Part 2 follows:
After leaving the military checkpoint at Khargush we headed North finally away from the Panj River valley. The country became more open with amazing vistas due to the landscape colours.
We were in the mid 3000m altitude region which in winter is frozen and covered in ice and snow so not too much grows here. Along the way we met a couple cycling Tajikistan. A German and his Chinese wife.
They were cycling from his home in Germany to hers in China. Tough people. There were also a few yurts along the way. Herders with hardy sheep and goats who obviously head for warmer areas in winter.
At last we saw asphalt. We had found the Pamir Hwy. Although being sealed it still does have potholes but the worse part is that the surface in undulating, varying from a sea-sick inducing up and down to fully getting air on the bad ones. We felt good dirt roads were better!
There were a few washed away sections of road that you had to deviate around. You could only pick them by a line of basketball sized rocks on the road ahead of you. God help you if you drive this road at speed in the dark!
Finally in the distance, a large town, Mugrahb. On the outskirts was another military and police checkpoint. One official became very agitated at certain documents we had. We were on a group visa which entails one visa and supporting documentation authorising the group. One document was a photocopy, not the original. It had been no problem until now, but this official was not happy. He ordered us to follow him to Mugrahb police station. Again more inspection of the document, more screwing of eyes and brow insisting original. Refusing to let us go! We got them to call the Russian group who had organised this end of things for us. After several phone calls and lots of unintelligible muttering and arm-waving down the phone, the policeman let us proceed, but warning us we may have difficulty at the border with such a document and this was confirmed by the Russian agency. They had no immediate solution and we did not want to wait, especially as it was a weekend the next day and nothing would happen until the Monday. We decided to take our chances the next day and hit the border.
After leaving the police station we drove to the only hotel in town. The Pamir Hotel.
Mugrahb is a town of 7000 people at an elevation of 3500m. The hotel was the only 2 storey place in town. The rest is whitewashed simple buildings. Not a lot to do in town. Not a place to sit for a few days!
At the hotel, we got the upmarket rooms, US$35 per night. Why not lash out when you can!
We carried our stuff in, to find the power was not on. Only comes on when dark at 8pm until 11pm. Not many services in this establishment.
We sat down outside around a table and had our favourite, Baltika beer! Whilst there all sorts of groups were coming in. A group of Poles on quad bikes, some Italians on BMW motorbikes and a tour group in land cruisers. Busy place.
After some black tea we retired to our rooms to charge phones, cameras and computers whilst the power was on and went to bed, ready to leave at 6am the next morning, crossing the border into Kyrgyzstan and onto Osh. The unknown at the border awaits!
Read more next instalment.
Mongolia Charity Rally 2015