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 email@example.com. 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!
Scoopy 75 Expedition
Last Friday afternoon my cousin Alex and I were bored, we wanted to go on a trip but wanted to add some spice to it, a 10 minute phone call later we figured out a plan.
The expedition goes back two years earlier, with new pollution regulations in Barcelona, older bikes are no longer allowed in the city centre, which meant that overnight there was a surplus of old bikes and everyone wanted to get rid of them. Luckily for us, we both got gifted a Honda Scoopy 75, both bikes had been sitting unused in the street for years, we took them in and left them in our garages for another two more years, until last Friday...
The Honda Scoopy 75 is known in Barcelona for being practical, nimble and cheap to run, you wouldn't call it an adventure bike, but anything goes in the Petrocamp community.
The audatious plan was to get the bikes running (we had never ridden them) and ride 180km to Llança, a coastal town in northern Spain.
We spent Friday night tinkering with one bike until 1am, no luck, we didn't get it started. We woke up at 7am on Saturday and got our hands dirty again, by 1pm both bikes were barely running, terrible brakes, broken exhausts, no lights... but they were working! We added some custom touches, such as a teddy bear called Brembo, some loud speakers playing italian music and a rotating globe and we set off.
It took about 3 kilometers for the first engine to blow up... Not a good start. But we were very determined to get to the coast, nothing was going to stop us, not even a blown engine! We hunkered down and started making some calls, an hour later we had managed to find another Scoopy 75 that had also been unused for a few years, this time it only took us 30 minutes to get it running. For a second time, we filled up the bike with petrol and set off again, smiling, singing and enjoying the beautiful backroads of Girona.
An hour into the ride we had the first puncture, but we were prepared, we took out the anti puncture spray and filled up the tire with foam - the cannister blew up but not before we managed to pump the tire with plenty of foam. Problem number two sorted, we resumed the journey. About 30 kilometers later the flat tire took a turn for the worse and lost all the foam, Alex was now limping along at about 10km/h with the rim touching the tarmac, this time it was not looking good...
At this point we thought the trip was over, it was Saturday at 8pm and no mechanics were open, it didn't help that we were in the middle of nowhere. After sitting by the side of the road for 10 minutes, we dicided to get our act together and not give up, we were going to see this through. We managed to ride the bike to the nearest town, Olot, and by the time we got there the tire had split in half and it even ran out of petrol 500m away from a petrol station. Only one option remained, ditching bike number two and carrying on to the finish line with only one bike, and it's exactly what we did!
We grabbed both bags, attached them to the motorbike, filled up the tank and headed out into the countryside. This was around 9pm and the sun was just setting on the hay fields of the Empordà, we were laughing so much at the situation that it made this expedition that much special. If you've ever watched the film Dumb and Dumber, that is what we looked like, two idiots on a bike.
A few hours later, with 70km more on the bike and a close call at night with two wild pigs, we made it to the seaside town of Llançà, it was 1am. Even though we ditched two bikes along the way, we called the expedition a success - it's days like these that remind us that you don't need expensive bikes or a problem-free day to have a fun motorbike expedition, all you need is the right attitude.
Should we start a video series of these expeditions? I think we should.
Pictures and videos to follow up soon, I'm waiting to get the film developed. Menwhile here are some iphone shots.
As a kid my weekends consisted in competing in some sport or another, be that hockey, rugby, skiing, trials, running, athletics, cricket and many others - that's all I knew on a Saturday morning.
Having left my school years behind for a while, I've noticed that I've carried on doing sports, but competing is long gone, so I've decided to bring competition back into my life but not in a serious way, enter La MekeMeke.
La MekeMeke is a series of competitions designed to bring people who enjoy sports and like to put themselves in uncomfortable situations, spending a weekend with likeminded people and most importanly remembering to enjoy life. It's made up of (for now) a motorbike, skiing, sailing and talen show competitions, but I'm sure I'll add some more down the line.
This year I had an injury so I haven't been able to host the ski competition, so we started with La MekeMoto. I got a group of 20 friends together, set up a 430km track around the Monegros desert in Spain, designed some bibs and that's about it.
The weather ended up being pretty dismal, which made it impossible to complete the stages, nonetheless the crew were super hyped and we pushed through the mud like warriors. On the second day we had an injury and one of the guys broke their leg during a link section from stage to stage, so we decided to cancel the racing and finish the rest of the route taking it easy. All in all it was a successful weekend, everyone finished with a huge grin on their face and wanting to know when the next race will be. To many more!
This past summer, being constrained by national lockdowns, we had to keep our motorbike trips within the national borders and let's just say that it did not disappoint one bit.
