I would like to share with you my last trip to Pamir mountains, which took place in August this year.
I’d planned this trip for a long time. Last year I tried to do it alone. I wanted to ride from Poland to Mongolia through Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. I got to Astrachan, where I turned back home. I found out that being alone was not what made me happy. I had also some minor issues with the motorcycle and that’s why I made decision like this. I don’t regret, because I saved up a lot of money and bought playstation, which made my life better
This year I wanted to have a company for the trip. I found two Polish guys on a motorcycle forum. They wanted to go to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. They ride similar motorbikes to mine. Their planned route was more or less the same as mine. We had one chat on skype. Decision was quick and all preparation started.
So here we are. Me - Maciek (inside) on mighty Transalp 650 and my fellows Maciek (right) on GS650 and Tomek (left) on almost new Yamaha XTZ660 Tenere.
I got all visas for all of us. I’d obtained all of them before, so this year it was really straight forward. I was only nervous about my relation with the guys…
My Honda Transalp was well prepared for the last year. I changed lot of parts in engine, chassis, drive train and add some accesories. I believed my bike was in good condition, therefore I started preparation a week before the departure. Suddenly I found out that the rear shock absorber probably wouldn’t last the whole trip. Fortunately I got the used one two days before the start. It wasn’t perfect, but seemed to be better than the old one. I changed the oil and filters. Packed up the panniers during the evening before. Then drunk some goodby wine with my family and I was ready to go!
Day 1. 5.08.2017
I woke up pretty early. I got to ride 500km to Polish/Ukrainian border, where I was going to meet the guys. I should have been there at 2PM, so I got to depart quite early. Due to my late packing, I was late almost an hour on the start. But! I’ve got all the passports, so I was sure they wouldn’t go without me
The ride was smooth. The traffic was small. I hoped I would be on time. After 250km traffic increased, I slowed down a bit and started to hear some strange noise. I stopped at the fuel station to check a chain slack. I touched it with a finger and it was damn hot and tensioned! I readjusted it, but the noise remained. Did I damaged the output shaft bearing? I got damn nervous. Could it last for another 13000km? I decided to give it a try. If the noise became louder, I turned back home.
I met guys in Chełm. I wasn’t even late much.
Eventually together we rode towards the Polish/Ukrainian border. The queue there was enormous, but some line splitting, zig zagging and we were at the front. Polish border was quick. Ukrainian was a bit slower. Due to laziness of Ukrainian border guards. It took us only 40min to enter Ukraine. Then we rode 60km more to Kovel, where we spent the night.
We talked, drank, laughed and got to know each other. So far, so good. Guys were funny and I expected our trip to be a nice one!
Trip of the day. I covered 592km
Day 2. 6.08.2017
The night was hard. There was no A/C in the hotel. It was hot and falling asleep was almost impossible.
We rode toward Kiev, where we decided to stay and had a quick walk in the city center. The road was good and much better than we’d expected. We visited Maidan square, where demonstration and riot took place in 2014.
Kiev seemed to be more European city than we thought. People style, shops, prices, cars all were European. But the girls were there… wow!
We were going to meet the real Ukraine the following day.
Track of the day: It was 446 km of smooth ride.
Day 3. 7.08.2017
We started the third day in the rain. Right after the Kiev rain stopped and we continued on the road to Charkow. It was a smooth, two lane road. Then we turned left to get to border crossing near Sumy. We heard this one was small and the queues were small too. The road towards Sumy sometimes was bad. Covered with some potholes. We stopped for a diner in a small village. The prices there were amazing. It was possible to eat a 2 dishes dinner for $1,5! For example a tea costed around $0,15. People were nice, but not as opened as people we were going to meet in the next countries.
We planned to camp near the border. But the weather wasn’t so good and the hotels prices were so low (less than $6 per person), so decision was easy.
Day 4. 8.08.2017
We woke up early in the morning to attack border crossing. There was no one ahead of us, so we hoped it would be a fast action. On the Ukrainian side the first window was closed. After few minutes, a very nice, old women come out and opened the window. Sho took our passports with a smile and informed us that we needed to fill some forms, which were in Ukrainian and she would help us with it. I wanted to check the forms and tried to grab it, but she put her hand on the papers and told: ‘no, no. I’ll fill it up for you, so you can go’. What a nice lady - I thought - So give me back my passport and I go! But she didn’t want to. Then she used a translator and showed us some hard to understand sentence in English. It told that filling up the papers demanded some work from her and she didn’t has to do it. So it was clear she wanted some money. So we gave her 50UAH ($1,9) for all of us. Immediately her smile disappeared and she said it wasn’t enough! We gave her 110UAH and lay we didn’t have more. She accepted a bribe and without a single world gave the passports back. The Russian border took some time. We had to fill up the temporary import documents 2 times, because of the mistakes. A big queue grown behind us. Suddenly one guard came and told that a Russian car was waiting in the line. He ordered to move sides all the cars and make a space for Russians! It took us 3hours to enter Russia.
