CHAPTER # 01 – Tajikistan – Bartang Valley – Pamir Mountains
Sometimes we imagine the horizon as the end of ‘everything’, a fine line that we look at from far away with fear of passing, we dream that when we get there nothing more than a cliff will exist, a fall into ‘nothing’. This end that we imagined is of no use to the thought of our Karakoram Son, he does not daydream or sit looking at the horizon, he drives off without fear, without limits, to show the world that the World does not end there and the path to follow, is made by us and it has no end!
Bartang Valley, a hidden gem in Tajikistan. Probably the most difficult area / road to cross, says our adventure driver, even after making Shimshal Valley Road, Carretera de Austral, Death Road Bolivia, Laguna Rota Atacama. Its rugged desert and challenging look make this route even more exciting and beautiful. This is the story of Karakoram Son on the paths of Bartang Valley, paths of no one! Human beings are adaptable, but any trip can transform us. For Karakoram Son, it is surreal as in such a short time, just a few months; he was in a completely different place, a different man and a very different mentality. It took 4 months to reach a small town in Kalaikhum, close to the Afghanistan – Tajik border, separated only by a river.
“There are moments when you want to follow your instinct. It was an identical situation for me … I didn’t know which way to go to cross Pamir Mountain towards Kyrgyzstan: paved ROAD 41, Wakhan Valley or the infamous Bartang Valley (green). ”
There is technically no road on Google Maps; instead, there is only a mountain ‘road’ approximately 400km along the Bartang River, which can easily disappear at night due to rising water levels. Very high altitude, lack of civilization and infrastructure, no gas, no water or food; the perfect combination for everything to become even more challenging.
“I had promised myself to step out of my comfort zone and challenge my ability to deal with problems.”
Karakoram Son decided to continue his journey through Bartang, without knowing much about the route he had chosen it turned out to be one of the most challenging roads, physically and psychologically. On the first day, he noticed the front rim was dented; he felt fear and fury at the same time when he realized that this could get worse inside the valley and that he would be in big trouble, so, a few hours before entering he needed to find a solution to repair the rim.
“Well… If you’re wondering why the hell my bike is lying on the ground, why is that kid holding my backpack and why there’s a hammer near the front wheel, it’s because I’m going to hammer the rim until I get its normal shape! It looks scary and expensive, but when you’re in the middle of nowhere and I have commitments, whatever will be, will be … In this small village, the mechanic refused to hammer an aluminum surface, I had no choice but to hammer it myself and fix the problem. There was no luxury BMW workshop, or rather, no workshop… ”
“The first 25km was relatively easy, but suddenly the altitude increased and the road became hell with a water crossing probably every 10 / 15km of the path. The water level was increasing by the minute and decisions had to be made quickly! I went straight through a small stone path, passing through the larger rounded stones and with a perfect combination of accelerator and clutch to pass through the water! A large submerged and hidden stone changed my path at that moment because I ended up falling on my head on large rocks. Get up, assess the damage and continue! ”
The Pamir mountain range has one of the highest peaks in the world.
“One of the most frightening experiences of this trip, because of a bad translation speaking with a Russian and because of my own adventurous spirit. This bridge is not for loaded bikes but, even without trying to walk on it and test the load and balance, I took a 450kg bike (including myself) and we crossed this rope bridge. It took me only a few seconds to realize that this decision would most likely have been the biggest mistake of my trip. In the middle of the bridge, it started to swing and move laterally and I had to counter these sudden movements with weight, in a very tight space. ”
“In Bartang Valley, 4000m above sea level, even less food and no water. With all these factors, I lost focus for a moment and a puddle of gravel made my front tire zigzag and swing. I fell with my left foot under the saddlebags and got stuck. Well … When pushing the bike, all the weight was on my foot, and not even the best ‘AlpineStars’ with a full ‘gore-tex’ would stop the pain I was feeling. The meaning of Adventure Travel is different from person to person, because we are all different, but one thing that we all have in common is that it is incredible to be there, in the desert, lost on our wildest side! ”
It is like that, the West of the Pamir Mountains, wild and austere! Bartang Valley, dangerous and memorable. Despite the soil and sterile landscapes, adventures that leave marks and experiences that raise human beings to a new level of capacity are born and grow in these paths. Karakoram Son, is one of the few adventurers who, carrying fuel for 400km and few resources, completed the crossing of the valley in a few days. After a whole journey where our pilot was pushed to the furthest limits, he still has the strength to say:
“I wouldn’t trade any of these days of crossing the Bartang Valley for a single day in the comfort of the sofa and Netflix!”