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Old 09-04-2014, 04:12 PM   #1
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The Pamir and Bartang Valey- a dream come true

Little Red (Motorcycle)Riding Hood had a dream. The dream of riding the Pamirs.
It started 2008 when she was in Buchara, hearing the story from some travelers having been there. Then, 2012, the Pamirs being just a few month away, Bartang Valey came into the picture, even more compelling that everything she dreamt about that trip. There was a new dream now!
But it was not ment to happen. The border was shut rite in front of her, due to trouble in Khorog that started just one week before the trip. She and her companions made the best of the two weeks they were confined in Kyrgistan and promissed they will be back.
Unlike in Grimm`s story, this little girl is not easely taken off her course. This year she pacted with the wolf again (actually six of them) and, one july day, there she was! Just at the entrance to the Bartang Valey!

I think it `s safe to say at this point, that the Little Red Riding Hood is not little, her hood is a black motorcycle helmet and the girl from the story is me. The riding goes on the modiffied BMW F650 Dakar that has taken me to places for some years now.
I also have to excuse myself for the lenght of the introduction, for as much as I have lurked around, I have noticed different "table manners". You can blame it on being my first thread to this site or, if it`s not enough, blame it on my female side.
Introduction made, l can also be serious if you like.
The story is this. We have been seven riders from Romania, on a two weeks tour through the Pamirs, a loop from Bishkek to Bishkek. But this thread is not about the whole ride, it is just about the Bartang and mabe Zorkul if you like.
Why? Because there are a lot of reports about the rest of the roads from this trip and I know how it feels. You want to go somewhere that has barely been ridden by anyone and you search ride reports. And then you read thouse, again and again, and look at the pictures and would like to find out more. But there is no more, because the ride has been so hard, that the few ones didn`t take the pictures. Google Earth gives you an idea and from the story you get another but, as we found out, you might get the wrong expectations....
In this case we were seven, so we had less stress and seven cameras. And I am taking tons of pictures wherever I ride, even during riding. So why not break the secret of this valey for everybody?
Meaning that, the following is just intended to be something like a picture guide of the place, so that anybody can go there and really know what lies ahead. But because this road is subject to weather, just like any other road in the region, there is no actual guarantee that the ride will be the same next year. Still, I think the photos might help.

The bikes were only big bikes, the smalest ones being three KTM 690, the biggest one, a KTM 990. Inbetween were mine, a BMW F800 and a Yamaha Tenere. We rode for two days, in the descending direction, from Karakul to Khorog. As it turned out, we seem to have been lucky, this year not being one with much snow on the mountains, so mabe less water melting than the years before.
First about 20 km of the whole 330 were a breeze, some of us letting steam out at high speed on an absolutely plain plain.

Then there came the first and (as it prooved) only river crossing. It looks big, but actually it was the easyest of all water crossings

The only time to freeze, is when your stop being afraid.

Guyana screwed with this post 09-10-2014 at 02:04 PM
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Old 09-04-2014, 06:29 PM   #2
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Excellent! Looks like an amazing place to ride.

Looking forward to more

7 times down, 8 times up. Such is life.
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Old 09-04-2014, 07:10 PM   #3
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yes please
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Old 09-04-2014, 07:26 PM   #4
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words fail me
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Old 09-06-2014, 02:26 PM   #5
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It dawned to me that mabe not anybody is familiar with what for me is so obvious: what I`m talking about .
So I spent my yesterdays evening making a map, even with some short hints about points where I put the placemarks. I just hope the embedding goes as it should.....

Phew! It went right!

So: the continuous line is M41, the Pamir Highway. It is everyones escape route, if, by any reason, they were in a hurry.
More south, not marked but clearly visible by being the border with Afganistan, is the Panj Valey. This is the route everyone (including us) comes to see.
And the route with the lots of placemarks is the Bartang Valey. It`s like a shortcut, but, for reasons obvious to anybody ever reading a RR about it, one not very popular.

And now, zooming back in to the valey

After giving our bikes a little shine in the river, ahead of us lie another 40 km of plains. With speedlimit set at "go Planet!", there was only a small hickup as we suddenly encountered the first portion of several hundred meters of tawing ditches on loose stones. They were dry, but steep and going in one with full throttle was not a good surprise. No pictures here, but we have some from the similar future encounters with them.

