Summits: 1380


Tajikistan was country #3 on my cross-Asia bicycle tour.  Friend Christian Mulkey and I crossed over from Kyrgyzstan via Kyzyl-Art Pass (>14000 ft), and cycled to Murghab, a dusty town on the Pamir Highway that had just gotten electricity for the fist time a few months prior to our visit. It was here that we learned that our plans  of crossing into China would be blown to smithereens. We had hoped to cross over the notoriously unreliable Kolma Pass, the only road crossing between Tajikistan and China, when we learned that the border would be closed for 9 days due to it being Golden Week in China. Christian had no choice but to hire 17hrs worth of car rides back to Kyrgyzstan to fly home to make it to work in time (he had a flight booked from Kashgar in China that he would miss). I killed some time by cycling to near the Afghan border to visit a remote hot spring.

The surprise in our plans was quite unfortunate for Christian, and I feel regret that our time together ended that way. En route to the hot spring, I spent a few days in beautiful, barren, and remote scenery processing things, and returned to Murghab to find other cyclists waiting for the border to open, a couple from Belgium. I would spend the next week with them heading to Kashgar, and would meet up with them again many months later in Thailand (and barely missed them a few other times as well).  Also, iin Murghab, I spent quite a bit of time with Tair, the manager of the hostel where I was staying. He’s the person I remember most from my time in Central Asia. He was incredibly generous, and offered me the room with included meals for free if I agreed to stay longer. The weight of his offer really hit me the night after I left, and I held back tears in my tent processing his extreme kindness.

I was happy to finally cross into China once the border opened, partly because the lack of food options was tough for me as a cyclist, and I’d spent more than 2 weeks at over 12000 feet (and it was October by then, late season and very cold). The cycling was tough, I think I covered 4 passes over 14000 feet (mostly heading to the hot spring and back). But the scenery is some of my favorite in the world, like desert mountains at altitude. Dark brown and red earth with snow, shepherds herding yaks, and women in small villages baking bread. Thinking about it all now as I write this, I really miss it…