Starting at the "Green house hostel" in Dushanbe

Setting off alone again I'm determined to catch up to Yoshi. After all, he is also on the Southern route, which is slightly longer but offers supposedly "better road quality" than the longer variant in the North. Either way, both roads will meet again in Kalaikhumb.

The first few days I make good progress, albeit the road is not too interesting. The most difficult part is for sure the steady climb after Shuro-obod: 25 km straight up at 6%. It's well worth it though: After the pass, I find myself cycling upstream in a nice scenery next to the Panj river.

What makes this part of the trip even a bit more exciting is the fact that the river is also a border: on the other side of it is a counry commonly known as: Afghanistan.

The temptation is high to illegally cross it and take a photo, just for laughs, but you know: I'm too old for that shit (and also, the German state department officially advises against it)

Every other day or so, I now pass a military checkpoint where I have to show passport and visa. While a few years ago travelers reported harassment or even theft during forced luggage search, I experience no such issues. Everybody is friendly, and so are the scattered soldiers I meet every once in a while (albeit non of them speak a word of English, of course).

Altogether, the region feels quite safe. The highest perceived danger is the soldiers shooting someone by accident:

Once when I'm stopping for lunch at a restaurant, a soldier tries to sit down at my table and clumsily bumps his shouldered rifle against the bench. He then proceeds to take it off his shoulder and lays the rifle down next to him on the bench -- pointing the muzzle directly at the group of people dining next to us 😯

Oh and there is another danger: mines in the ground. It's really advisable to not deviate too much from the road in those areas.

After 5 and a half days of cycling, I eventually catch up to Yoshi again, who is just having his3 hour long post-lunch afternoon power nap at a cafe past a checkpoint. Not having met any other cyclists since Dushanbe I'm happy to be in company once more and together we continue to fight our way towards Khorog.

By now, "fight" is probably the best term to describe how we make our way. Ever since around Kalaikhumb, the roads have been a real nightmare: arm deep potholes, cracked tarmac, gravel road, rocky road, bumpy road--we've had it all by now!

Not far from Khorog we find a great camping spot near the river. It's still early afternoon but we decide to wild camp for a last time before heading to the town the next day.

However just after sunset, around 8 pm, a military patrol arrives. They don't speak English but we understand they're not happy we're so close to the border and they want us to go, suggesting it would be too dangerous because of possible terrorist attacks from the Taliban "next door". We on the other hand have just set up camp and don't want to move. It's pitch black after all, and it would take hours to repack and relocate.

After some delay tactics the 3 soldiers agree to let us stay, but suggest we must move the next morning around 5 am. Naturally when the patrol passes by again at 6 am for a wake-up call, neither one of us have gotten outside of the tent yet...

Early enough we reach Khorog that day. Time to rest and unwind in the relative comfort of a hostel and chat up fellow travelers.

Pamir lodge, Khorog