The Pamir Highway is one of the highest international highways in the world, with the Aik-Baital Pass reaching 4,655m. Snowy mountains, dirt roads, hundreds of rocky valleys and lakes all make the Pamirs a stunning adventure suitable to anyone willing to explore a seemingly untouched culture by tourism. There's not much along the way, limited petrol stations, few villages and certainly no motorbike mechanics between Khorog (Tajikistan) and Osh (Kyrgyzstan). You will need to bring reliable equipment, along with tools and spares.
So how did the Petro Camp team do it?
Our initial plan was to buy old russian motorbikes, we even considered a Ural sidecar. We had a local contact, John, who was helping us translate, check the bikes and negotiate.
John helps out people trying to buy/rent/fix motorbikes in his spare time, he is a legit motorbike enthusiast, a true Petro Camper. Feel free to reach out to John if you need help organising bikes. He is planning on setting up a motorbike travel agency and needs all the help he can get!
It turns out that old russian motorbikes were less than good, they were terrible... Lovely on the eyes, but famously unreliable and uncomfortable (even the owners told us not to do the Pamir on the bikes they were selling us). We had to change our plan on the first day of the trip.
We ended up renting 2 Yamaha XT600s in Osh, this was definitely the best decision we made on this trip. We couldn't have reached some of the places that we visited with other, heavier, touring bikes. We are also huge fans of XTs, we use XTs every day to go to our office in Barcelona.
Let me know if you are interested in getting access to the workshop in Osh, we call it the oasis of Central Asia. I can hook you up with reliable motorbikes, all kinds of 4x4, mechanics, spares, tools, even accommodation...
If you want more information regarding rentals, send me an email or DM me on instagram and I will put you in touch with them to get you a good deal.
The Pamir Higwhay has the main road, the M41, and a few side roads that run along different valleys. We decided to do a loop around the Wakhan Valley and the M41.
Day 1: Osh - Turpal Kul, 260 km
We left the city of Osh around midday, the heat was intense so we were only wearing t-shirts. The road south starts to gain altitude, the trees slowly fade away and give way to lush green mountains.
Two hours into the journey it started to rain heavily, the road climbed higher up to the Taldok Pass at 3,615m. We were not ready for this. Soaked, freezing and with bikes low on power we trotted up and down the hills to the town of Sary-Tash, where we warmed up, changed clothes and got supplies for the night.
This was the moment we realised this trip was going to be tougher than we thought.
âDay 2: Turpal Kul - Karakul (Tajikistan), 230 km
We woke up to what looked like a desert full of sand dunes, the only difference was that these "dunes" were green. With Lenin Peak (7,134m) looming just a few kilometers away, we spent the morning riding around the green desert.
The crossing into Tajikistan was easy and straightforward, we were even invited by the border guards to eat some watermelon. No bribes, no unnecessary payments, all in order
The late afternoon sun welcomed us to the Pamir, even though it was July we were well equipped for winter riding. It snows around these parts quite regularly.
âDay 3: Karakul - Alichur (via Murghab), 190 km
Karakul is a small village located by the shore of Karakul Lake at 3,900m. We wandered around the village in the morning before setting off into the heart of the Pamir Mountains.
With 6,000m peaks all around us, we headed south to Murghab to get some petrol.
We found an abandonded military base near Murghab, where we met Abidash, the local school teacher. He welcomed us into his house for a lovely lunch.
âDay 4: Alichur - Langar (via Wakhan Valley), 180 km
We slept in a Yurt surrounded by snowy peaks and a huge valley. Alex was feeling a bit rough and didn't sleep well, altitude sickness was starting to get to him.
The road started to descend, the terrain got drier and sandier, the villages and tarmac stopped. We reached the Panj River, the physical border that separates Tajikistan and Afghanistan, we spent the next three days following this narrow river.
âDay 5: Langar - Ishkashim, 150 km
We followed the Wakhan Valley stopping over at different villages and hot springs. This was the first time we found fuel since Murghab, we were very close to running out, luckily the road had been mostly downhill.
We had a small breakdown, Alex's chain came off and got stuck and bent with the rear sprocket. It took a while to get it sort of fixed, we were worried that it would come off again, and it did, a lot of times during the next few days.
We reached Ishkashim early in the afternoon, we walked around the town and went to visit the border with Afghanistan. The guards told us to leave.
âDay 6: Ishkashim - Rivak (via Khorugh), 200km
We finally reached the city of Khorog, the first time in 4 days we had phone signal. The city is relatively modern compared to the rest of the Pamir, we felt oddly uncomfortable being so comfortable, so we only stopped for lunch and carried on. Camping in the middle of nowhere felt like a better decision.
âDay 7: Rivak - Alichur (via Bulunkul), 190km
We set off early towards the village of Bulunkul, the coldest inhabited place of Tajikistan, reaching temperatures of -60ÂºC in winter. The road started to climb again, the trees disappeared and the dust began once more, this time around we encountered some fesh-fesh.
âDay 8: Alichur - Karakul, 220 km
Alex ran out of petrol in the morning, around 15km before Murghab, this just meant sitting around for a while enjoying the sun while waiting for petrol.
In Murghab we met with Alic again, we had met him on our first time in Murghab and he told us he would take us fishing when we returned. He fulfilled his promise and took us fishing.
âDay 9: Karakul - Osh, 270 km
We spent most of the last day riding. It was a cold morning in the Tajikistan border, it had snowed the previous night. We reached Sary-Tash just before lunch, the border crossing went just fine once again. We knew there was rain coming, so we pressed on hard over the Taldok Pass once again (just like the first day). The rain eventually got us, but were were better equipped than the first day, so we didn't get cold or wet. Apparently it rains on most afternoons around that area, so if you are planning on crossing it by motorbike, make sure you do it in the morning!
We reached Osh 2,100 kms later, exhausted but grateful for the adventure we had just experienced. The Pamir had much less infrastructure than we expected, limited power, few petrol stations and no shops; but it does have some of the most spectacular landscapes both of us have ever seen.
If you would like to know more information about our trip, to get in contact with Oibek or John, please don't hesitate to ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to help fellow adventurers!
If you read this far, then here is the code PETROCAMPISTAN10 to get 10% discount on the trip t-shirt!