Trip Report: Pamir Highway, Dushanbe to Osh

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Trip Report: Pamir Highway, Dushanbe to Osh

Post by muteki »

Crossposted from LP's Thorn Tree forum:

Late May/early June, 2014:
Dushanbe: I flew into Dushanbe, Tajikistan from Moscow and stayed at Yeti Hostel, the first and only real hostel in Dushanbe, which was a great place to meet other travellers. I highly recommend it, though it can be a bit tricky to find at first. It’s across the street from Saodat, close to the #8 marshrutka stop at the second roundabout coming from the city. Look up directions beforehand. It’s about 10-15 ride from the city, but there are restaurants and a supermarket nearby. You can also rent the movie theatre next door for very cheap and pick from their English-language movie selection! You only need a day or so to see the main sites in the city (Museums, Rudaki Park, etc), all of which are very close to or on Rudaki, the main street. Marshrutkas are between 1 and 3 somoni depending on distance and whether it’s a car or minivan.

Pamir Highway Tour: I joined an existing trip with two other people, which was organised through Pamir Highway Adventures / META, run by Ubaidulla Mamadiev and guided by his three sons. This part of the trip was very well organised and I can recommend their service, although the communication about the visa and obtaining the GBAO permit was a bit confusing at first. I got the visa on my own, but tried to get the GBAO permit while in Dushanbe. In the end, the company covered it, but it wasn’t clear from the emails that they would do it, so I wound up wasting time and $4 trying to get it before we met up with a guide.

They allowed us to opt out of the first and last day’s hotel reservations, which saved a little money since Yeti was much cheaper and I was Couchsurfing in Osh later. Our guide, the middle son, was a great guy and spoke very good English. Our car was roomy for three, comfortable and well able to handle the sometimes rough roads. We were also able to make some changes to our itinerary mid-trip with no problem.

Homestays: We did mostly homestays and some guesthouses, most of which were great but a few of which left a lot to be desired. The better ones were in Yamchun and Karakul, the not-so-good ones in Murghab and then Langar, where my two companions got very bad food poisoning. I’m not sure how many there are in each town, but these were arranged through Pamir Highway Adventure.

Food: Dinner and breakfast were usually arranged through the homestays, and sometimes lunch as well. I was able to eat vegetarian almost everywhere, mostly yogurt and milk products, eggs, and plov made with the meat on the side for my companions. I also eat fish, so sometimes that was an option as well. It helped to have a local guide to explain what vegetarian meant, since a lot of places would not have been able to provide it otherwise.

On Independent Travel: We saw a bunch of people cycling, and I can say that I’m impressed and admire these people a lot! It looks like there are plenty of places to stay along the road, and most cyclists we talked to found accommodation instead of having to camp. This is only the start of the season, though. It’s also possible to hitchhike and find space in jeep tours: we sold our space seat to a guy from the hostel in Dushanbe for two days of driving, and he covered his own accommodation and meals. It’s definitely cheaper to do this, but if you’re on a tight schedule or not comfortable on your own, it’s better to join a tour. There are also shared taxis that do the whole route, though they stop at more major places like Khorog or Murghab. I saw many shared taxis going between Murghab and Osh, for example. You can also meet people at hostels to share rides with, or hitchhike.

Some information from travellers who took shared taxis and hitchhiked:
Osh - Murghab about 1500 Kyrgyz som / US$28
Murghab - Khorog 130-200 som / US$26-$40
Accommodation in Khorog: Pamir Lodge, 45 somoni w/o meals, 60 w/meal (US$9/$12)
Hitchhiked in Wakhan area. It’s expected to pay for ride, amount dependent on distance.

Budget: From my understanding, the homestays along the Pamir Highway are around US$10-$20 each. Meals are under US$5, easily. Not sure about transportation. Since we paid for a tour it was much more expensive, but very comfortable and reliable.

Highlights: The scenery along the entire route is beautiful and well worth it to see. There’s a lot of variety and each area is different. Out of places to stay, Karakul (Black Lake) in Tajikistan was a great choice for two nights. The town has two homestays next to each other, which are a 10-15 minute walk from the lake. Personally, my favourite scenery was between Kalaikumb and Khorog, Wakhan Valley, and between Langar and Murghab. The scenery near the Kyrgyz border was also very impressive. It’s all different, and all beautiful. You should go.
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