We wanted just to ride across Russia as fast as we could, so there were no stop for sightseeing. We spend a night in a hotel, due to a bad weather. The prices were higher than Ukrainian, but still it was cheaper than in Poland. The roads were very good, but straight and boring.
Small Kafe in the first city,which looked like shops in Poland 25years ago
Small nap on the way
Maybe there is a good time to present our still clean motorcycles
Day 5. 9.08.2017
We rode a route the same as I rode a year before. The temperature rose after Wolgograd to 36’C and landscapes changed from fields and forests to steppe.
The ride was good, quick and still boring. We arrived to Astrachan in the evening and went to hotel, which was booked via the internet. It appeared that our reservation was changed from the cheapest room to the most expensive one. But it was pretty late and we hadn’t any choice but to stay there. Hotel was some kind of brothel and our cheap room was rented for just an hour, but unfortunately we came at the same time as the other ‘guests’. So I had problems with hotel again in Astrachan. I didn’t write a lot about Russia, because I did it last year. You can read about it, whatch some photos and a movie on my website here: http://maciekrides.com/en/blog/2016/08/09/trip-to-astrakhan-2016/
The next day we were going to Kazakhstan and adventure would begin!
Day 6. 10.08.2017
We wanted to be as early as possible on RUS/KAZ border crossing, so we wake up at 5.30AM. The road to border was going through delta of Volga river. The landscape has changed, it was green and trees appeared. It seemed to be a good place for camping!
We crossed several bridges and one floating bridge (crossing costed 50RUB/per.).
The border crossing was fast. We filled up only migration cards. Immediately after second border we were surrounded by lot of Kazakh people offering money exchange and motorcycle insurance. I wanted to exchange $20, but the minimal amount they accepted was $100! I resigned of course. Guys went to some small building to buy insurance. They informed me it would cost $40/3 motorbikes. I stayed outside to look after the bikes. Kazakh behave differently from European. They were watching, touching, trying to turn on the GPS, pressing clutch, brake levers, buttons… just everything. I was glad they didn’t open our bags. Their questions about the motorbikes was always the same: what is the fuel consumption, how fast can it go, how much does it cost in dollars. After a while guys informed me that I need to sign the insurance papers. When I went there, it turned out that $40 was the cost of one insurance! We were arguing with the locals, because they’d said different price before and then other Kazakhs came and surrounded us. We wanted to resign and find another place, but a few hundreds meter ahead was parked a police car. We were afraid they would inform police we didn’t have proper insurance and the fine would be bigger than $40/person. Further discussion was also hard and pointless because there were more than 10 Kazakhs around us listening to our case. To avoid any problems we paid the money, took the documents and rode away to Atyrau.
We’d heard rumors that the road to Atyrau was in fatal condition for 300km. We were prepared for really slow ride and enormous potholes. The road appeared to be really bad. Some holes were as wide as the road. Some of them were deep for dozens of centimeters. It was sometimes hard to avoid a hole. If I wanted to pass the big one I was hitting the smaller one, but very often the smaller appeared to be deeper. The ride was harsh. Riding on gravel along the road was better idea. Surprisingly the traffic there was also relatively high. That made it even harder, because the cars and lorries were slaloming between holes, there were lot of dust in the air behind them and overtaking was also risky. There were also gravel parts. Eventually the bad road was only for 30km. Then the asphalt got better. It was possible to ride 80km/h and sometimes a pothole appeared. Some of them were big and dangerous.
When the bad road ended it looked mostly like that:
The villages in Kazakhstan were shocking. There were a lot of mud huts in the first one we passed. The poverty was obvious there. The landscape was still a boring steppe, but sometimes some camels were standing next to the road!
We got to Atyrau, where we filled up the tanks and bought some food in a supermarket (we paid with cards everywhere). Caviar and cognac were extremely cheap and became our favourite products in Kazakhstan
Then we rode towards Bejneu. The road was perfect. Just before the sunset we turned into the steppe, rode a few hundreds meters and put up the tents. The night was excellent! Warm, quiet and cheap! Only a herd of horses galloped next to our camp in the night, which was quite exciting!
Day 7. 11.08.2017
In the morning I noticed that my pannier rack was loose. I lost one of the bolts. After quick repair we departed to Bejneu.
