We ride deep inside a valley. It holds the Pyanj River that separates Tajikistan from Afghanistan.

I know we said we would go no where near Afghanistan. BUT! THE TRUCKERS TOLD US TO! ‘The shorter, northern route that leapfrogs the border with Afghanistan is an ‘avoid at all costs’, ‘total catastrophic’, ‘road of rot’.’ ‘The longer, southern route that hugs the border with Afghanistan is better.’

It’s a longer route but Josephine (Harry’s bike) behaves well as long as we empty her ‘catheter’ every 30 – 40 km. There is not much we can do until we get to a big city anyway.  

A good night’s sleep washes away our creepy apprehension. And the next few days we follow the better, southern route and slip through villages from Dushambe to Kulyab to Khorog on the Tajikistan side of the Pyanj river.

The landscape is magnificent! It fills our guts and blows our minds.

We have a road on our side. It crosses countless riverbeds, with endless stretches of slippery pebbles. ‘They’ have a single, rickety track on their side. It clings to the cliffs, with chunks washed away by avalanches.   And on it we see … Afghans walking …

 … field to field, village to village … in turbans and cloaks, and peaks and jeans … with donkeys and bicycles and ‘piki-piki’s’ …

They are too busy, with the task of life, to gawk and gape back at us. But a single group, young boys, stops and stares for a brief moment. We are frantic to haul out, and wave, a white flag at them, on behalf of us ‘ordinary people’!!!

Yes, it’s true. Our hearts miss a beat when Tajik foot soldiers, always three by three, stop us, a few times each day. They check our passports, playfully ask for cigarettes, for vodka and wave us along merrily. And we are told not to camp alongside the river …  

But the sight of three trucks clawing onto a disintegrating curve of the road freaks us out. We worry and wait for five hours as a group of truckers ease them up and on and out of the way. And this is not even on the ‘avoid at all costs’, ‘total catastrophic’, ‘road of rot’.

Yes! All of a sudden all those Afghan walking …. Are not scary at all!





The Pyanj River.


Tajikistan is on your left of the Pyanj River and Afghanistan is on your right.


This is the single track on the Afghanistan side of the Pyanj River.


… and sections, like this one, have been washed away by avalanches.


This is the road on the our side and it crosses lots of broad river beds.


We stop counting river crossings.


The grader behind is a wreck and (damn!) hasn’t worked for ages.




Melting waters from mountain tops fill the rivers …


… with freezing cold water …



Some river beds have returned to their dry state.


Our road has some sandy bits tooooooo!!!


Here we have a bridge, but there are a good few slates missing!


And every 30/40 kms we stop to attend to Harry’s ailing bike. We drain the oil from the air filter box (with blue bottle in view) and pour back into the oil tank on the otherside.


This troop carrier must have been left behind when Russia withdrew from Afghanistan.


A little unsettling!


Here is a border patrol office. Someone shouts down at us and we make our way up the track on the left. The officers have socks but no shoes on ….


… and we are expected to open and close the boom for ourselves.


We spot that green patch along the river & reckon its a good camping spot. But 3 Tajik foot soldiers, appear from nowhere, and due to possible Afghan snipers, ask us to move on.


Here, on another occasion three Tajik foot soldiers stop us. Harry manages to snap these photos with the helcam.


We have zoomed in on the soldier’s belt buckle. We find it fascinating that they are still issued with ‘hammer & sickle’ belts 30 years post communism.


They love our bikes …


… they ask for vodka and cigarrettes (we have vodka, but there is NO WAY we are going to share) … and then wave us on merrily.


A valley made fertile by a tributary running down from the mountains to the Pyanj.


… and the Afghanistan village on its banks.


A fertile section along the Pyanj and the settlement in its midst.


Another Afghanistan settlement.


… and another …


Here is the track on the other side … with man and donkey …


… and a pikipiki …


… with two astride ….




I’m sure these guys were itching to wave to us too!


… deep in thought …


… Afghans walking …


We come across this … and there is no way to pass.


Harry goes to investigate and finds …

… a truck clawing onto the road. You can see its far back wheel has dropped off the edge. The truck is being emptied …


Traffic is stopped from both sides for more than 9 hours.


Two trucks, daisy-cabled, pull the third truck out. The first attempt fails (see snapped cable on the right).


No wonder this happens … look at the condition of the road along so many sections.


I suppose we are lucky we are skinny-er than trucks … except they often leave us no room on the road!!!