The sun rises very early this morning. My watch indicates it is half-past six and we have already everything packed on the motorcycle. The night was cold and so was the morning after. I am not too far from Murgab and I would like to reach the border with Kyrgyzstan today if possible. This would help me getting past the border control early in the morning or avoiding it the next day if I get to sleep on the other side.
Slightly after leaving the camping area, I found out that the lakes up here are almost completely frozen. Cold weather is not a joke. Not too far from where I was, stones and dirt made their appearance again leaving the asphalt traces behind. There are random areas where the road has a bumpy shape and it is very difficult to hold on to the motorcycle without feeling your wrists are going to blow. I was not sure how the motorcycle was sticking together after all these vibrations. The small asphalt spots I am reaching now look like a rollercoaster. I flew from my seat a couple of times because of this. Sometimes it is very hard to see there is a huge irregularity on the terrain and you run into a bump or a hole of disastrous proportions.
The road is just a straight line across a huge valley surrounded by mountains. After driving four hours to do a hundred forty kilometers, I finally reached the river level and could fill up my bottles. And so I arrived in Murgab, along with the last checkpoint for the GBOA area. I stopped at the bank to get some more cash as I was running out of it already. Before leaving the city, I saw the petrol station was collapsed and I decided to continue. Hopefully, I would find another one later on or someone on the road who would sell me some benzene. Unfortunately, twenty kilometers after it the reserve light started flashing at me.
I continued another twenty kilometers until I found another vehicle coming in the opposite sense. I stopped them. When I asked if there was a petrol station ahead they told me there was nothing until I passed the border. That was about eighty kilometers. I couldn’t afford that distance and I was offered to buy benzine from their jerrycans. The price in Murgab was 9 Somoni, which was already over the average of the rest of the country. This guy offered me benzine for 20 Somoni. After a few minutes thinking if I should continue or not, the offer changed to 25 Somoni. I decided I would rather stop and wait for some help that being extorted for being a tourist.
I continued on my own and a few kilometers ahead I saw what it seemed to be a contour of three motorcycles. I tried to catch them up, but I didn’t want to run out of petrol by speeding up. Fortunately for me, these bikers had to stop because one of the motorcycles had a problem. The group was formed by three friends coming from Holland. They had bought their motorcycles only for this trip and they would sell them in Mongolia, once their trip was finished. They have been fixing one of the motorcycles in Murgab for a couple of days but another one had the spark plug soaked and it was not running correctly. I stopped to see if they needed some help and I received about three liters of benzene from one of them to help me get to Karakul. That would be the next, and last, city I would find in Tajikistan. I could probably get help there.
They were driving faster than me, so we just arranged to meet in Karakul. Not too far from the point we met, I found myself at the Ak-Baikal pass. This is the highest point in Tajikistan you can get on a so-called “road”. From that point, I got back to the valley and drove along Karakul Lake. During this small part of the journey, I was traveling along the border with China. I found out there were quite a lot of spots where the fence was open, and I stopped to have a picture on the Chinese side of the fence. In this area it is not possible to cross to China with a vehicle as the real border between countries is composed of the mountains. There is no road and the slopes are very sharp.
I reached Karakul and I found the motorcycles parked not too far from the road. They were looking for a place to spend the night. I went around the village and found a guy who owns a bar. He took me behind the building and offered me benzine for 15 Somoni. Even if it was more expensive and I couldn’t guess if the octanes were what I was told, I paid for it because I had no other choice. After all, I was going to spend the night there, but I needed to be sure I would be able to continue farther down the road from here.
We were told there was electricity at a homestay we were in. Well, there wasn’t. At least there was no electricity during 20h a day. As we asked for it once we got our things out of the motorcycles, the guy started a power generator and told us it would last about three or four hours. We had dinner all together and rested the rest of the time we were there. I was going to leave earlier the next morning as I was driving a little slower than them. I would probably find them on the road before I reached the border control.
In the end, I didn’t meet them again. I think they might have some problems running one of the motorcycles engines that morning. I don’t even know if they got out of Karakul that day. From where we were, there were about twenty kilometers of asphalt and then the rest was off-road again. I reached the border control in one piece, although I had a little struggle on the way as I fell with the motorcycle in a gravel area. Nothing to worry about, I was almost stopped when I fell and the motorcycle just laid there for a couple of minutes. My only problem was the altitude which makes everything a little harder.