The road was in very good condition. It led through steppe, the traffic was low and it was really hard not to fall asleep. We were riding all the time 100km/h. Suddenly in front of us appeared a police car. They turned the sirens on and stopped us. Police officers didn’t even checked our documents. They said we had been speeding and one of us had to sit inside the car. We’d heard rumours that fines in Kazakhstan could be very high, but we weren’t going very fast - speed limit was 90. Tomek got out from the car and they went away. He came to us and said we were riding 101km/h and tolerant limit was 100. The formal fine was 500€/3 motorcycles. They offered us a bribe which was 300€/3 and he managed to negotiate it to 200€. I was very upset. It was a serious fine for my student budget. In bad moods we continued to Bejneu. It was the last city with fuel station before Uzbekistan. We all heard about petrol problems in Uzbekistan, so we filled up the tanks and extra jerry cans, which gave us around 500-600km range. It was hard to find a petrol station, but locals helped us and one guy drove with us through all the city to show us where it was.
The road between Bejneu and the border was fatal. In my opinion it was worse than the one to Atyrau. The surface was rough gravel with holes filled with sand. There were small pots of old asphalt, which made sharp and unpleasant bumps on the road. The bad quality road was 30-40km long. We found another fuel station 25km before the border, where we filled up the tanks again. The last 20km of the road was a good gravel. It looked like they was building a new road there and it was maybe prepared for the asphalt?
The queue before the border was enormous! There were Uzbeck cars packed up with bags, old bikes, lot of metal parts. We passed all the line. There were a lot of rubbish there. Plastic bottles and bags covered all the road. I’d never seen something like these before.
The last petrol before the border:
The border crossing went pretty fast. All the guards let us pass the lines of locals. Uzbek one demanded filing custom documents. We needed to give information about money and our electronic devices and its value. The forms were in Russian, but there was one officer, who spoke a good English and helped us with it. There were also a templates on the wall. Frankly speaking it was easier than Russian border. They also ordered us to go to the bank and make a xero copy of our documents. The copies costed $1 for each person. The copy of passport and motorcycle passport were demanded.
Just after the border we were surrounded by people offering money to exchange. We changed some dollars and euros. The exchange rates at the border were 4800soms/USdollar nad 5000som/euro. The rate, which locals used to calculate the price when we bought something,was 6000soms/dollar.
It got pretty late and we had only an hour of daytime, so we wanted to spend a night in a hotel next to the border. Unfortunately the price was too high for our budgets. They wanted $100/person! We rode to the nearest village. On the way there was a police post with stop sign and barrier. They just wrote down some information from our passports and let us go. Just after the police stop there was a small building. It was some kind of restaurant and a lady there offered a place to sleep for $1/person! There was just one room with carpets on the floor, where we could sleep. It was possible to buy some food and tea there as well. We asked some locals on the other side of the road if they had any place, where we could lock our motorcycles. They offered a steel garage, where we put the bikes. Then some locals started to visiting the restaurant to eat and drink. They were sitting next to our sleeping mats. I was afraid that more people were going to sleep there.
At midnight all the guest were gone and we could eventually go to sleep. At 3.00AM some guys came and turned the light on for just a few seconds. I was watching them from my sleeping bag. Most of they went out, but one left. He was just standing and watching towards us. He turned the light on again and immediately turned it off. Then I noticed that he was leaning towards Tomek and reaching for something next to him. I jumped out from the sleeping bag and wanted to grab this bastard. Tomek got up at the same time. The thief got scared, he dropped Tomek’s mobile phone, which he managed to take and ran out the hotel. We followed him, but he escaped behind the building. I was trying to be as cocky as I could, but I am a short sighted and I didn’t had my glasses and I wasn’t able to recognize anybody It was good I didn’t run on the wall instead of the door.
Our adrenaline was high and further sleep was hard. But after 3.30AM it became quite there. We turned all outside light off, so the place seemed to be closed and we were able to sleep until 6.30AM, when the alarm rung.
Day 8 12.08.2017
We found our motorbikes, where we'd left them in the evening
We started ride pretty early to avoid hot temperatures. The road during first 40-50km wasn’t very good. There were some potholes, but it was possible to keep a decent speed.
Ring across Uzbekistan was very boring. Road was straight, traffic was low. We didn’t even see many camels. We stopped a few times to ask for petrol, but any restaurant and any fuel station didn’t have any. After 300km we found a car service, where we could buy it. The price was $1/liter and we had first refueling from plastic bottles.
Fortunately the weather was gentle to us. It was slighty over 30'C, nervertheless stops for water were frequent and necessary.
The asphalt quality was very often much worse in cities than between them. In Nukus I hit on big hole and motorcycle lost power. Fortunately I had the same issue before and diagnosis was fast. A handgrip got loose on a rollgaz. I out there some glue and we could continue the ride.
We rode from Nukus tu Khiva via Beruniy and the road was really good. We heard that there is a shorter road through Gurlan, but the road was worse.
The new road was constructed on our way. They were building a second lane next to the old one, which sometimes was renovated as well. The traffic was crazy. Everybody was choosing the better lane and in result cars were going on the left lane in both directions as well on the right lane! Riding in the cities is pretty tricky. Drivers didn’t always obey all the rules. Red light sometimes had no power at all. They didn’t use indicators while changing lanes too. They also kept small distances when overtaking us, which was scary sometimes.
