As in the previous days, today we followed the Panj River towards Khorog. In the morning, nothing eventful happened and we were following the bumpy road through steep gorges for 45 km in sunshine and blue sky and after 85 km we reached the village of Rushan.
After a nice night sleeping on a terrace overlooking the gorge, we started cycling early in still perfect weather.
No more blue sky
In the afternoon the weather started to change and the sky got darker and darker. The scenery with the tall and snow covered mountains started to look dramatic. We were hoping that the rain would wait until we reach Rushan. And we were lucky. When we arrived at Rushan on 2000 m, the first raindrops started to fall and during the evening, heavy rain set in. Since we found a place in a homestay, we did not have to camp outside so the rain was, at least for the night, not of any concern.
Rain, and above a certain altitude snow, in this area are however problematic as we are cycling through narrow canyons with steep rock faces. Wet conditions increase the risk of landslides or even avalanches, the latter however is currently less of a concern because the snow is only high up in the mountains. But later on our trip when crossing passes over 4000 m, snow will become an issue. Also, heavy rainfalls make the rivers rise and some of the roads might be flooded, so we would have to carry our bicycles, bags, etc. through ice cold waters. Hopefully, the rain is only for a short amount of time and the blue sky will return again.
Problems with my cell phone
As if the decreasing quality of the cell phone network here in the Pamirs were not enough, in the last few days my cell phone which I basically need for everything for this blog (Internet connection, GPS tracking) as well as staying in touch with my family started making problems. The new battery that I bought just before departure seems to be faulty, and the longer I use it, the more it cannot keep up the voltage, which causes my phone to reset itself randomly. By now I guess I can use only about 25% of the battery’s capacity. I hope that I can get a new battery in Khorog tomorrow as otherwise I am afraid my phone won’t be usable anymore during the rest of the trip. So apart from all the challenges from nature, also the electronic devices can give me a headache.
Vodka party on arrival in Rushan
When we were approaching Rushan, a group of around six men at my age were partying next to the road. It was not even 18:00 by then. Partying in this region means, the car is parked at the side of the road with the doors open, the volume of the stereo of the car is turned up and people are hanging around outside the car. The guys kindly invited us for a drink – which in this case was Vodka, and not tea as usual. As Rushan was only a few kilometers away, we joined them for a Vodka or two (or a few more for Anne and Lucie).
It was obvious that at least a few of them already had quite a bit of Vodka before we arrived, therefore the mood was good from the start. They were very proud that they have good Russian Vodka, and not some Tajik Vodka. And they were telling us proudly, that they are not Tajiks, but Pamiris. The background to this is that as I mentioned in an earlier post, we are now in the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan. They don’t feel as Tajiks and live basically their own culture here in the Pamirs, even though they politically belong to Tajikistan.
After half an hour, we then left the party group and cycled safely the last few kilometers to Rushan where we found a place in a decent homestay with a warm shower and a western toilet. It was good after a few days of camping to take a good shower again. The amount of dirt washed off my body confirmed that we are in very rough and dusty terrain.
Tomorrow we will head to Khorog, the largest city in the Pamirs with a population of roughly 30000 people. This will be the last place to restock anything we need for the high plateau in the Pamirs during the next 3.5 weeks.
Max elevation: 2022 m
Min elevation: 1607 m
Total climbing: 1612 m
Total descent: -1221 m
Total time: 10:41:15