Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 184 (Tajikistan): Khorog - Wer (Straf, Straf!!!)

daily distance: 72km
total distance: 11,081km
riding time: 4-5h

A day split in two - the morning part quickly told. Some last minute shopping and more internet organizing and updating for Bishkek and the website. Can’t leave you without some reading material. But now it was up to some heavy-duty biking I was guessing. Or at least the altitude got a little higher. You pass this car - the first one ever to make it over the Pamir Highway - as you leave Khorog.

After noontime I set out to bike some distance - turned out to be a glorious 70km until just before nightfall. The first part a bit ugly until you get outside of Khorog, then you get to the checkpoint - but after that it was all greatness. The police I had been warned about. Other people had been told that they didn’t have the right papers and would have to pay a fine. The same with me. I was given the “Straf, Straf” spiel (and here German comes in handy, as the word for penalty in German is Strafe). I looked at him kind of surprised and kept blabbering in English that I had no idea what he talked about. He then said that my permit wasn’t good enough and that the town of something was missing. It wasn’t and so I just said that I didn’t know what he wanted and in the end resorted to talking about Dushanbe and the office there … at which point he slowly seemed to loose hope in getting anything. He still mumbled “Straf, Straf”, but by then I had picked up my passport and was on my way out.

Even though it was uphill, the wind in my back helped a lot and pushed me further than I had planned. The area was - as has been the case - simply amazing. The river Gunt has an eerie green color stemming from its glacial origin and the trees make for a sweet alpine feeling. You could forget that you are close to Afghanistan … Swiss Alps are a good image.


In the end, I wanted to camp again, but was refused and instead invited to the home of a family in the tiny settlement of Wer. The old man was adamant about not sleeping outside as it would get cold and instead we shared a room while the rest of the family; his son, wife and two kids were in the other room/kitchen, which was under renovation. They forced so much food (potatoes) down my throat I had to stop at some point. And it was an interesting conversation about religion and all things Pamiri - how much they make in a year (very little), how life is going in this part of the Pamir (OK, but not great) and many other things.

If it wasn’t for biking, there would probably be somewhat of a lack of private space here for me. This is a rather Western approach, but you literally sleep, eat and drink in some sense communally. You share the rooms, the cutlery, plates and most everything else. Cars are always loaded to the brink with people. It may be a reason for some harsh reactions when someone is riding next to me for too long. I don’t like the reaction I sometimes have, but it is getting to be frustrating at times. Not being able to communicate properly certainly doesn’t help … but that is not something that happened today, so we’ll save it for a slow day.


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