Stop for a dinner with typical tables:
In Beruniy we tried to find a fuel station with petrol, but we wasn’t successful. We found it again in a car service in Urgench.
In the evening we got to Khiva. We stopped in Alibeck hotel next to the old town. The place was very comfortable and breakfast was included. The breakfast was enormous and tasty! The next day we were going to spend in Khiva. We needed some rest and wanted to see the city.
Track, we rode 618km:
Day 9 13.08.2017
The rest day. We had a long walk in Chiva early in the morning to avoid all the tourists and to see the real live there.
First surprise was where Uzbeks could sleep. Outside the house near the sidewalk was the most popular place. Sleeping in the middle of loud market wasn’t a problem too.
Notice a sleeping man on the left side:
The old town is surrounded by a massive wall. Inside the city are plenty of madrasas and mosques. All buildings are elaborately covered with mosaics of ceramic tiles, which is impressive and different than all European buildings I’d seen.
In the evening we rode to buy some fuel in a black market (6000som/l). Our hotel’s owner showed us the place. He was riding as my passenger and all the time was screaming to me: “can you ride fast? I like fast!”
We rested enough and were ready for the further ride next day.
Day 10 14.08.2017
In the morning we had the fuel tanks and jerry cans filled up and were ready for the next 450km through a desert and steppe. We rode almost all the time on a two lane road with good surface. It was very, very boring. We were going along the Uzbek/Turken border and sometimes some lakes appeared on the horizon, which were situated on the other side of it.
We stopped in small village to have a break in some shadow and a lot of children came to us. One of them was bothering us to give him a pen, then sunglasses and finally to give him some money. I only let him to try on my helmet and we left them and rode to Bukhara.
Bukhara is different city than Khiva. The roads near the city center were very dark and narrow. On one of those street we had a hotel. We were able to park motorbikes inside and we found a place for them in a dining room.
The monument buildings were spreaded in the city center and were bigger than the one in Chiva, but its style was pretty the same.
When we walk away from the center we could notice a real live in Bukhara. There were plenty of children, playing in front of their houses, without smartphones in their hands. Lots of ladies in colorful, traditional dresses and old male Uzbeks wearing typical hats. The poverty was obvious there, but people seemed to be happy.
In the evening we ordered a petrol form owner of the hotel and he brought it almost to our room and it was the cheapest fuel in Uzbekistan so far (4800som/l)!
For the supper I ate some bread stuffed with onion, which were made on the street and some gastric problems started in Bukhara. Basically all 3 of us had some smaller or bigger stomach issues in Uzbekistan.
Day 11 15.08.2017
The ride was pretty short. We rode only 270km to Samarkand, which took us 4h 30min. The road was decent. Eventually some mountains appeared on the horizon We checked in a hotel, which had a temporary black out, so we immediately went out to visit the biggest monuments in Uzbekistan. Our first stop was Registan, a big square surrounded by 3 madrasahs. Unfortunately there was some dance festival and it was closed for tourists.
Then we visited the biggest mosque in Uzbekistan - Bibi Khanym mosque. Its size was really astonishing, but technical condition was seriously poor.
Next to the mosque was a city market - Siyob Bazaar, filled up with fruits and nuts. Then we went for a walk to the old islamic cemetery Shah-i-Zinda, where some mausoleums were set up in IX century.
Polish tourists in Uzbekistan:
Nice butts in Samarkand
In Samarkand we found a fuel station, which offered a petrol! But the queue was enormous and we had to shop on a black market again. We took a taxi and asked driver to show us the place with the fuel. We drove few kilometers to small shop near the road. It was filled up with jerry cans. We took 30liters, which we wanted to take to hotel. There was a problem, because they didn’t want to give us the bottles! They made us an offer to leave a mobile phone as a deposit for the bottles Finally we had to pay another 20000soms for bottles. Fortunately it was the last petrol we bought in Uzbekistan, because the next day we were going to enter Tajikistan!
