Our fifth week on the road to Mongolia was full of troubles. The car broke down a few times while driving the Pamir highway and this time it was not just about the exhaust. We lost one of the two rear windows which detached from the car and fell on the unpaved road, crashing in millions of pieces. The high vibrations also made the support of the engine loose and we almost lost that too. Finally, one suspension broke completely and we were left with only one of them working in the back of our car. The exhaust broke for the sixth time, falling apart in three separate pieces. Overall, the Pamir highway (which I still don’t understand why is referred to as highway) took a very heavy toll on Astropanda. We were on our way to Khorog when we had the engine trouble and we managed to reach the city where we got that safely fixed back to the chassis and the exhaust welded for the 5th time. We drove less than 200 km before the exhaust broke again and a few kilometers after we hit a rock along the road which caused the right rear suspension to break. At that time, we were at about 130 km from Murgab, the closest big center where we could have it fixed. That meant to drive at a top speed of 20km/h for the whole distance and reach Murgab well into the night. Needless to say, our head almost exploded by the the piercing noise coming from the broken exhaust.
The next morning we had it welded by a local mechanic but when we got presented the bill for the job done, a big argument started. We were asked 50 USD for a very simple welding that I could have done by myself. We knew that the price for a new suspension would be about 20 dollars so when the young man told us his price, we argued a lot about it. In the end we paid 20 dollars and we left Murgab while the mechanic swore at us. Luckily enough we did not hear a single word coming from his mouth as we still did hadn’t fix the exhaust, so the only thing that we could hear was the thundering sound of Astropanda hitting the road again. To fix also the exhaust, we would have to drive another 350km to reach Osh, in Kyrgysztan, where a nice man welded the 3 pieces back together and added a few additional pieces of metal to strengthen the weakest points where the exhaust usually broke.
Talking about the trip itself, I cannot fail to mention how beautiful the Pamir highway is. We drove from Dushanbe to Murghab passing through Kulob, Kevron, Khorog, Eshkashem and Vrang. Basically we followed the Panj river along the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan and had a wonderful time driving through the Wakhan valley. The landscape of that that valley is simply amazing and we were stopping the car every few hundred meters to take pictures and make videos of all that natural beauty. We were also extremely amused by the hospitality of the people in every little village that we drove through. Instead of fearing the police to stop us and ask for bribes, we were waved at by everyone while crossing rural areas. Ricky, still with us, ventured outside ot the road to go explore the remains of a war tank and got stuck between the rocks, falling from his motorbike and ending up waiting for us to reach the point where he was and help him to lift the over 200 kilos of his motorbike.
That same night we reached Darmorah, a village between Khorog and Eshkasheem, and we stopped at a place similar to a guesthouse. We could hear the noise of some very lively chatting coming from the back of the building, a few steps uphill, right beside a nice waterfall. A group of Tajik guys were sitting there and having fun on a random Saturday night between beers and some puffs of hash (Afghanistan was literally 100 mt from us, just over the river, so the funny stuff was truly funny). They invited us to seat at their table and continued to roll on and on, despite the fact that our heads were totally spaced out and for a brief moment I thought that Duffy Duck and Peter Pan were sitting beside me.
The best food we tried in Tajikistan is called Korutob (again my spelling of this name may fail, but is sounded something like that). It is a typical dish prepared with old bread soaked in yogurt sauce and garnished with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onions and parsley. Veeery tasty and definitely one of the best foods we’ve tried so far in all the countries we drove through.