The Highway to High – Pamirs Part 2 (Khorog to Murghab)

Leaving Khorog and the strikingly familiar “First Car to Cross” statue (it looks like a Land Rover series two !)  behind us we set about crossing the Roof of the World. The initial drive up out of town will stay with me as one of the most picturesque drives of my life, following the gorgeous glacial blue River Gunt (not the most romantic name) amongst a narrow strip of golden trees up a winding valley. The sun was out, the beaut performing flawlessly and with the glaciers glinting in the distance- we were in road trip heaven. We even found a ridiculously perilous rope bridge on which to play silly buggers and pose…


“Blue Steel”

We made camp at a small homestead between Morj and Dzhilyandy (the soviet spa of Jelandy) which we had been reliably informed was a small hot spring. Well, it didn’t disappoint. We parked up on a flat above the houses and immediately saw the spring, following the steaming pipes down to the houses we were invited in and shown the facilities. In the courtyard two bath houses had been built, one for the ladies and one for the men (mostly hairy truckers). We said we were just going to have a spot of dinner then return for a soak. We headed back to the car, donned the furry hats and downies and switched on the sound system whilst Kat prepared a stunning stew alongside, most astonishingly of all, genuine Coffee and Walnut Cup Cakes! The Coleman oven had come into its own and the evening was made.


With this one act, the Coleman oven proves indespensible

After gorging down this feast whilst shivering (this being our first taste of slight cold after months of 30’C) we made a beeline straight for the baths. These baths are rustic, but absolutely perfect. The temperature is just right and the bathhouses are warm and dark, a truly relaxing and unexpected experience. Followed up with a screening of Despicable Me Two!


location (Wgs84). of the hot springs if you fancy a visit


Throughly refreshed we started the second day, wondering how the old girl (and ourselves!) might do on the first major altitude test; the 4272 m Koi-Tezek pass. She performed admirably, cranking up the shoddy dirt switchbacks like a true mountaineer. We all started to feel some altitude affects, generally light headaches and lower blood oxygen levels (loving that pulse-Oximeter Cobes brought along). These were immediately forgotten (by the boys, at least) upon sighting our first Eagles of the trip. Casually soaring level with us in the adjacent valley, Jon spent a good fifteen minutes pretending he was Bill Oddie (and still got no decent pictures!) we did establish that they were perhaps White Tailed Eagles, but any birding fanatics please do feel free to refute this!


Well, I think its an eagle anyway…

The remainder of the route to Murghab was beautiful and uneventful, the road quality is varied, but we averaged about 30kph I would think (distinctly better than the road to Khorog). We did, at one point, pass a distinctly submerged village, which showed us only the tops of a few houses and a now very defunct power line…



Murghab. For me this was a mixed bag. This Kyrgz town (note the abundance of giant felt hats) is principally a military outpost, but there are numerous homestays in which to spend a night or two. These are not overly easy to find in the failing light as the town is somewhat of grey maze. We eventually opted for the Erali homestay, just to the left of the main road heading slightly out of town if you come in from the Khorog direction. This place had two of the loveliest hosts you could meet, and felt homely and colourful in its basic nature. After a good nights sleep and showing a group of fellow travellers round the Beaut, the team split up. Cobes and Kat headed for the intriguing Bazaar (made entirely of shipping containers) and Jon and Tom endeavoured to find decent petrol and do some maintenance. All loaded up we started out, knowing full well that today was the day for the true test of Pamirs, the mighty Ak-Baital pass (alt. 4655m)…


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