He had hundreds of liters of petrol hidden in small and dark room:
Day 12 16.08.2017
In the morning we found out that a border crossing in Bekobod was probably closed for foreigners. This was the one we’d wanted to cross. So we had to take a longer route and enter Tajikistan in Oibek 45km north from Bekobod. We road on a 2 lane road almost all the distance to Oibek. There were no queue. Only one, old Russian car before us. We came next to the Uzbek border gate and waited few minutes for the guard. It was obvious they were not in a hurry. Then they allowed us to enter the crossing and a real fun started. Firstly, we were ordered to push out motorbikes backwards and forwards and turning them around to put them in front of the camera, which was trying to take photos of the number plates. After several trials they gave up and allowed us to proceed. Passport control was pretty quick and without any problems. Then we waited for the custom officer to check our luggage, who was really busy with the old guy in Wolga in front of us. They ordered him to unload the boot and go with all the stuff inside the building, where they wanted to xray it. He’d got plenty of cartoons and bags. We were helping him with carrying all the things inside, while custom officers let dogs to sniff round the car and unfortunately dogs sit down next to the spare wheel. In a moment they catch the Russian and overwhelmed him. The second officer started screaming on us to run and hide in the most remote building. They evacuated all of the buildings and we were closed there for just a minute or two. Some guards with rifles started running outside. Suddenly all of the officers started to smile and let us go back to the motorbikes. Eventually they let the russian to drive away and our time came. We were ordered to take off all the panniers, tankbags and rollbags from the motorcycle and carry it for xray. The guy who was operating the machine didn’t even look at the monitor, when our luggages were scanned. Then we put everything on and rode to the last gate. The last officer, who checked my passport noticed that the Uzbek stamps (from enter as well) were on my visa from the year before and the current one was clean. The guys rode to Tajik border and I had to turn around and go to the passport control again. The queue there got big, but when the officer noticed me he let me skip all the people. I showed him two visas, he looked at them for a while. Then he closed the window and went somewhere upstairs. After several minutes he came down without my passport and said ‘you need to wait’. I was afraid it would take another hour to solve the problem. After another several minutes an English speaking officer came down with my passport. He started asking ordinary questions about our trip. He canceled stamps on the old visa, put one on the new one and I could leave Uzbekistan. It took me almost 3h to do Uzbek border crossing. When I got to The Tajik border guys were in the middle on the procedure and told me that I need to pay $10. I didn’t know why, but they’d already paid, so I had really no other choice. Tajik side was quite fast. They gave us some import documents and it took time to prepare them and involved 3 officers, but everything was clear and fast. After a while we were in Tajikistan!
Right after the border we could fill up the tanks from the pump not bottle, what a comfort! We rode towards Iskander Kul. The road at the beginning was decent, but when we got to road from Khujand to Dushanbe it got really good. I was riding there as a third person and we were passing a policeman. Tomek and Maciek managed to pass him, but I was stopped. He checked the documents and started asking standard questions. It was strange, because after a while he had no more questions and I had nothing to say anymore, but he didn’t tell I could go. We were standing for a while in a silence and I told I needed to carry on and rode away. We were stopped by police again that day. He also asked some question and then was looking at us in silence.
On the way we had a problem with Maciek’s BWM, which was overheating. We checked the radiator and fluid level, but everything seemed ok. So we slowed down a bit and when we entered mountains it cooled down and problem never appeared again. Maybe it was due to bad fuel quality...
The road was really astonishing! We started riding in mountains along a river. The landscapes were breathtaking and it was only a beginning! We managed to get to Iskander Kul Lake. To get there we rode across some small villages, where we passed hordes of children. All of them were screaming and waving hands to us. I felt like some kind of celebrity there
The last few kilometers led through a gravel mountain road. Suddenly a beautiful blue water appeared in the valley.
The area around Iskander Kul is a national park and we had to pay an entry fee ($3/motorcycle). We stayed in a hotel for $10/person. It included a hot shower, but no toilet. When we got to the hotel we were invited by a group of Tajik men, who played traditional songs and danced for us. We joined them for dancing as well
Tack and distance 539km
Day 13. 17.08.2017
We started the day with a walk around the lake and to the waterfall down the river, which flew out of Iskander Kul.
Then we started a ride towards Dushanbe. We could go via Anzob tunnel or Anzob pass (3372m). We chose the mountain road. Riding was hard, because the road was officially closed. The beginning was on asphalt, but then more gravel appeared. There were a lot of rocks on the surface. I was happy I mounted aluminium bash plate We rode on 1st gear the last kilometers due to the rocks and slope. It took us 3 hours to get to the top, including all stops for photos, but it was worth it. The ride along the wild river was damn exciting. I was also happy, because my carburetor was doing fine on high altitudes. I highly recommend to go there!
Then we continued to Dushanbe on the main road, which was very good. Dushanbe looked similar to big european cities. We exchanged some money in a bank, bought fuel and rode on M41 towards Pamir! We stopped in a good looking hotel and we hoped for the internet. Unfortunately it wasn’t available, but we ate a tasty dinner, drank some booze and fall asleep with high hopes for the following days on famous M41 and Pamir mountains!
Track distance 223km
Day 14 18.08.2017
That day we wanted to reach Chorog. We were going on M41 all day long. The road pretty quickly changed into gravel one. There were a lot of holes and rocks. On the way to Kalaikhum we there were a pretty high mountain pass. Landscapes were different, because the peaks and slopes were mostly covered with grass in different colors. The road near the pass was surrounded by minefield. We met there a local motorbiker on small, Chinese moped. He told us that 18yo boy stepped there on a mine and died few weeks before.
