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Kirstin & Vincent

Wakhan valley Pamir

The most impressive part of the Pamir for us was the Tajik Wakhan valley. This Wakhan valley is part of the corridor and our road follows the Pyanj river.

Instead of following the M41 east from Khorugh, the last change to get cash, do some serious shopping, get fuel and meet fellow travelers, we drove south. We found a great spot at 37.41544 71.49664 hidden in a rock formation.

We visited the famous Garm-Chashma Hot Spring. The men and women are allowed to use the outside “pool” at different times.

We passed the bridge at Ishkoshim which connects Tajikistan and Afghanistan and where every Saturday is a market where you can visit without a visa.

The interesting part of this part of the route started for us with a hike starting in Darshai, we hiked this gorge but turned around after some kilometers because the gravel and sand got in-stable due to landslides.

At the end of the afternoon we drove the steep and narrow road up to Bibi Fatime hot spring. An very nice, but as al hot spring here, inside spring. It is absolute worth the drive up. Here also men and women can use the pool separately. After this we drove down just a little to stay the night at 3.200 meters with a great view over the valley and to get adjusted to the height.

Zorkul valley

To add an extra road to our trip we planned at first on driving Zorkul. This route is joining the M41 at around 40 km south of Murghob.

Unfortunately we ate to early in the season, may/june, the roads are still impassable according guides we met in Khorugh. Khorugh is the place to buy the extra permit for Zorkul. We met a dutch couple who drove to the Zorkul lakes, which where still completely frozen, and the returned to the entrance at Khorgus checkpoint. But after watching their videos we decided it was to wet for our 11 ton campertruck so we decided to skip this part.

Bulunkul & Yashikul lake in Tajik National Park

After we passed the Khargush checkpoint, we where the 6th vehicle that passed today it was time for our real first mountain pass in Tajikistan, the Khargush pass 4.344 mtr. Because higher passes are coming we decided to camp 3.900 meter just after lake Churkurkul.

Since we did not see any shops and gasstations the last 100 km we decided the next morning to buy some bread and diesel in Bulunkul. But it turned out this coldest (-65 C) village in Tajikistan has no facilities whatsoever. Vincent baked later this day a bread in our little oven.

We continued our trip to two little geysers and had lunch here. Via a Yurt Camp with a hot spring we found our wildcamp at the eastern end of lake Yashikul. Fantastic.

The road to Alichur is impassable because of the very wet, swamplike, tracks so we decided to spend more time at lake Bulunkul and stay an extra night at lake Yashikul.

Tajik National Park

It is very large but quite expensive to be in. We pay with our truck € 40,- per day

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We started Pamir (9. May 2024) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan and we take the south route via the Afghanistan, Pakistani and Chinese border. We expect to end this journey around 1.600 km and 4 weeks later in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

Why now?

We are close 😂👍. The Pamir Highway should offer stunning views of the rugged Pamir Mountains and is considered one of the most beautiful and remote highways in the world. And the Pamir Highway is part of the ancient Silk Road, and has been used as a trade route for thousands of years, making it a fascinating journey. But, it can also be a challenging adventure, with narrow, winding roads, high altitudes, and harsh weather conditions. Traveling this route in May will give us hopefully the best chances of snow free roads and good weather.

Permits

Car, entry more then 5 days and per

It for Wakhan to be close at the Afghan border.

High altitude

Our Unimog truck on high altitude

Unimog is running okay but starting the truck at 10C and above 3.800 meters take some longer starting. After this a lot of smoke and ikt takes still at least a minute for the engine to run properly. To drive up the passes needs more effort amd we are ashamed for how bad the exhaust fumes are bluring out. But then, the diesel quality is also not guaranteed in Tajikistan, so this maybe a factor also. Our airtanks are back to 5 bar, normally they stay steady above 10 bar after one night sleeping and also filling the airtanks seem to take longer.

The aircilinder which switches from high to low gear has a hard time.

Tyre pressure …

Eberspacher diesel heater at high altitude

We do not use our diesel heater so much. We only used it above 3.800 meters to keep it cosy amd warm in the evening. I have the feeling it had some problems starting up, but it is running and keeping us comfortable. Also with the diesel heater the diesel quality might be an issue.

Preparing ourselves for high altitude

We are careful in picking our spots for the night.

Sleeping, sport, hikes. breathing while sleeping is more difficult then hiking.

What else happend at high altitude?

First our chips bags exploded around 2700 meter so we ste all of it 👍😂. The higher we came the more stuff “exploded” or made a mess when we opened them. The shampoo and sunblockers made a mess yoghurt put open while friving so our fridge was all over either it. At 3700 meter we woke up st night from an explosion. I did not want to go out to check out the damage but then we smelted something very strong. After some researching I found a little can with paint where the little blew off jjaacckkes.

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We are stuck at the remains of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. We followed a much driven track in the sand but at once we break through this thin layer of sand/clay to land in the meters thick soft clay.

After a first try to get out the situation gets worse very quickly. I am afraid we might topple to the side or even worse the whole truck might just sink down in this clay.

Our travel friends Arnau, Ruben en Mathilde help us but after some days we decide we need help.

Because this seems to happen often here, to locals and tourist, there is a special rescue team.

They work hard to get us out and finally this works.

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We wanted to drive from Iran to Kazachstan, Mangystau and Turkmenistan is then the country to pass. At this time, april 2024, you need a guide to accompany you and therefore we choose to travel together. Via Social we found Ruben and Mathilde, Traveling Scouts, who are willing to travel together.

The border crossing and how we got in is described here.

