Along the Pamir Highway from Khorog to Murghab
My driver and I left Khorog around 7am for the 317km drive to Murghab. His English was about as good as my Russian, so our conversations were reduced to announcing toilet stops and lunch. But he was a very good driver. We gave a ride to an Israeli couple for the first two hours who started a 10 day trek in the Pamirs.
The road condition on the M41 (Pamir Highway) was way better than expected and for the next 300km we cruised along while admiring the scenery.
Also known as the Heroin Highway because of the amounts of drugs smuggled on the route, the highway was built by the Soviets to facilitate quicker movement of troops. It is the second highest altitude international highway in the world (going up to 4655m) – the Karakoram Highway connecting China and Pakistan is higher. Back in 2008 I traveled on the Leh-Manali Highway. While not international, it was significantly higher, going up to 5’328m.
The highest pass we crossed was about 4200 masl. We stopped briefly for pilav in Alichur in the middle of nowhere. It is really a harsh environment these people live in, even during summer. I don’t want to imagine what it is like in winter. We (there was a Japanese tourist driving in another car) talked to a young man from Alichur who spoke very good English. I asked him how they survive the winters there?
A thick jacket and some vodka will save your ass
We reached Murghab at around 4pm. The town is not scenic at all. I doubt many tourists stop here for more than one night. Together with a Japanese roommate I set off to explore what little Murghab has to offer.
I initially contemplated spending two nights here but quickly made up my mind to continue the next morning bright and early.