We expected to cover some serious distance, but the road turned out to be pretty hard, we had a lot of photo stops and we had to end the day much earlier than we’d thought. We eat diner in Kalaikhum, did some shopping and rode towards Chorog until dark. We managed to cover 20-30km and camped near the road on a small grass field.
Day 15 19.08.2017
That day we were going to ride along Afghan border. The road was much better than the day before. It led all the time next to the river. Traffic was higher. The road was even used by big lorries. It was expressive, how they could drive such a big vehicles on narrow road, which very often was on the edge of a cliff over the river. Passing them was exciting, especially when we had to ride on the edge side. I also noticed that road surface near the edge was smoother and provided better view on the river. And the views there were amazing!
People in Tajik villages were very nice and some of them spoke some English, which made us easy to communicate with them. There were one person, whose face will stay in my mind for ages. Mr. President! His photos were everywhere in Tajikistan. On billboards, posters, buildings and even inside private houses!
The next day we were going to ride in Wakhan corridor - one of my main destinations of the trip!
Track distance 219km
Day 16 20.08.2017
That was the day! We were going to ride in Wakhan corridor. We woke up excited and set off pretty early, because we expected a lot of rough gravel and very small pace. We wanted to get to Murgab, so the day was going to be long.
The road to Iskhasim was good. It was possible to ride 60-80km/h. We started early, so all the villages were empty. There were only unfriendly dogs, which sometimes were chasing us for few hundreds meters.
We filled up the tanks in Iskhasim. The next fuel stop was supposed to be in Murgab, so we had enough fuel to get there. After Iskhasim we stopped near memorial of Polish motorbiker - Izzy, who died there several years ago.
Then the road became to be gravel one. But it seemed to be well maintained. It was quite smooth and covered with stones. It was possible to keep 60km/h with no problem.
The views were great and there were more and more picks covered with snow on Afghan side.
Border crossing with Afghanistan:
After last village the road started going up and up. Suddenly my transalp stopped to ride. It lost power almost completely. When the road was flat it was going 30km/h at max. The height was only 3200m and it was a 4300m pass in front of us. I got pretty nervous… But I adjusted the carburetors and it got better. I stopped and restricted fuel even more and I could continue, but I wasn’t sure if it could go for the next 1100m of height.
I could only maintain revs between 2,5-3,5k RPM, the power was low, but it was going and I managed to get to the pass. But the fuel consumption was enormous!
On the pass we met a Polish couple on bikes. They’d been riding from 14 months! After a long talk we got to M41, but it was late and we had to find someplace to sleep. We stopped in Alichur and stayed in a guesthouse with shared room, without water and toilet for $10/person. At the beggining owner wanted from us even more. We talked with other travellers, locals and went to sleep at the height of 3900m. Fortunately none of us had any symptoms of altitude sickness and we could sleep quite well.
Day 17 21.08.2017
The night in the guesthouse was very cold. Comfort temperature of my sleeping bag was 5’C, I slept in a t shirt and it was still chilly. In the morning, while I was packing my stuff I found out that I lost ma gloves… I’d probably dropped them in front of the hotel in the evening and someone had to take it.
We expected an easy ride to Murgab and then to Ak Baital pass. I had only 5l of petrol and we had 110km left to the nearest fuel station. Transalp was using a lot of fuel there and I was afraid I wouldn’t do it.
The road was asphalted all the time to Murgab. I got used to landscape pretty quickly. We were riding through a plateau and passed just one mountain pass.
We bought fuel in Murgab and started our ride to Ak Baital pass. The road was still good and monotonous. We met a herd of wild yaks near the pass. One of them almost hit Tomek, which he was passing the animal.
We stopped near the sign informing about the Ak Baital. It was 2km before the highest point. It was gravel and pretty steep part.Fortunately my mighty transalp, doing crazy 30km/h at max, managed to reach the top! We stopped there to make some photos and to be at the height of 4655m. My breathing was faster and I felt some strange noise in my head. Then we rode towards border of Kyrgyzstan. On the other side of the pass was another sign and we met there 2 independent motorcyclists from Kazakhstan. It was funny, because they were sharing information with each other, where it was possible to find a forest in Kyrgyzstan. They should come to Poland
Top of the pass, my favourite photo:) :
The rode to the border was easy and we had spectacular views in the mirrors, because we eventually could watch Pamir mountains from the north! Picks covered with snow were amazing! The next stop was near Karakul lake. On the east side of the road was a fence, which is a border with China. I walked to it and crossed it and took a photo of myself in China
Then we continued to the border crossing, which was located on another high mountain pass Kzyzl-Art (4280m). Road to the crossing was in bad condition, mostly gravel. The border crossing was in bad condition as well. It was some kind of a joke. One man started to shout that there was a problem because we didn’t have some important map with our route. He ordered us to ride back to Murgab, go to the bank and buy the map. Of course he had a solution and for some small bribe, he could let us go without it. We didn’t pay anything, because it was an obvious scam. We left him and went to the next barely standing building where the custom officers were. Then we wanted to go to the last stop - passport control. When we were walking toward it the first shouting man came out again and started shouting even louder. The mountain pass, where the border crossing was located was over 4200m. It was windy and cold there, so we decided to negotiate with him and we gave him 50somoni/motorcycle (less than $6). It was much lower than he wanted at the beginning. In my opinion the guy wasn’t even a border officer. He just had some contract with border guards, he had a key to the gate - so he seemed to be important, he was trying to get us much bribes as he could and then he shared it with officials. We met a polish motorbikers and they paid there $40/motobike!
