We had grand plans for the beginning of our round the world trip. We would travel across Central Asia overland from Istanbul to Xinjiang in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great. We had dreams of visiting the ancient cities and mosques of the Silk Road and trekking in the land of the snow leopards in the high Pamirs.
This wasn’t our first trip to Central Asia. In the summer of 2013, we attended our friends’ wedding in Kazakhstan and did two treks in Kyrgyzstan. But our Central Asia overland trip threw up a few more challenges than we anticipated. In the end, we didn’t make it all the way to China, and it wasn’t quite all overland. We saw some amazing sights, met a lot of interesting people, and went to a lot of remote locations that most people will never visit. We also experienced a lot of bumps on the road. For several reasons, we cut our trip short and bailed out to Bangkok.
Travel in Central Asia has more pitfalls than in many parts of the world – and some pleasant surprises. Here are some of the things we wish we had known when we … Read more
Plus, what is scarier: the Taliban or your driver?
Not much had gone right for us in the past month or so. We are definitely not quitters but we were beginning to think that a ‘stick or twist’ moment was on the horizon. I doubt we seriously wanted to head home but it did come to mind. We chatted briefly about heading back to Washington State and hiking in the Cascades for the remainder of the summer. However, the crazy weather that had hit Asia this year was being replicated at home. We definitely did not want to go wildfire dodging in the Cascades since we had had a fair amount of that in 2014. So, we planned on finding a spot where we could chill out and recharge our batteries. We wanted a cheesy backpacking spot with banana pancakes, muesli fruit curd, and Bob Marley’s greatest hits!! If there is one thing that Central Asia truly lacks it is a relaxed backpacker haunt akin to Gili Air in Indonesia, Goa in India, or Koh Phangan in Thailand. So, what the hell to do? We still really wanted to go to Xinjiang in China but that was out of the … Read more
The Pamir Highway: Everything looks great on paper… and then you hit the road!
Tajikistan was the one of the countries we were most looking forward to on the entire trip. It had the lure of high alpine treks, legendary road trips, and intriguing and remote cultures. We never expected Tajikistan to be an easy ride but it was the first place where we felt that we had bitten off more than we could chew. Maybe spending the first three months of our trip on roads less traveled was not our smartest move. Or, maybe, the record temperatures we experienced had finally worn us down. Or, was it the monotonous, taste-free food of Central Asia that was taking its toll. Either way, Tajikistan did not work out as well as we had hoped.
The persistent rumors coming out of Tajikistan in the week prior to our Pamir Highway trip were not encouraging either. The extreme heat has been melting the massive glaciers at an unprecedented rate, creating huge landslides on parts of the Pamir Highway. The Highway had also been closed for a couple of weeks earlier in the summer for alleged Russian-Chinese-Tajik joint missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan. … Read more