At some point, the walls around us seemed to come closer, as expected from a valey.

And the last patches of green appeared also, a good place for the first and last shepperds for miles to make theyr homes.

and for us to take our second breakfast.

The only time to freeze, is when your stop being afraid.

Guyana screwed with this post 09-06-2014 at 03:29 PM
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Old 09-06-2014, 05:05 PM   #6
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I kept waiting for some grueling valey and up ahead almost seemed to start SOME valey.


After riding just a little, the valey opens again into a plateau and we turn right, leaving even the river behind.

The tricky part at driving on such straight open tracks is always the speed. As this particular place in the next picture would show me.

I was shooting the picture and wondering for a second where one of the others had disappeared after passing me by. Then, not looking further at the one you see nearest to me, I put my camera under my jacket (it`s always hanging at my neck and the dust that went into it explains the spots sometimes apparent on the pics) and rid on, full throttle, to catch up. Big mistake, because there were two very abrupt steering curves straight downhill lying ahead. Hence the two disappearing from view... and me almost flying several meters down in the ditch.

After that, nothing new happens for another good number of km, smooth riding with only a few patches of sand.

We visit the lunar calendar, not understanding what that drawing with stones in the dust ment and nearly driving it over in the process of seeking for it.

From here we could see the bore was slowly coming to an end.

After going through that gorge in the far view, we finally came to see a valey! Just that we first had to go up in order to get down.

And then we first saw it! The valey made by the melting waters of the Sevcenko glacier (the biggest in the world) ans his smaller arms (legs?).

This is no place to find out you are afraid of hights! Fortunately, if you go fast enough, you get quickly off the hook.

And then, mabe half way to out riding day, we were at "ground level".

The only time to freeze, is when your stop being afraid.

Guyana screwed with this post 09-10-2014 at 02:11 PM
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Old 09-07-2014, 05:59 PM   #7
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thanks for the stunning pics keep on going
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Old 09-07-2014, 06:32 PM   #8
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i'm in.....
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Old 09-07-2014, 06:43 PM   #9
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I'm in awe, thank you so much for allowing the photobucket full sized images to be viewed.

I became friends with someone just because they rode motorcycles from no-place to no-where.
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:45 AM   #10
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Oh yes, one more from the Bartang!

I'm IN!
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Old 09-08-2014, 01:36 PM   #11
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From that point on, we would finally follow rivers. First the Ghudara, later the Bartang.
At the moment, what we had ahead was like this

For the next 10-20 km we would ride by the riverbed, through the same gravel/ stones traversed by thaw ditches. Not much water here either.

At some point, the track was splitting. One was going further by the mountain, the other was descending in the riverbed. After one of us tried the first that vanished shortly after the split, we all decided to ride the second one. Lucky again, the snow had already melted some time ago, so we didn`t had to go to deep under.

After this, the ride continued the same way, until we met the Ghudara river.

Here were the only water crossings we would still have in front of us, one or two only being somewhat problematic: deeper and with big boulders.

This was the finish line. From now on, the tack was strictly following the river and we would gradually find more and more patches of vegetation.
Fortunately someone had passed on the track this year, so we had a track at all on the two segments like this one.

Mostly it was a break, just potholes and a good ride.

Until we reached the last (mabe) 10 km before the village Ghudara. That was the portion everybody describes as backbreaking bouldery and so it was. That`s why not many photos were made there. We were all just riding to get somewhere else, but we all agreed in the end, it was a beautiful one. Just like in Greece, but on the hills of Greece where there are no roads.

And then, finally, after one hundred km of being only living creatures around.... the Ghudara village.

We didn`t have time to ask, but I am still wondering: how do the people live in their homes at the time of fludding? Because I am still convinced this just had happened few days before we had gotten there and it had been nothing out of the ordinary.

Naturally we were greeted by the usual welcoming commitee, but this time it also was official. We had to pay a tax for crossing a tadjik national park, as we were doing. We all payed it with respect because, just seeing the village and how hard it had been to get to it, made us respect thous people for surviving there.
The only time to freeze, is when your stop being afraid.

Guyana screwed with this post 09-08-2014 at 02:09 PM
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Old 09-09-2014, 02:11 PM   #12
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From here on, we continued to find villages more and more closer to one another. It was a rocky terrain, but not on the track, just around it. We were relaxed, because we knew from what we had read the "worst" part was over.