Then there was a really bad road. After several km asphalt started and we got to Kyrgyzstan. It was straightforward to enter Kyrgyzstan, but it took some time. They let us wait inside the building, so it was warm at least. We had to pay $10/motorcycle, but it was an official fee with visible prices on the walls and checks. It was funny, because they ordered us to take off our boots, when we were entering the official building
We got to Sary Tash, where we stopped in a great hotel ($13/person with breakfast). We eventually had a warm, clean shower. Real toilet and wifi connection, which was stable and it was possible to communicate with friends and family!
Day 18 22.08.2017
We rode only 80km that day. We reached to the base camp at the Lenin Pik. The last 20-30km where a gravel road, which was extremely great. There was absolutely no traffic. We passed some yurttas, herds of horses, cows and sheep. The gravel was smooth. We had some small water crossings (but I reckon it can be hard to get there after the rain). The best part was the landscape. All the time we were going towards big, white mountains! Beautiful day and it was the best ride and landscapes of the trip. Absolutely. Oh, I had to admit ( and I am really ashamed of it) that we managed to bottom a cognac on last 15km and it made everything better.
Maciek had a small crash (before cognac) there, but he was fine and we continued. We also met some locals and they were nice and was inviting us to their houses.
We get to the base camp after 1,5h (20km, but the road was good and it was possible to do in in less than an hour, we simply had a loooot of stops there), rented a yurt and had a small trekking in the mountains.
In the base camp we met 2 guys, who led a restaurant there. We talked with there a bit about alpinism and their lives. In the evening they invited us for a dinner, which was big and tasty! After some talks we went sleeping in our yurt. We were pretty scared, because they informed us that it’d been -5’C the night before and we expected some cold in our pretty hotel…
Day 19 23.08.2017
The night was cold, as we’d expected. In the morning it was 1’C outside and not much warmer inside our yurt.
The day started on 30km gravel, which again was great. When we were going to enter asphalt road, we stopped to check the motorbikes and change our clothing. Maciek noticed that his pannier rack was broken. It was probably a result of the crash the day before. Fortunately we managed to find a workshop with welder in the first village. After the repair, we paid the guy $5. He was so happy that he closed the workshop immediately, took a friend and they went to celebrate
Then we continued towards Osh. The whole road was asphalt in good quality and it was damn twisty, which was fun after several days on gravel.
After Osh the traffic got really serious. Locals very often were overtaking like crazy. We stopped in a small guest house and the next day we would start riding home.
Day 20 24.08.2017
In the morning we checked the motorbikes. I readjusted carbs, checked tyre pressure and we set off to reach border crossing with Kazakhstan. We road 400km on asphalt road. We had few mountain passes over 3000m on our way and I found out that adjusting carbs wasn’t good idea. Transalp was going bad again. Max speed was around 70km/h and fuel consumption went high.
The road led around lake Toktogul. Which was big, artificial reservoir, surrounded by hills. It was nice, but it wasn’t impressive after all the landscapes we had seen before.
The last pass was on border with Kazakhstan. There was a magnificent dam with sculptures of Lenin’s head on it.
The border crossing was unbelievably quick and we got to the first Kazakh city. The city was nothing like we’d seen in previous countries. We could pay with credit cards, traffic, cars and everything was more European than Asian. We bought food and camped several kms after the city.
Day 21 25.08.2017
We woke up before sunrise, because we planned to cover a serious distance that day. In the morning it was very cold, but when the sun went up the temperature rose over 30’C. The road to Kyzylorda was a two lane, straight one and very boring. After Kyzylorda we road a one lane road. I was leading the group. I slowed down before one of the villages. Tomek didn’t noticed the sign and overtook me. I followed him then and it happened again. A police car was hidden somewhere and we started chasing us. We rode 85km/h on 60km/h limit. They wanted to charge us $100 each, but we spend almost 3 weeks in Asia and we knew the tricks. We explained them we didn’t have money, because we were going home and we would call embassy for help. When they heard word ‘embassy’ they changed their mind for $100/3 motorbikes. We gave them $60 and told we didn’t have more and it worked. They accepted the bribe and left us with smiles on their faces. I think $10/person would work us well.