The crew for this trip was made up of 7 guys eager to hit the trails, this time we had new and old bikes combined, it was lovely to mix things up for a change. The concept of the trip was to cross the Spanish Pyrenees, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, about 1.200km of off-road tracks, and we had 6 days to complete the journey.
We started at the seaside village of Llançà near the French border, we waved the sea goodbye and headed into the mountains. By nightfall we had already climbed up to 1.200m, having experienced some minor breakdowns and a couple of crashes - I must say spirits were high and the weather looked to be on our side.
We spent most of our days riding, an average of 8-9 hours on the bike, and camping out. It was mid-summer, and the weather was perfect until we neared the Atlantic coast. On our final day, it was raining and we had a lot of ground to cover, so we set our routes on the back roads of the Basque Country and quickly making our way into Sant Sebastian for a good night of celebrations.
Marc's luggage rack snapped on the first few kilometres.
The GS ended up in the trees after sliding down on some very slippery mud.
The Aneto Peak, highest mountain in the Pyrenees, looming in the background.
Fixing a puncture, no mechanics open on a Sunday.
We went for a swim at the local spot.
The long way back. We made it to San Sebastian by the Atlantic coast after 6 long days and spectacular landscapes. Spain, you surpassed our expectations.
Sailing through Raja Ampat
The islands of Raja Ampat, in West Papua (Indonesia), are a national park with some of the world's most spectacular landscapes. What's special about these islands is their remoteness and untouched nature, they became a protected area in 2007, and marine biodiversity has been growing ever since.
We got on a sail boat built by the British Navy in 1940 for the Second World War, the Anne Judith II, and we set off to explore the lonely islands, coral reefs and beaches of this paradise.
Here are some photos from the trip:
Back in 2014, I was reading a book at home when I came across an article on the Pamir Highway - it showed some spectacular photos of snowy mountains and nomadic villages, it was an instant bucket-list addition. 5 years later, I found myself at the heart of it; the best part? It was a work trip.
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).
My cousin Alex and I decided to rent some bikes and head out into the unknown. You can read the full article I wrote on the Petro Camp website here.
Here are some photos of the trip:
Giving some petrol to a group of locals who had run out
A 'petrol station'. The mountains you see behind are in Afghanistan.
The Tajikistan border.
Customs. The officers gave us delicious watermelon.
We went fishing.
We did a 4 day horse trek around Song Kul.
The snow stopped coming in mid February, the sun showed up and we had blue bird days for longer than I can remember. To get good snow we had to hike further and higher - we called it the Month of Missions. We had to figure out ways to entertain ourselves, so we hiked, skied the sea in Shakotan, used snowmobiles to access peaks that were too far to skin, hiked peaks just off road passes and hit Kurodake opening day on March 1st for some sweet powder. Truly, a Month of Missions.
The peak you see in the distance was our objective
What's a sledding day without a breakdown? We abandoned one sled and used a rope to tow each other on skis
Andrew working out the best route to the peak - we skied both sides off the peak
Orofuretogedake - great line
Kurodake opening day
Mitch, always at the front
Vince dropping in
Mt Yōtei - Niseko
One of the best skiing experiences I've ever had. It started out as a nice sunny day, but when we got closer to the summit the weather turned and the clouds rolled up. It took 4:30hrs to summit, we climbed a vertical of about 1,700m and reached the crater around 3pm. The top was cold, we stopped by the hut near the summit, but it took me a while to realise that that was the hut - it was undistinguishable form the terrain from a distance due to the rime, the temperature was -20 degrees Celsius. On the way down, the clouds cleared and Bron and I enjoyed an whole mountain all to ourselves. A dream come true.
I moved to Japan's Northern island for the winter, Hokkaido. I have come here to work for the winter season and ski Japan's famous fluffy powder all winter long. On my first weekend here there was still no snow around, so I packed my 600cc Mitsubishi Mini Pajero and road tripped across the south of the island. The autumn colours were definitely impressive - my first taste of living in Japan.
Andorra Motorbike Expedition
My cousin Carlos and I decided to go test out our new motorbikes, and what a better place to do it than Andorra? It was only a weekend trip, but we managed to pack in 500km of riding through rivers, rain, rocky paths and cow fields. Carlos ended up having a big crash, he was ok but the bike suffered quite a bit; a wrong turn and the bike went over a ridge and landed wheels up... The bike is a 950cc KTM Adventure, it's a heavy machine... luckily a couple of dune buggies stopped by to help, they through us a rope and we got it out of the ridge. All in all, a great weekend!