Done the A470 to Brecon? Seen the Stelvio? Ridden in the Picos? Roared round the Dragon Tail?
Fancy something a bit….well, different?
Let us take you far, far from the madding crowds…
Tajikistan. It’s a place that surprisingly few people have heard of, and fewer have visited. Ask most people around the world, and they might tell you it’s in Central Asia, or perhaps even that it’s close to where “they keep the other stans”. It’s a country the size of the US state of Iowa (or about half the size of Italy), and yet only around 24,000 people visit it per year. That’s over 280 times less than visit the Vatican’s half square kilometre each year. But believe it or not, Tajikistan was rated as the world’s second fastest-growing tourist destination in 2016/17. Maybe you should see it before the masses descend?
On this trip, you’ll not only ride along much of the fabled Pamir Highway, but we’ll take you away from it and into valleys and ranges few others have reached. In two glorious, thrilling weeks of riding, you’ll follow roaring rivers, glimpse eagles and marmots, meet Kyrgyz nomads, clamber around 2000 year old Silk Road fortresses, experience rich Tajik, Kyrgyz and Persian cultures, bathe in magical hot springs, be humbled by incredible Pamiri kindness and hospitality and on every twist and turn of the road you’ll be left speechless by jaw-dropping mountain scenery.
This is epic, panoramic, unforgettable stuff – a series of superlatives that you will carry in your memory for years to come. It’s a proper blast of adventure, neatly packaged into a fortnight’s holiday allowance.
The riding is tough at times – this is no weekend jaunt to the Alps – more than half our itinerary is on dirt roads and much of it will be at altitudes of up to 4655 metres, but we guarantee that you’ll find this challenging, glorious, life-affirming, spectacular expedition leaves you with a taste for further Central Asian adventures. THIS ITINERARY IS ONLY SUITABLE FOR EXPERIENCED OFF-ROAD RIDERS. For those with less experience, might we suggest our Ultimate Pamir Highway trip as an alternative?
The bikes are well-maintained Suzuki DRz400 or Honda CFR250L dual-sport machines and we will have a mechanic travelling with us in the back-up vehicle at all times.
Note that these little bikes are perfect for the terrain, but they are not suitable for two-up pillion travel.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Dushanbe International Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please ensure you arrive in good time for the expedition to begin, as noted in the itinerary and subsequent information pack we will send to you after booking.|
- Suzuki Drz400 E/S or Honda CRF250L motorcycle, prepared and maintained for your use.
- All accommodation
- All meals
- Airport transfers
- Local English-speaking guide
- Back-up vehicle with mechanic
- Entry into local historical/cultural sites
- Filtered water
- Water-to-Go Filter bottle
- International flights to/from Dushanbe (we can book these for you via our ATOL partner, so just let us know if you’d like us to organise)
- Your riding equipment
- Refundable $500 deposit to cover scrapes and scratches to the bike
- Extra snacks
- Visas and other permits as required (Tajik visa, GBAO permit)
Please note that we will need to see your proof of holding a motorcycle licence – experience counts but we do need to see a licence too, please.
An epic two-week ride amongst some of the least-explored mountain ranges on earth. Superlative riding with a mixture of on and off road sections. Unforgettable.
Where will we be staying?
On this expedition, we’ll be staying in good hotels in Dushanbe, Khorog and Osh, guest houses or basic hotels in other towns, and more often in homestays with local people and their families. The homestay concept is widely accepted throughout Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – particularly the former – so these nights are often highly enjoyable glimpses into local customs and lifestyles. We also stay in yurts in a couple of locations on this trip.
We feel that true luxury is getting to know a place and its people, not necessarily measured by the thread count of the bed linen or the number of hotel restaurants.
Why have you chosen such small engined bikes?
In the words of our guide “the Pamir highway kills bikes”. And he should know! Our local guides have huge experience of working in these often hostile terrains, and after trying – and in most cases still owning – almost every type of bike imaginable (including the usual GS, KTM etc) have opted for the lightweight, mechanically simple and hugely robust duo of the Suzuki DRZ400S/E and the Honda CRF250L. These bikes all cope very well with the bumps and lumps and are comfortable both on and off the pegs. If your drop a bike, it likely won’t break and you’ll be able to pick it and yourself back up without needing a support team and a crane. We are huge fans.
How is this different to other itineraries in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan I’ve seen?
We’ve been doing this route for some time and we do it differently from others. Our groups are small and our focus is on travelling first and motorcycles second. This means our daily mileages are low as there is just too much to see to be tearing through at breakneck pace everywhere. Other tours cover our mileage in far less time, and we wish them well – it just isn’t our desire to rush through. Remember, our ethos is to take the time to stop, breathe and take it all in.
