Langar – Alichur – Murgab – Osh (Pamir): The Border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
Русская версия As we have already mentioned the transport infrastructure in Pamir is not really developed. Perhaps, the most complicated section which almost every tourist has to cover (unless he or she travels by plane from and to Dushanbe and avoids seeing Kyrgyzstan) is a road from Pamir to Osh (Kyrgyzstan). To cover it you will have to go through Murgab – the district capital of the highest altitude out of all post-Soviet countries; at the same time this is the capital of the largest yet the least densely populated district of Tajikistan. If you manage to find transport to cover this way, you will not regret: the road is really wild and different from what you see in central Pamir.
From Khorog to Osh.
There are many ways of getting to Pamir from Dushanbe, yet, the connection between Pamir and Osh (Kyrgyzstan) is much more difficult. There are only several cars passing this road every day, and usually they are really full. People make deals in advance so that to go together with their neighbours or relatives and save on gasoline. It took us a while to find a car from Langar towards Kyrgyzstan too. A man in the street fixing his 4WD offered a price of 300 dollars for the car (the distance to Murgab is about 300 kilometers). Our host from Langar brought us to his neighbor who offered the price of 250 dollars, but, after thinking, suggested that we should better go to Alichur which was half a way between Murgab and Langar: from Alichur it is easier to catch another car. For this trip, he offered a price of 130 dollars and after some thinking reduced it to 100 dollars.
Having looked around Langar and its sights, next morning we started at around 9 after taking on some fuel. The fuel comes in buckets, and it seems to be of the very low quality. On our way, we saw many people walking up to the mountains to prepare the system of irrigation there or to work on the pastures. The first part of our way was rather flat, although the altitude was 2.9 to 3.3 kilometers. Then the road becomes more and more scary and wild, not a single human, or, as it seems, even not a single animal. It is said that there is some kind of camping on the way, but it is hard to imagine how to find it. The driver also mentioned that there had been a penal battalion of the Soviet forces here.
is on the opposite side of the river (which goes along the road); you can rarely see people and pise-wall houses there, but mostly camels.
Finally, we reached the mountain pass, the altitude is 4 kilometres!
Road to Murgab.
It is very cold here and the new miracles start: marvellous salted lakes along the road.
GPS coordinates of the lake (the altitude is over 4 kilometres):
The road is not much better here, although it is less dangerous.
The shadows of clouds on the mountains form gorgeous landscape.
At this point we met cyclists. Probably they did not know about the wilderness ahead of them.
At the entrance to Alichur they check the documents (just to remind, to visit Pamir you need a special permit). Here finally comes Alichur.
We reached Alichur now well understanding why the trip cost so much. The driver has to be very experienced and the car suffers – without talking about the expensive fuel and risk for life.
We stopped at Alichur canteen to have some food and our driver made a deal with another visitor in the canteen who agreed to give us a ride to Murgab (40 somonis per person). The road is not so wild any more.
Here comes Murgab! Fair enough many guide books mention that Murgab makes different impression: after Osh this will seem a backward village, but after Pamir – the center of the universe.
In Murgab, the driver dropped us at the market from which the cars to Osh go. The 4WD drivers offered the price of 250 dollars for the car (when they heard that our travel companion, Mark from Spain, does not speak Russian). We decided to hitchhike, at least to Karakul. We spent 3 hours on the road – not a single car was going to that direction. The local Kyrgyz boys spent these three hours with us: although Murgab is in Tajikistan, it is mostly populated by the Kyrgyz people. The boys told us that they dislike Tajiks, since Tajiks are very greedy. A researchers’ interest made us ask what they thought of the Chinese, since the Chinese frequent the town going through their trucks. “The Chinese have narrow eyes,” our new, not too round-eyed friends answered.
After all, we stopped a driver who was going to Murgab on the next day. After the long bargaining we reduced the price from 200 to 120 somonis per person and made a deal to start at 4 AM. We had to spend a night in Murgab then and had two options: a more expensive hotel and the guesthouse called Mansur Tulfabek, 20 somonis per person (shower is 10 somonis per person).
The electric blackouts are frequent in Murgab, and the owner of the guesthouse installed solar panels. In addition, all of a sudden the toilet turned out to be European (this was incredible after a week in Pamir). In the guesthouse, we also meet the guide and driver Alim who was showing Pamir to a Swiss couple. Even though we tell about travelling on a budget, we will mention his contacts for those who can afford it (+992935007689. firstname.lastname@example.org). Alim graduated in tourism and has been working since 2005.
Transport to Osh.
In the evening, our driver called and asked for money to take on fuel in the evening, since the trip was supposed to start at 4 AM. We were not sure about it and refused, he then agreed that he would pay for the fuel before the trip then. As the owner of the guesthouse explained to us, this is a usual practice to ask for money for the gasoline in advance to guarantee that the tourists will not change their mind and find the cheaper option. He and other employees of the hostel also agreed that 120 somonis is a very good price.
We started to Osh with the sunrise: the distance to cover was 400 kilometers. The landscapes continued to amaze us, and, compared to Alichur-Murgab road, this road seemed to be a highway.
We crossed the highest point of this part of road AK-Baital pass – (4655 meters).
We also saw the famous lake Karakul, 4 kilometres above the sea level.
In addition to us, the driver was also giving a ride to his neighbour, an elderly man. At some point of time we stopped so that the man could say his prayers.
Crossing Tajik-Kyrgyz border.
The way to Tajik-Kyrgyz border took quite some time, moreover, the trip between the borders was long and the road was really bad: probably, none of the sides wants to take care of it. There are several levels of control at the border, and at some point of time the border guards even wanted to dismantle the panels inside the car. But, as usually, the talks involving nostalgic memories about the Soviet Union helped. Then it turned out that we did not have the migration card we had had to get when entering Tajikistan (nobody had given it to us and we did not know we were supposed to ask for it). After a while they let us go without noticing (or without wanting to notice) that we had not had registration while staying in Tajikistan – and this is essential in Central Asia. The Kyrgyz border guards turned out to be friendlier, although this side also took over one hour. After finally crossing the borders, we followed the advice of Kyrgyz border guards and bought kumis (mare’s milk) at the very first pasture after the border. It is said that making a 10-day course of drinking kumys is very healthy and beneficial.
Even though the road was surrounded by the mountains, it was rather flat and we were gradually descending.
Soon we reached the highway to Osh, built by the Chinese. The police stopped us on the way, and, as the driver explained, it is easier to bribe them before they find something (and they will find what to find). Finally, we reached Osh: after Pamir it seemed the center of civilization. By the way, the cars heading to the opposite direction, from Osh to Margab, start from the so-called Alai-bazar; it is also said that the small buses in this direction depart every three days.
We spent the next day in Osh.
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