The Path Less Ridden

Finishing the Pamir Highway, to Dushanbe

After a well-earned rest day in Khorogh, we continued north and west along the Pamir Highway, shadowing the Pyanj River, which forms the border with Afghanistan. In some places there were stretches of sand that resembled beaches – if the water wasn’t glacially cold, and it wasn’t spitting distance from Afghanistan.

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Otherwise, the sheer, rocky scenery continued, with cliff faces hundreds of metres high towering over the road.

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Patterns and swirls of colour appeared in some rock faces, where the land has been twisted and morphed by geological forces.

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We passed through many small Tajik villages, and watched just as many Afghan ones roll by on the far side of the river.

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For a while, the road was freshly-laid, billiard-table-smooth bitumen – before returned to a horrible potholed mess.

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Rather suddenly, the canyon sides dropped away, and we exited out onto a vast, dry plain. The road turned inland, away from the river and border.

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After a modestly high pass and another one of the innumerable military checkpoints, we were onto the home stretch to Dushanbe, passing a large reservoir.

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Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan, and like Bishkek it’s a fairly modern, Soviet creation, with large parks and tree-lined avenues. Once we’d applied for our Turkmenistan visas (really, the last logistical hurdle of the trip), we wandered around the city, taking in the architecture and monuments.

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Dushanbe is home to what was once the world’s largest flagpole – although it’s now been trumped by one in Saudi Arabia. Still, it’s actually a moderately impressive sight, as the wind struggles to loft the 700kg flag.

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We would have liked to spend a few more days here, but our timetable to get to Europe before Christmas is starting to compress – so we made our preparations to cross to Uzbekistan.

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