Although our guide was very nice he and we made a big mistake at planing this route. We drove 3578 km in only 6 days, which with our truck is impossible. We only had to hurry and drive till late at night and we hate doing that. The only good road in Turkmenistan is between Ashgabad and Turkmenbashy, the rest is pothole tarmac or just gravel or plain earth with lots of washboards.

And to be honest, the only things really worth visiting are the crazy city of Ashgabat and the Darvaza Gas Crater. The Kow Ata Cave and the Gochmyrat-Ahun Cemetery are nice to see, but if this was worth all the money and hectic…

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We got stuck in the mud with our 11.000 kilo Unimog. Close to the beach we taught we had found the perfect spot to stay over night. But then we got stuck we had to enjoy this place for 2 days 😂

The government, the city of Emam Hasan at the Persian Gulf helped us we heavy machinery to get out. We are grateful for that.

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Adding the bird-view to our journey’s and adventures was one of the reasons we started with Paragliding two years ago.
How special is it to fly over this World Heritage side: the White Terraces (natural travertine formations and hot pools) in Pamukkale and the ancient city Hierapolis.
We were really lucky with the weather: 20 degrees and wind from the good direction. Even when there are no thermal activities we are enjoying these short flights a lot, and starting several times from early in the morning until late in the afternoon.
Tandem flights are (next to ballooning) very popular here, so with the local pilots it’s easy to get a lift back up to the launch.

It’s also special to visit the site by foot, first the ancient city, the theater and old bath house, than barefoot the terraces and pools. There are groeps of tourist from all over the world but mainly Chinese. It is one of Turkey’s favorite destinations because of this natural beauty. .

Pamukkale, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The area is famous for a carbonate mineral left by the flowing of thermal spring water.
The surface of the shimmering, snow-white limestone, shaped over millennia by calcite-rich springs, dripping slowly down the mountainside, mineral-rich waters collect in and cascade down the mineral terraces, into pools below. Splendid.

On the top of the travertine formation the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis was built. The first buildings on the site of Hierapolis appeared in the 2nd millennium BC. One of the most important sights is an ancient theater that is located on the hillside, the overall height of its steps is about one hundred meters.


Hierapolis was famous for its thermal springs and became a healing centre where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients.
You still can visit the thermal springs, so we took our swimwear and enjoying the 37 degrees warm water.

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To be prepared for the next etappe of our journey – driving into the Caucasus- we decided to change the tires, Continental 14R20 now after 50.000 km. It took a lot of research, apps and emails but finally they arrive just in time in Istanbul at Ünsal’s workplace. The turbo also has to get replaced.
Again we can use all his facilities at his workplace and the help of his mechanics.

Travelling overland is for us driving through unknown countries, about meeting other people and cultures.
Once again we have to repeat that the Turks are very friendly and the selfless hospitality is very special.
We will leave Ünsal, Turkan and their kids Mert en Yigit now. They invited us not only to park our Unimog at their place during our Christmas holidays but also in their family. Also sharing the same passion and humor, exchanging thoughts and to know we could ask anything made this such a great experience.

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We left the truck in Istanbul and went home to see our kids, family and friends. At this moment we are preparing for the next part of our journey; Kaukasus; Eastern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Do you have any good tips or suggestions? Please leave a message underneath this post.

The Caucasus or Caucasia, is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. The Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus range, have historically been considered as a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Mount Elbrus in Russia, Europe’s highest mountain, is situated in the Western Caucasus.[6] On the southern side, the Lesser Caucasus includes the Javakheti Plateau and the Armenian highlands, part of which is in Turkey.

The Caucasus is divided into the North Caucasus and South Caucasus, although the Western Caucasus also exists as a distinct geographic space within the North Caucasus. The Greater Caucasus mountain range in the north is mostly shared by Russia and Georgia as well as the northernmost parts of Azerbaijan. The Lesser Caucasus mountain range in the south is occupied by several independent states, mostly by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, but also extending to parts of northeastern Turkey, northern Iran and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh.

The region is known for its linguistic diversity:[8] aside from Indo-European and Turkic languages, the Kartvelian, Northwest Caucasian, and Northeast Caucasian language families are indigenous to the area.

Source: Wikipedia

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We wanted to check the area around Bursa because there is one of the bigger skiareas of Turkey in the Uludağ National Park. In goed years the ski season already starts mid of December.
Perhaps a chance for us for a snowboard season opening in Turkey… Bursa is a World Heritage Area as the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and now a modern city. A Teleferik reaches the skiarea Uludağ from middle in the city.

Until now there is only snow at the top and no Paragliding allowed up there.
We decide to snowboard there when we’ll back in February. Therefore we search for another place where we can fly in Gürsu. Here we also want to do some little maintenance at the Unimog and get it washed again. The road s here – some screws loosen – fantastic how Vincent always tries to fix or repair everything and never gives up.

Finally we also find somebody who upholster the passage to our cabine with us. So great: somebody trying and finding or knowing somebody who can help, we have to drink a couple cups of çay and coffee and at the end we get invited to a local restaurant. It’s unbelievable how hospitable and friendly the Türkish people are.
More than once a car just tried to stop us while we were driving. They were so enthousiast that they invited us immediately to visit their city or homes and stay for çay (tea).

Again we are lucky – really accidentally we meet a local tandem pilot – he joined us with flying and his wife wants to bring us back to the truck.

We spend two nights up on 800 m with again a great view over Gürsu, the valley and on the mountain-tops of the Uludag NP, and with only some goats 🐐 and sheeps around us.

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