet from the travel doctor?”
“yeah, right pannier, in the lid under the container of earplugs” after 4 months on the road we both know our kits backwards, and everything
has a place.
He returns a minute later and I see him flicking through the booklet trying to make sense of the
diagnosis charts. It seems that all roads lead to
I regain consciousness for a moment and see a man sitting on a broken old chair by my bed, he’s in
his 40s, wearing faded grey tracksuit pants, a fake Armani tshirt and has no shoes on. Next to him sitting on the floor is a woman about my age, she’s wearing a
white nurses costume, she has a monobrow, she’s barefoot too.
There is a medicine chest on the floor between them, it’s grey with a red cross on it and all the paint is
worn from the edges. The lid is open and I can see rows of small
vials in different colours lined up in the lid, it looks ancient.
Paul is talking to Mansur, asking him how to get some more credit on his phone, his normal phone was
stolen a week ago and he’s having trouble making international calls with the local sim.
The doctor sticks a thermometer (that looks even older than mine) under my arm and then takes out a
bloodpressure thingy and wraps it around my arm. He’s talking in
Tajik to the nurse, there is a lot of umming and aahhhing. He
looks at me, points to the pressure thingy and gives me the thumbs up. I remember thinking “great, I still have blood pressure”
Then he takes out the earphones with the cold metal disc attached and starts putting it here and
there and listening. Again he gives me the thumbs
up. He asks if I speak Russian, “niet”
He pulls out the thermometer and his eyes widen, he passes it to the nurse, more talking in
Tajik. He then explains in mime that I need to drink lots of hot
I try to make sense of it, hot water, I’m hot so I need to drink hot water… nope. I tell him I have a high temperature, I try to explain that I have been to
Africa in the last few months, I ask about Malaria but he either doesn’t understand or dismisses the
“niet malaria, niet”
He pours me a cup of hot
water, takes a blister pack from from the grey case and snaps a tablet, passing it to me. Tylenol. The only thing I know
about Tylenol is that Kanye West uses it as an allegory for being put to sleep by an arguing girlfriend, I’m
very confused. I drink the hot water wondering what the hell it
could possibly do, down the tablet and lay down again.
I can hear Paul on the phone talking to someone I later work out was Michelle, trying to pass my
symptoms to a doctor back home…
“Can you tell them that he has a temperature of 39 and a half, one minute he was ok and then he just
sort of fell over”
I drift off for a period, and open my eyes to see the doctor and nurse unmoved, the thermometer is
under my arm again, another cup of hot water is being passed my way.
My fever has dropped to a bit under 39, the doc whistles when he reads it, passes it to the nurse
and I hear the words “dangerous” and “injection”
I’m trying to ask them to use one of the syringes we have in the kit, but he smiles and shows me the
new wrapper as he opens it, quite proudly he indicates that in Murgab they are used once and then
The nurse opens a pack of glass vials, scores the top of two, snaps them off and sucks the fluid
into a large syringe. I roll over and am jabbed in the bum with
the syringe. Then quite promptly the doc packs up the ancient
kit, points to the thermos of hot water and says goodbye “packa”.
I remain in bed for the next 24hrs, drinking hot water without really knowing why and regularly
checking my temperature. It hovers between 38 and
39. Paul comes in frequently to check on me, and eventually
falls asleep in the bed opposite, but isn’t sleeping too well either as everytime I check my temp he opens
his eyes and asks what the reading is.
Late in the morning when the reading is high again he’s considering calling the doc back or giving
me the malarone (anti malarial drugs) we brought from home.
Instead I take some panadol and drink more hot water. All the
water is making me urinate frequently and every trip to the toilet is out across the carpark to the drop
toilet that stinks so bad it makes me wretch, it’s also freezing outside so I come back
I’m trying to avoid taking the malarone because I recall that it’s an antibiotic in very high
dosage, so I figure it will help a flu or really any infection too, and would rather not be left wondering
whether it was malaria or not.