On the horizon we passed Baikonur Cosmodrome.
We met a very friendly local at one of the fuel station. He bought a chocolate for each of us. There was a Kazakh flag on it and he said it was a souvenir from him to us. Very friendly!
When it was getting dark we turned on the steppe. We found nice place which was over a small hill. Tomek and Maciek decided the place wasn’t good for camping and tried to rode over another sandy hill to find another place. I was tired and I knew it would generate problems. Especially in the morning when we would have to pass the dunes again. I stayed in the first place and waited what would happen. Maciek dropped the bike on the hill and decided to turned back and camp at the first place. We informed Tomek that we weren’t going to his place, so he decided to come back as well. He got stuck 3 times on the hill and needed push every time. After struggling we camped not far from the road, with easy access to it in the morning
Day 22 26.08.2017
The night was warm and comfy. We woke up again before sunrise and rode towards the Russian border near Oral. The road was again in good condition. We rode across extremely boring steppe and trying not to fall asleep. We met again a nice Kazakh, who gave us some tomatoes, cucumbers and nuts. We rode for almost 12hours and when we were going near the place, where we wanted to camp, I wanted to straighten my legs during the ride. I did it a lot of times before and it was always fine. That time it was a part of lorry tyre lying on the road. I noticed it when I hit it with my left foot. It was painful and I felt how it was getting swollen in the boot. I was pretty nervous it was a serious injury. Fortunately, when I took the boot off, everything looked fine, except the pain.
It was the last night it Kazakhstan. In the morning we were going to enter Russia.
Day 23 27.08.2017
The pain of my leg was bigger in the morning, but I could walk, so it wasn’t so bad. We set off pretty early. Changing gears was tricky, because I wanted to avoid the pain. When we road my leg was getting better and better, so I was sure that everything should be ok now.
The last 50km to the border crossing was horrible. The surface condition was similar to the road from border to Atyrau. The holes was enormous.
When we got to the border, there was pretty long line of cars. We passed them as always, but that time the first guard ordered us to go and wait in the queue, but everybody was waiting and he didn’t allow anybody to pass the queue so it was fair. The Kazakh side went fast, Russian was even quicker. We filled up migration cards and asked for temporary import documents, but they informed us that we should have gotten it when we entered Kazakhstan… We showed some documents from Kyrgyzstan, because a custom officer informed us that we would need it in Russia, but they said it wasn’t righ document. We got pretty nervous. Tomek’d heard stories that leaving Russia without the paper generate a lot of problems and one Polish motorcycle waited in the bored 1,5day until they let him go… We were not happy with it, but had no other choice than trying to leave Russia without it.
First kilometers in Russia led on bad road again. It got better near Saratov, where we slept in a fancy hotel. My leg after the day changed color a bit
Day 24 28.08.2017
That day we were riding across Russia. Russian infrastructure was better than Kazakh, but there were still problems to buy for example a coffee at the fuel station and pay for it with credit card. We could only pay with cards for fuel.The ride was easy and quick. We didn’t have to strictly obey speed limits, as we’d done in Kazakhstan.
We planned to get to Russian border in the evening, so if we would have to wait for solving our problem with papers, we would sleep there for free in a warm building I bought a lot of snickers to have food for supper and breakfast and we attacked the border.
We went to the first window and lady asked us for temporary import papers and we gave her documents form Kyrgyzstan. ‘Wrong documents’ - she said. ‘No, it is a right document’ - we said. She closed the window, took out documents with her and went somewhere. She came back after few minutes, gave us stamps and that was it! Probably the fastest border crossing of the trip. No problem at all.
It was already dark, so we got to the first hotel we found and slept there.
Day 25 and 26 29/30.08.2017
In the morning Tomek left us, because he had to be earlier at hometown. We were not in hurry at all. After slow breakfast we set off towards Kiev. The weather wasn’t good, so the pace was low. We got to Kiev in rush hours and splitting lanes with panniers wasn’t always possible, so it took us some time. We felt in Ukraine like in Europe. The fuel stations were even better than Polish ones. It was truly comfortable ride with no stress at all.
We slept in Sarny.
The next day we got to the Ukrainian/Polish border. Control there, especially on Polish side, was very serious. They were tearing cars into parts to check if there were some illegal products hidden. I was ordered to go to personal and motorbike revision to the other building. They stopped my passport and I went there, while Maciek was free to go. When I got there the officers didn’t know why I was even there. They only checked my luggage. Fortunately, I didn't have to disassemble anything. It only took some time, because they had to report everything. Maciek waited for my near the border.
Then we rode together to Chelm, where we had met for the first time, and we goodby there. I rode 500km more to my home city. I was surprised how big traffic in Poland was. I managed to get used to empty rods
I saw 3 accidents during the trip and all of them were in Poland!
Return trip tracks: