A good time to visit Ta­jik­istan

RiDE (UK) - - Contents -

Why you should go

De­spite be­ing the poor­est of all the for­mer Soviet coun­tries, Ta­jik­istan is rich in travel ex­pe­ri­ences. An in­cred­i­ble 93% of the coun­try is moun­tain­ous, so it has seem­ingly end­less twisty moun­tain roads and breath-tak­ing scenery, the best of which can be ex­pe­ri­enced on the Pamir High­way (the M41). It stretches for more than 400 miles through some of the most pic­turesque re­gions of the Pamir Moun­tains.

Per­fect for those who like their ad­ven­ture raw and rel­ish the chal­lenge of re­mote, rough rid­ing, Ta­jik­istan is a rugged, wild place and its peo­ples live a sim­ple life. It’s pos­si­bly Cen­tral Asia’s best-kept se­cret, so ex­pe­ri­ence it now.

What’s it like to ride?

Roads out­side the main towns are poorly main­tained and of­ten ac­ces­si­ble only by four-wheel drive ve­hi­cles, so you’ll need good off-road rid­ing skills.

Con­di­tions are par­tic­u­larly haz­ardous in spring due to the risk of avalanches and land­slides — many roads are only open in the sum­mer months and, even then, you may have to ride over land­slides or im­promptu river cross­ings, though the main rivers are bridged.

Lo­cal ve­hi­cles are poorly main­tained and driv­ing stan­dards are ba­sic.

You’ll need to keep your doc­u­ments handy for reg­u­lar mil­i­tary check­points you’ll find along the way. There’s also a mil­i­tary pres­ence in most towns and vil­lages and they’ll want to know who you are and what you’re up to.

Ar­rive with small gifts to re­pay the Ta­jik hos­pi­tal­ity you will en­counter. Take a good first aid kit as you could find your­self a long way from med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties. A satel­lite phone is a must if you plan to head off into ru­ral ar­eas.

Must ride/see

Ride the Pamir High­way through the sparsely pop­u­lated moun­tain re­gions — at a height of 4655m, this is the sec­ond-high­est-alti­tude in­ter­na­tional high­way in the world. Head into the Wakhan Val­ley, bor­der­ing Afghanistan. In­cred­i­bly pic­turesque. Visit the sec­ond-cen­tury Yam­chun Fortress in the Wahkan Cor­ri­dor, with mag­nif­i­cent views of the Hindu Kush, then ride north to the hot springs. Homes­tays of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to stay with a lo­cal fam­ily, but don’t ex­pect much more than a bed, a flask of hot wa­ter, out­side loo and ba­sic meals. Shop in the Panchshanbe Bazaar in Khu­jand - re­put­edly the largest of its kind in Cen­tral Asia.

Get­ting your bike there

Ta­jik­istan is not cost ef­fec­tive to fly a mo­tor­cy­cle too though Al­maty in Kaza­khstan is, and is a good hub for freight — you’d be look­ing at around £1600 one way, so we’d rec­om­mend you in­clude Ta­jik­istan as part of a longer tour within Cen­tral Asia.

If you don’t have the ex­tra time, then con­sider rent­ing bikes in Dushanbe, Ta­jik­istan or tak­ing a tour. Due to the na­ture of the ter­rain, most bike rental is for smaller, off-road en­duro-style bikes. Rent­ing a Suzuki DRZ400S can be around US$90-120 per day. Check out the Silkof­froad Mo­tor­cy­cle Travel Club for tour­ing op­tions. www.silkof­froad.kz

When to go

By far the best time to ride is from June to Septem­ber, as the snow in the Pamir Moun­tains is at its low­est lev­els, giv­ing you the best chance of the passes and the Pamir High­way be­ing open.

The Ta­jik land­scape is sim­ply amaz­ing

De­spite be­ing the poor­est for­mer Soviet coun­try, Ta­jik­istan is friendly and wel­com­ing

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