Day 97: The end of the world as we know it

Murgab Travel Blog

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Guess who was on rock clearing duty again today?

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium)

We drove back to Bulunkul to have breakfast at the homestay where we had had lunch last night. They had arranged for 40 litres of Diesel for us as well. No idea where they got it from, as they were selling it for less than the price at the petrol station in Khorog. Judging from the black and blue smoke belching from the exhaust it probably had very little diesel content and was mostly salad oil or worse. It didn't matter, it kept the engine running, albeit with even less power than before.

With plenty of time to get us to the town of Murghab, we took the long route back to the M41.

Crossing the Alichor plains
There is a track running through the mountains, in between the Yashil Kul and Bulunkul lakes. We asked the locals about the condition of the road and were told the road was fine. “Especially with this car, you have no problems” they said. Hmm, if only they knew.

The road was fine though, at least, at first. Crossing the Alichor plain the road was straight and flat and despite being unpaved, the ground was so hard that we had a smoother ride than we had had on most of the other roads in Tajikistan.

We passed a very small and uninspiring geyser field. It was listed on our map as a tourist attraction, but that was stretching it a bit. Still, it was fun driving here. For a while at least.
After the geyser field the road deteriorated badly. Although this is called the Alichor plain, they could better have called it the Alichor hills.
Crossing the Alichor plains (plains? what plains?)
The track ran along the river that snakes through the hills and more than once we had to drive around swampy patches or hills that were too steep to drive over with our car.

It had been fun, but still the three of us let out a cheer as we reached the tarred road. Ah, the fabled Pamir Highway. Finally! For the last 100km to Murghab we would be driving on this smooth black ribbon of tarmac. No more washouts, no more pot holes, no more ditches.
Ironically, it was the Pamir Highway that nearly killed the car. While the road is smooth, it is not completely without damage. There is still the occasional pothole, most of which are easy enough to spot and avoid, but there are also bumps and ditches which are almost impossible to spot while driving. We hit one with over 70 km/h. It broke the metal plate protecting the radiator, but worse, the steering-bars had hit the tarmac full on.
Across the Alichor plains
We inspected the car for damage, but everything seemed OK. We had been very lucky though. Had we hit the tarmac under a different angle instead of head on it could have been seriously damaged. Once again we had been impressed by the superior German build quality of the car. The don't make cars like this anymore these days, you know.

Meanwhile the surroundings were absolutely stunning. Again. I think I have said this of every day over the past week, but it is true. Driving through Tajikistan is an absolute joy. Marco Polo might not have been too impressed with the Pamirs, calling his 10-day camel trek across the Pamir plains a hellish journey, but we loved every bit of it.

We arrived in Murghab towards the end of the afternoon. It was a bit of an anticlimax. Murghab is the second-largest city in the Gorno-Badakhstan region.
The Alichor river
Well, city, it is little more than a town really. Bulunkul had been described as an end-of-the-world town, but in our opinion Murghab fits the description much better. And I am not talking about the moment in time here, rather than the end of the world in terms of distance. My gawd what a depressing town this is.

What made it seem even more depressing was because it was Sunday. Though people here are mostly Muslim Tajikistan (like the rest of Central Asia) has adopted the Soviet business week, so everything closes shop on Sunday, rather than the Islamic holy day of Friday.

So there wasn't much to do for us here. We checked in to a guest-house and spent the rest of the day just relaxing and blogging.
We were the only guests in the guest-house. The issues in Kyrgyzstan have hit this region hard as well.
Murghab, a depressing town, especially when it rains
No more tourists are coming down the Pamir highway from Osh and most tourists visiting Tajikistan no longer make it to Murghab, but opt for a round-trip to Khorog instead.

Tonight Holland was playing the World Cup final and I was quite keen on seeing it. Unfortunately the whole town suffered from a power outage in the evening (as it does almost every evening) so we couldn't watch. A friend of mine sent me updates per SMS instead. Apparently I didn't miss that much though. It hadn't been a very good game and the Dutch lost.

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Guess who was on rock clearing dut…
Guess who was on rock clearing du…
Crossing the Alichor plains
Crossing the Alichor plains
Crossing the Alichor plains (plain…
Crossing the Alichor plains (plai…
Across the Alichor plains
Across the Alichor plains
The Alichor river
The Alichor river
Murghab, a depressing town, especi…
Murghab, a depressing town, espec…
you can see these golden marmots e…
you can see these golden marmots …
Pamir Highway
Pamir Highway
Local transport on the Pamir Highw…
Local transport on the Pamir High…
Views along the Pamir Highway
Views along the Pamir Highway
Lenin welcoming us in Murghab
Lenin welcoming us in Murghab
Murghab main street
Murghab main street
Our guest house
Our guest house
Finally the sun comes out
Finally the sun comes out
video of our struggle across the …
Murgab Hostels review
Very friendly place run by a lovely family
The Erali Guesthouse is a former META/Acted associated guesthouse, just off the Pamir Highway in Eastern-Murghab. Though it is a bit of a walk to the … read entire review
Murgab
photo by: Biedjee