We woke with the best view we've had so far as it was dark last night and couldn't tell where we were camping. I don't know what temperature it got to but the stream next to camp was frozen and with a quick check of my watches altimeter which is accurate to +/- 50M told us wed camped at an altitude of roughly 3800M. No wonder it was so cold!! Another quick emptying of dust from the air filters and we were ready for off.
Just before we left a local came up to us and offered us fermented Yak cheese which is properly vile. Within 5 minutes off saw our first Yaks which are strange looking creatures a cross between Horse and Cow.
We had a quick lunch in a small isolated town of Murghab and pushed on to the border with Kyrgyzstan.
The road towards the end got particularly bad and included a Monstrous 4655M climb of a mountain pass which our car almost didn't make it and just after 50km of washboard gravel, but it did get better as we got to stop at lake Qarokul which is trying to be the highest freshwater lake in the world.
The border process for leaving Tajikistan and then entering Kyrgyzstan has to be the strangest we've done so far. The border is in the middle of nowhere on a terrible road we then had to pay another bribe as apparently we didn't get a piece of paper in Murghab something that i know we don't need.
The distance between the two borders was strange again as it was 15 miles with people living in the middle. Technically living in their own country with no government ruling a concept that is odd and slightly wonderful at the same time.
Another early start today its impossible to drive at night so we are trying to make the most of day light. We got to Khorog which is where Our Japanese angle from Uzbekistan said the road becomes tarmac and we have never been more grateful for this. Until you have driven on the Pamir Highway never ever complain about roads in the UK they are marvellous!!
With a quick lunch stop in the local Indian we drove on got some fuel and given recent events with dustiness and poor engine output reluctantly put octane 92 in the car.
Other than stopping to run across a bridge made entirely from sticks and when i write sticks i mean sticks some as big as a finger width, we continued into the night.
We had hoped for good roads to claw back some time and the Japanese guy in Uzbek had said it was tarmac.
More bad roads and an altitude of 4,100M meant we were covering ground and slowly.
It was about 9.00pm when we decided enough was enough and pulled into a random town to camp and today saw our first cold temperature. We quickly got our tents up a fire started and something warm to eat and drink.
Since Germany we've pretty much lived in shirts and shorts. Tonight that got swapped for jogging bottoms and insulated jackets an odd feeling considering 6 hours early the it was so hot.
It was dark when we rolled into town last night so couldn't really get a sense of the magnitude of the mountains that lay in front of us and after a quick consultation with the map found out that we were driving along the Afghanistan - Tajikistan border we were defiantly not in yorkshire anymore!!
We drove through the day on roads that can only be compared with that of battlefields it took us almost 10 hours to cover 60 miles mainly due to the roads but partly because they were that bumpy the roof rack had started to vibrate loose and at one point a tyre came off and almost smashed the back window. It was fixed by having a ratchet strap tied to the rear towing eye and then another one to the front towing eye.
With all the dusty roads we were seriously down on power and needed to stop Team Rainbow Dash was also suffering from misfiring issues now the dust is so fine similar to Chalk dust and just gets everywhere. We stopped and banged out our air filters which were truly saturated with the stuff and looked for a place for the night.
We found a restaurant ate and decided to stay the night. Restaurants in this part of the world consist of a super king sized bed with cushions around it and then the food is placed in the middle. A bit like eating on the floor but your raised up on effectively a bed, point being that there is space to sleep on and after chatting with the owner who seemed very confused as to why we wanted to sleep finally accepted and we went to bed.
An early start gave way to more terrible roads and even included fording some deep streams, we were taking Patricia properly out of her depth now.
As the afternoon wore one we got to our first proper mountain pass since Romania and ended up climbing to an incredible 3252M at this height Patricia was not happy at all added to this the roads were becoming dustier and dustier. We drove on through a live minefield with signs warning us that just off the road was uncleared mines.
With this we found ourselves in a small town of Kali Khumb, found a homestay and had some beers reflecting on the days driving.
It took us longer to get the tyres fitted than we had hoped, the night before the owner had said 9am but then today told us 12 however once fitted we set off for the legendary Pamir highway. We hadnt even got to the bit of the road where it gets bad and I (Jamie) got pulled over for speeding. Through broken english, a small game of pictionary and charades the officer told me i was going 67kph in a 60 zone.
I don't mean to sound bitter about it all but im pretty certain the speed gun was fixed. I was driving behind Team Rainbow Dash who were doing less than 60kph so there was no way i could of been doing over the limit however since i couldn't speak to local language i was stuck with the speeding offence which i am glad to say is the first one since i passed my driving test.
The officer duly informed me he wanted $50 for the offence and after unsuccessfully haggling with him i paid the fine which was obviously a bribe as no paperwork was filled out we were on our way again.
