Cruising through the Alau

Alau Valley (Kyrgyzstan), 04.06.2013

The day in Osh got us back our adventure spirit. It had been good to rest, forget the stress of the past days, get up to speed on things back in Europe, sleep, buy food and fuel. In the morning we went to stroll through the local market to get some fresh bread, fruit and vegetables. We even found an old man selling sweet popcorn out of an enormous sack he drove around. We spent another half hour for the few km to get out of this market and through the next one, traffic was crazy in Osh. At noon we finally hit the road and drove southeast into the mountains of the Alau Range. Osh is the starting point of the Pamir Highway, that we will follow until its end in Khorogh (Tajikistan). On this side of the mountains the shepherds live as nomads in yurts, the local tent type. They also convert soviet rucks and Chinese containers into homes. Riding horses and donkeys is more common then cars or motorbikes. Temperature fell to 9 degrees Celsius as we crossed the Taldyk Pass, 3615m high. The landscape was terribly panoramic, we watched the mountains silently, soaking up the beauty of these vast empty spaces framed by the mountain peaks. After days of flat plains and deserts this was a relief.

At the shepherd village of Sary Tash the road splits in three directions: eastward to China, southward to the Pamirs in Tajikistan, and westward directly to Dushanbe in Tajikistan through the Alau Valley. We had read that the border to the west was closed to foreigners, but still wanted to try the crossing since it would get us quicker to the capital and leave us more days to drive through the Pamir highway once. If we take the southern road, we have to drive back and forth through the same road. So we went west and drove for a long time through the amazing Alau Valley, the Alau mountain range to our right and the Zaalay range covered in snow to our left. In the valley there are wild horses strolling around freely, we saw yaks. At some point we got hungry and wanted to picnic in front of this amazing panorama. The wind was too strong for cooking on the open plain, so we found shelter in an empty hut. The risotto from home was ready in no time, after weeks of local food we needed a little change. As we made tea for the road, two guys on their horses came to say hello. They put us on the horses to take pictures together. Then some other guys joined in their soviet jeep, they were more interested in the Range Rover, wanted to know model, price, fuel type, see the interiors. Then everybody went his way with a smile.

We reached the border at Karamyk to find out that it is indeed closed to foreigners. So we turned around, only partially disappointed because we knew we would see the fantastic Alau valley again for the next hour and a half. In a bigger village we stopped to pick up water for our shower, and I got myself a Kirgiz felt hat! The guys wearing it around here look very stylish. Back in Sary Tash we took the southern road towards the Kyzyl Art pass and started to look for a camping site. Shortly after, before the road goes up into the mountains, we found our spot, with great views, little wind and well protected in case the wind should increase. It is the first time we camp almost on time, with still enough light to cook and set up the tent with no rush. The dinner consisted of some pulpo a la gallega in cans followed by spaghetti with spicy tuna sauce. The only thing we missed was a glass of wine, but thanks to Iranian border restrictions this wasn’t possible. Vodka had to do. Back home this would have been a ridiculous meal, out here this is an exotic delicacy! 😉

We ate the last bit of spaghetti as the light disappeared and it became cold. We stuffed everything into the car and went to sleep, looking forward to the Pamirs tomorrow.

Trip data for the day

– Km driven: 497

– Hrs on the road: approx 8h

– Diesel l/100km: 9,4

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