If the sack of potatoes on our roof fell off and rolled down the cliff, it would land in Afghanistan. I see the rain hitting the windshield, the wiper blades barely keeping up with it. My driver completely focused on the rut up ahead and then the next, his hands relaxed on the wheel. He’s a Pamiri driver through and through, he knows these roads like I know the 55 freeway, probably better. Two massive mountains on either side of us. Parts of this road are reminiscent of the Dalton highway in Alaska.
I smell cigarette smoke, and I haven’t pin pointed who yet but someone hasn’t bathed or washed their clothes in over a week.
I feel my knees locking up, and my ass is sore from sitting for so long. The women on my left is asleep on my shoulder, and the guy on my right and I are passive-agressively battling over leg room.
I still taste the snickers bar I got at the last fuel stop that I had every intention of saving till later tonight.
And all I can hear is Seal singing “Baby, I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the gray!” With Garrett occasionally laughing out loud listening to some stand up comedy I had. We swapped iPods to mix it up a bit. You can take two guys out of Orange County and put them in the middle of the Tajik mountains. But you can’t take the Orange County out of them.
We are about 9 hours into our 15 hour drive. Occasionally stopping for a couple of cows or goats strutting across the road. We haven’t been on pavement for the last 3 hours, and won’t see any for the next 2 more. Eight of us packed into a Toyota Land Cruiser. If you take all of this based solely on the physical experience, then it is shit. There is a level of discomfort that not even the locals we are with ever get used to. Yet this long journey isn’t just bearable, I’m reveling in it. It’s all dictated by your attitude toward the situation. If you’re in a bad mood, you start to blame your surroundings and you have a bad experience. But, if you’re in a good mood then physical discomfort doesn’t mean much. If I find myself losing my positivity then music is always a good catalyst to get me back up.
Anyway we make it to Khorog exhausted and take an extra day to rest up and plan our next move. We meet a German and the three of us hire a driver with a Land Cruiser to take us through the Wahkan Valley to Murgab over the next three days. It’s postcard worthy views the whole way. Stopping when ever we want to walk around and take pictures. We came across natural hot springs, fortresses dating back to the 3rd century BC, all the while being right up on the Afghan mountains. With only handful of small villages. Two of them we find a homestay for the night and get served a traditional dinner and breakfast in a legitimate Pamiri house. Our last night in the region it snowed about 4 inches, which made our drive north into Kyrgyzstan longer and harder than expected. We had slept at about 12,300’ above sea level and went over passes that reached 15,270’ above sea level. They don’t call it the roof of the world for nothing, it being one of the highest highways in the world. During that drive north I had my first experience with altitude sickness, and it was 12 hours of hell. The crossing into Kyrgyzstan went smoothly and we ultimately made it to Osh where we will stay for a few days to enjoy a real bed and some much wanted wifi. All in all the Pamirs is a region of the world few know about and its unspoiled beauty is astounding. It was an experience I will certainly never forget.