By 10 the next morning I’m feeling a little better, and going a bit crazy being in bed, my temp is
down to 38 so I decide to get moving. We ride out of Murgab and
up to the highest pass we have been to yet, it’s at 4600m and we stop and build a rock stack. This drains me and I’m back to breathing in big gulps, we arrive at the
next town around luchtime and I have to call it a day, I fall onto a mattress in the big shared room and
Getting a fever back home where good medical care is a phone call away really doesn’t rate a sick
day, let alone a blog post, but in some of these remote places it’s scary as hell. Yet another of the multitude daily reminders about how lucky we are at
That was 3 days ago and finally this morning I feel somewhere near normal. I didn’t work out if it was a flu, other bug, food poisoning or altitude
sickness (probably all 3!), but fortunately it wasn’t malaria.
In Kochkor tonight in the kirg highlands.
We rode from Naryn this morning via Song Kol lake.
I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever
While we were there a storm blew through the mountains and we sheltered in a
Amazing hospitality from the owners, amazing food too!
The KTM is loving these mountain tracks, all involved are happy.
We are in Kazakhstan!!
Trawling the streets of Almaty looking for a cheap hotel to stay in while applying
for mongolian visa.
We are in Almaty in Kazakhstan, here to
apply for the Mongolian visa, (which we did this morning, pickup tomorrow morning,
Almaty is a very modern city, sitting at
this café with free wifi sipping on good coffee we could easily be in any other European
We had some good fortune finding tyres
in Russia, found a supplier in Moscow who can send us a set forward to Barnaul before we head into the wilds
of Mongolia, and then has arranged another set for Cita (start of the Road of Bones) in Russia which will see
us through to the end of the trip.
We have bumped into some other bike
travelers lately who have come through Mongolia and their accounts have us pretty excited about it all, the
consensus goes along the lines of “ride into Mongolia on a dirt track, pick a mountain off in the distance in
the direction you want to head, and then just ride off into the tundra”. Pretty cool
Our travel through Tajikistan and
Kyrgyzstan was brilliant, the scenery changed continually so that just when we thought we’d start to become
accustomed to the view, something would change and we’d be back to stopping every 2 mins to take more
pictures. I think the new pics should be on the site by now, they look pretty good on our laptop, but
really don’t do the area any justice at all. Incredibly friendly people too, the Kirg shepherd family
who took us into their Yurt during a storm put on food and chai and looked after us as though we had just
walking into a restaurant, then refused any payment for it when we left, in fact they were almost
offended! I later learned that they have a saying up there that “a guest is a gift from god”, they
certainly made us feel that way.
The horses. I really need to
mention the horses in Kyrgyzstan. And let me qualify this by saying that as a rule I don’t really get
excited about horses at all. They are big animals that other people ride. But the horses in
Kyrgyzstan are really something else. If there could be a picture of health and vitality, power and
prowess, it would be of a horse in the Kyrgyzstan highlands. They are taken up there by the shepherds
for 5 months a year to graze, they’re big, they’re shiny, and they’re fucking awesome to watch. As we
rode across the top of Song Kol there were big groups of them (stables??) grazing near each set of Yurts, who
would get a bit of a scare from the sound of the bikes and go running across the tundra – awesome to
see. It actually made me want a horse.
Ok, back to bike related issues… I
managed to drop my bike in Tajik and put a pretty good dent in a pannier, straightened it 2 days later and
then did it all again in Kirgyzstan another 4 days after that. But even better than that, I not only
dented the pannier again, but when we were picking up the bike it was on a very steep incline in some mud, so
it rolled backwards down the hill with us unable to stop it (insert Benny Hill comedic music here),
and eventually landed hard on the other side, ripping the tank bag off, and smashing the other pannier
too. We put it in gear before picking it up the next time.
6 more falls and 2 more soiled underpants added to
The border crossing from Kirg to Kaz was
a little chaotic when we got there, possibly because of the recent trouble in Osh and Jalalabad (which were
both very quiet when we passed through last week), but there was a line of cars and trucks about half a km
long leading up to the Kirg side. We skirted around it until we got to the front and were called
forward by the military at the gate and processed with priority which was really nice or we might still be
there. On the Kaz side it was more of the same, and again the military guys called us up and really
helped us out. Riding two enormous orange motorcycles seems to have some benefits where the military is
concerned, boys love their toys!
Off to buy some oil for the katooms
before we head out of civilization again, so bye for now.
PS Our thoughts are with the Wild family
and their friends in this difficult time. Strength and love to you.
-Go to August
Write a message to The Donkey and the