We spent the next 6 hours driving on the worst road so far and its this road that is famous for killing cars on the rally, however the views are incredible. We drove until about 8.00pm and after a police checkpoint pitched our tents to stay the night.
That night we watched the sun go down and eat by the illumination of a star filled sky that clear we could even see the milky way. We sat in awe and even got to see some meteors as i believe there was a big shower of them.
The Uzbek borders seemed to be giving teams a hard time we gave ourselves plenty of time to get through. We seem to have a reoccurring theme of getting through borders quickly that we think will be bad and then spending ages at borders that should be quick.
In under two hours wed not only got out of Uzbek but got into Tajikistan, we then made our way to an orchard where we eat the biggest lunch ever so much so we all needed a nap, we accidentally parked our cars in a hand car wash also so came back to see them cleaner than what wed bought them like. With services paid we carried on to Dushanbe to find a hostel as Patricia had become unwell. With all the poor black market fuel some of it at an octane rating of 80 not the 95 in the uk she had started to misfire quite bad and needed looking at we had also worn our second set of front tyres to the point that the rubber was delaminating so needed to rectify that.
Team Rainbow Dash needed new rear springs and we thought it wasn't a bad idea for ourselves as the ground clearance was bad. Both teams spent a night at the local mechanics who was excellent we got two new stiffer rear springs and ordered two new front tyres for the next morning. The misfiring problem cleared itself up once we pushed 95 octane fuel through the fuel system. All in all a productive evening spent with the mechanic and his crew of young lads and decided a beer was in order so headed for the bar.
Theres a lot of posts on our blog of us nearly getting to places, past europe mains roads that are the equivalent of motorways are still in shocking condition normally allowing us to travel no more than 40mph. At this speed we often arrive at borders late into in the evening and if youve read our other posts border crossings can take anywhere from 1-6 hours we decide to do the crossing in the morning.
This evening was no different we had driven all day through some stunning scenery got into the border town late so stopped in at what was recommended as a good hotel and things quickly got weird.
We were asked if we were Russian this was before wed even enquired about rooms and once the answer was no we were english they suddenly had no rooms.
Im not one for racism but thats how it went down. We then asked if they had one room and we would all sleep on the floor. This time they had one room but it was the luxury apartment which was $160 a night a cost that none of us could afford. We then asked for a double room apparently non were free even though the hotel was empty.
The guys at the lobby made a phone call and apparently there was suddenly 3 rooms free but a cost we couldn't afford. On this we left and managed to find somewhere else.
Olly from Team Rainbow Dash and i set out into the old town early to do some sight seeing theres lots of old mosques and minarets. We paid to go in one mosque and stumbled into a room that was being painted after 2 minutes of watching we decided we could do better and had a go ourselves.
Once we got back we had a chat with a Japanese gentleman who was riding a motorbike the reverse way to ours and got some great information for our maps as to which roads were bad, which ones didn't exist and where to get fuel.
We then all got together and headed off for Bukhara which meant driving through another desert thankfully it wasn't as hot as the one in Turkmenistan. We made our way to a hostel in the centre and spent the night with a bunch of other rally teams.
Wed herd more horror stories about getting through the Uzbek border especially as Pornography is strictly prohibited so everyones phone gets searched cars being throughly searched as Drones are also banned. As it turned out it wasn't that bad.
We had originally planned to go to the Aral sea but that was now out of the question. Consulting one of our guide books Khiva was a place recommended to visit so we made our way there with a lovely lunch stop on the way.
The road network is properly crazy, roads start and end, no entry's start in the middle of the road, luckily for us a local approached us and told us to follow him, again if this happened back home we would defiantly not let a random stranger take us somewhere unknown.
The hotel we got taken to was amazing lovely rooms, cheap, and Bahmal the guy who lead us there couldn't do enough for us, he even got us fuel delivered to the hotel the next morning as petrol is incredibly hard to find in Uzbekistan so difficult theres an entire black market dedicated to it. Uzbekistan has very little oil reserves under its country but lots of gas so to save import costs all vehicles are LPG or diesel which is not good for us.
That night we sat on the balcony of our hotel and watched a sandstorm/ lightening storm/ thunderstorm.
The desert is properly hot even at 8am. Today we had another border run on our hands as our visa expires tomorrow and the fines and complications for over staying are astronomical so we basically left the desert and headed straight for the border it was a long day and involved a quick police stop because i had my legs hanging out of the window but no bribes were required.
We made it to the border to find that although the Turkmenistan side was open the Uzbekistan side was closed. We found a hotel eventually as there wasn't a lot going on tourist related and went for tea which turned out to be lovely even though we got heckled by locals for drinking the wrong beer.