Today was one of the days I was looking forward most when planning my bicycle tour. We crossed the Turkestan Range of the Fann Mountains via the Shahriston Pass and then climbing again the Zarafshon Range towards Dushanbe. In perfect weather, we were rewarded with fantastic views in deep valleys and up the rock walls of deep gorges.
Last night on the “container”-farm on 1900 m was not as relaxing as I hoped. First, the farmer’s dog had the need to defend his territory the whole night by barking at whatever moved outside, and second, it got quite cold inside the metal container so it was not too comfortable for sleeping. Therefore we only got up shortly before 8:00. We had a quick breakfast in the morning sun and then left at around 9:00 to climb the remaining 1000 m to the pass – or that’s what we thought at the time.
Chinese Tunnel through the Mountain
Lucie and I were very motivated to actually use the old road that leads over the pass at more than 3300 m instead of the newly built tunnel. But when approaching the junction where we had to choose between going for the tunnel and over the pass, we saw that there is simply still too much snow in the mountains and the road is most likely covered with snow. Not the best preconditions for my heavy trekking bike. In addition, we saw that the road actually was officially closed.
As a logical consequence, we decided to use the 4.2 km long tunnel. And actually the tunnel entrance was already at 2600 m, and not at 3000 m as I thought. A pleasant surprise. This tunnel has been built by the Chinese and after the horrible tunnels in Iran, it was very relaxing to use this tunnel. It had proper lighting, was very wide, the surface was in excellent conditions, and there was also not a lot of traffic. Nevertheless, I still tried to get through the tunnel as quickly as possible because the air inside is not the best. After about 15-20 minutes we reached the exit of the tunnel which was actually 100 m higher than the entrance.
Descending into Zarafshan Valley
After climbing 2500 m in the past two days, we now could collect our reward: A descent of 1400 m into the Zarafshan Valley. For about 20 km our legs could relax and our fingers were challenged with the usage of the breaks. It was extremely beautiful to slowly descend from Alpine climate with snowy peaks through various geological layers down to a fertile and green valley.
Once arrived in Khushekat in the valley, we filled our energy reserves with ice cream, Snickers, Mars, etc. Then we decided to continue our route south towards Dushanbe for another 30 km.
Climbing again on the other side
Tomorrow we want to visit Iskanderkul, a small but very beautiful lake in the middle of the mountains with an official campground next to the lake. This lake is a small detour from the route to Dushanbe but from what I heard definitely worth a visit. In order to have more time tomorrow at the lake, we therefore left Zarafshan Valley towards south again and proceeded 30 km into the mountains through a very impressive gorge that was carved by the Fan Darya River into the loose rocks. Even though it looked very majestically, it was kind of scary to cycle through this narrow gorge because a land slide or falling rocks had to be expected at any time. Only after 30 km the valley got a little bit wider and we found a village named Zarafshon, where we found first a small bar to get a well-deserved beer after a day full of impressions, and then also a small guest house where we could take a more or less decent shower and have a bed again for one night, before spending the night tomorrow on the campground at Iskanderkul lake.
Max elevation: 2718 m
Min elevation: 1401 m
Total climbing: 1968 m
Total descent: -2242 m
Total time: 08:02:20