This route is the tougher brother to our Pamir Highway trip. This itinerary is rougher in road and accommodation and requires more experience. It is therefore better suited to groups of riders who may already have ridden together and know each otoehr well. This route was described by one of our previous customers – a man who had ridden off-road in more than 20 countries – as equal to the best off road riding he had done anywhere in the world. Put that in your exhaust and smoke it.
What will the weather be like?
A very difficult question to answer when traversing the fourth highest mountain range on earth. But, you can expect some hot days lower in the valleys and off the high plateaus – temperatures could be in 20-30C range or higher. At altitude, we have experienced every season in the course of a single day – warm sunshine followed by winds and rain, hail or snow on the passes and perhaps down to 0 degrees for a short period of time. In general, the rule of thumb is to expect warm days and cooler nights when we are out of the lowland areas.
What kit do I need to bring?
We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.
How do I choose what to wear on the bike?
This is really a matter of personal choice, as all riders have their own modus operandi. However, our experience says that good expedition boots are very useful. We don’t tend to ride using metal-toed dirt boots, but some do. We use an adventure-style boot that allows good ankle protection and is stiff with protection on the shins. In terms of lid; we tend to favour flip-front helmets that can be lowered when cold and raised quickly to meet and greet people along the way. Although we are there during the least-rainy season we tend to use a pull-on overcoat and trousers that are kept to hand for quick access. Under these we ride in a well-ventilated and elbow/shoulder/back/knee armoured bike jacket and trousers – the better ventilated the happier you will be! As already highlighted, most riders have their own tried and tested methods. Our simplest motto would be to layer for multiple weather types.
Is there a back-up vehicle?
Yes. We will travel with a 4×4 carrying filtered water and spares where necessary. We usually travel with a local spare rider in case of illness.
How much are flights?
This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. From London, the cheapest flights to Dushanbe might be via Moscow. We use Turkish Airlines via Istanbul because they are good, cost-effective connections. Costs are usually around the £550 mark, return. Again, we’ll send you an information pack containing all the information you need when you book a trip.
We can book your flights for you. We have an ATOL certificate so jut let us know if you’d like us to take the hassle from you.
What will the food be like?
Varied; the Pamir area is not particularly agriculturally inclined, mostly due to the precipitous nature of the topography, and often poor soils. But many of our homestay hosts pride themselves on making good meals for their guests, so we will be well looked-after. If you are a vegetarian, food can be a little dull (lots of bread, potatoes and eggs with salads) but perfectly acceptable. For meat-eaters, pilaf is the main dish. Usually rice and meat in one dish and often very tasty. Freshly made non (bread) is available almost everywhere and can be delicious. We try to ensure we have some treat foods in the back-up vehicle for picnics. In general we think food is a core part of any cultural experience and there are a good number of local dishes to try on our route.
Will I be affected by altitude?
Altitude can affect different people in different ways. It can also affect the same person in different ways from trip to trip. We will be spending quite a number of days above 3000 metres, and up on the Alichur and Murghab plateaus, often above 4000 metres. We also cross some high passes, with the Ak Baital being 4700m (over 15,000 ft). If you feel that you might suffer from altitude sickness, or have history of it, you should consider discussing this with your doctor prior to booking and travel. Diamox and other similar prescription drugs are available to ease symptoms, but the key way to address any onset of altitude sickness is to descend. Luckily, from anywhere particularly high, descent is possible rapidly thanks to our back-up vehicle. Our route is also planned to gain altitude in the smallest increments possible to aid acclimatisation. Simple precautions and awareness go a long way.
Will I have to share a room?
Yes, at times. There may be hotels and guest houses where we will have separate rooms and wherever possible we will arrange this, but there will also be times where we are staying at homestays or in yurts when there is no option but to share rooms. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring good earplugs and eyemasks, in case of snorers or the host family waking early.
Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?
Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone if there is any danger of being out of signal in the places we travel through. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.
Are the Bikes Insured?
The motorcycles are insured as per local law but in reality this doesn’t mean much. Insurance is effectively non-existent here and disputes are normally settled on the spot to mutual satisfaction. Our guides are there to help in these unlikely situations. Your own travel/personal insurance should cover you for riding a motorcycle of this size in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We take a $500 deposit against any scrapes and scratches, broken mirrors or indicators etc that are caused by drops or falls. Anything due purely to the road conditions isn’t your issue.
Is this really for me?
Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend two weeks of your life, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Travelling by motorbike is an inherently risky activity and to compound this, you will be travelling in a developing part of the world.
Not only could you be hurt, maimed or even killed but in the event of an accident it could take hours for the emergency services to reach you.
It will also be physically tiring.
We aren’t trying to put you off. But it’d be silly for you to turn up thinking that this was like a weekend road ride between 5* resorts. It is far better than that.
If you like your holidays to include foie gras, butlers and miles of quilted loo roll then please look elsewhere.
If however, you want a proper, unique and delightful experience that you’ll remember forever, then you are in luck as this is exactly what we have on offer here.