There also was a small swampy-like portion before the next village, where the track was almost washed away, but no problem.
The scenery became beautiful again, because the mountains left and right had a new show on play.

Bridges were in very good condition, here and everywhere to come.

The only thing we had been told would be a "problem" was "riding through the river" further down the road. This was just another example for better judging yourself.

This was "the river"

And this was "the ride"

Ok, just on the right was a pretty steep hill with a stony track on whitch water was flowing also, that I gave up to make a picture of, because it seemed to unrealistic we would climb that way..... We drove left, through inches of water, but the ground was solid. And when we reached river level...

This was a freshly repaired road! On the other side we even saw traffic signs up the hill! The classic road had been exactly that steep hill of gravel.
So talk about luck!

Anyway, this is what awaited us just on the other end of the previous photo

We all felt like stepping into an oasis in the desert. We discovered we had missed real colors.... and from now on, colors would appear more often. We were entering the "civilized" part of the valey.

This last photo is an example of the lifestyle in The Valey: between the village we had just left and the next, were 25 km. It was 5 o`clock in the evening and she had another 15 km to go to see the next humans. But she was in no stress or hurry....

And the road became a real road, on river level. With much more interesting views to show. We were half an hour ride away from Savnob, our stop for the night.

After the small detour above, we started climbing for the last 5 km to Sabnow. Again granit sticking out of the road and some steep curves at the end.

But after the last hill....there it was! Savnob. I don`t know about you, but I had to stop to take it in. And take this picture with the sun shining exactly into my lens....

And here are some pictures from Savnob

The last one is the homestay we stayed at. You go by the homestay that is exactly near the street and after some hundreds of meters, you see it on the right, just above your head. Naturaly then, you have to turn around and take the alley that climbs the hill you just passed. Good accomodation and food and, most of all, the boy playing the host speaks english.

These were the first 170 km of the Bartang Valey. As we would discover, it was NOT the most adventurous part of it.
The only time to freeze, is when your stop being afraid.

Guyana screwed with this post 09-09-2014 at 02:50 PM
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Old 09-09-2014, 03:17 PM   #13
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Brilliant, thanks for sharing.

I'm planning a solo RTW next year with a leg through Central Asia and I was only planning to ride the Pamir Highway through Tajikistan. I'm not familiar with the Bartang Valley but this looks amazing, it would be a real shame to miss it. I must write fit this in!

Are you camping along the way or finding mostly home stays?

The route so far doesn't look too terribly technical, it looks manageable, or do the photo's not do the conditions justice?

Are you using a GPS, map/compass or both?

What's the amenities like, places to acquire food & fuel?

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Old 09-10-2014, 04:05 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by stephen.stallebrass View Post
Brilliant, thanks for sharing.

Are you camping along the way or finding mostly home stays?

The route so far doesn't look too terribly technical, it looks manageable, or do the photo's not do the conditions justice?

Are you using a GPS, map/compass or both?

What's the amenities like, places to acquire food & fuel?

Indeed, the Bartang is amaising. It is manageable for someone with experience, but it depends very much on the weather conditions.
The valey is blocked by snow at least until june and the first snow might fall mid august. Inbetween, flodding of the road is not seldom, also boulders on the road, gushing streams in the thaw sections and more stoneslides on the other sections when it opens to passage.
Another factor might be the bike. Although it was not recomended to go there with big bikes, the biggest in our group was a KTM 990 and he had no problem. But none of us was alone.
Because we all agreed on this one- that the biggest difficulty factor is riding solo, after all. This rises the stress of something happening to your bike to the point where you take everything much harder than it is. Fortunately, it is not unthinkable that you find another biker in the area who intends to do the same thing....
We had tents and some food with us all the time, but we didn`t neet them. The homestays in the whole Pamir area are well marked and practicaly, every home there is a homestay. People are most wellcoming and invite you for a tea just for passing by.
The gas problem has become much better in the last years, there are more gas stations and better fuel. You stil tank from the bottle in some points, but gas is no problem if you have an authonomy bigger than 200 km.
We were using GPS tracks from other guys who were there before us and we also had maps. The point is that, except for this and other similar valey, on the main roads a good map is sufficient.
The only time to freeze, is when your stop being afraid.
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Old 09-10-2014, 04:28 AM   #15
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Bine Dayana!
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