After leaving the Lake Bulunkul area, we were nearing the end of our time in Tajikistan. The drive would continue into Kyrgyzstan but Orzu was not able to cross this border so we would be saying goodbye to him today and meeting our new Kyrgyz driver for the final days of the trip.
We headed further east towards the town of Murghab, which was just outside the Badakhshan National Park boundary. Along the way, we had some good photo stops to see wildlife and the changing landscape.
Murghab is the highest town in Tajikistan in terms of elevation at 3650m. We could see the landscape transitioning from the vast open plains to mountains.
Once we stopped in Murghab, we could see a marked difference in the culture and ethnic background of the people in the area. In this area, Chinese and Mongolian influences were much more apparent than the Russian influences we had noticed in Tajikistan. We only made a brief stop so unfortunately, we didn’t have time to look around the town market, which was made up of shipping container stores. This is where we said goodbye to Orzu and met our new driver. We also swapped vehicles to a bigger 4×4 that looked like it had seen some serious offroad action. Unfortunately, we had a pretty significant language barrier with our new driver but he was still a very friendly guy.
As we continued north towards the Kyrgyz border, we continued to climb in elevation. It was hard to fathom how high we were but in comparison, we climbed to 5380m to Everest Base Camp and the highest point along the Pamir Highway is the Ak Baital Pass at 4655m.
After crossing the pass, we caught our first glimpses of Lake Karakul. In contrast to the deep teal colour of Lake Bulunkul, Lake Karakul was a much brighter blue.
With the sun out, the lake and the mountains really looked spectacular. We passed more yurt camps along the way before arriving at our guesthouse in the village.
As I mentioned in the previous post, it is pretty challenging to attempt the Pamir Highway without a prearranged driver or lots of time to organize rides along the way. Although the scenery was spectacular, there wasn’t much to do in the villages and few people to communicate with to organize transportation, making for long days for the people we met who were travelling independently. At our guesthouse, we met a Belgian couple who had been stuck in the village for several days trying to arrange a ride. Because we were now in the larger 4×4, it was possible for our driver to secure all our luggage to the roof and make room for them in the back seats. We could only take them to the town of Sary-Tash on the Kyrgyz border though because of Kyrgyz restrictions on the number of tourists that can be driven in one vehicle. After some wheeling and dealing between everyone involved, we agreed on a fair price they would contribute and that everyone’s luggage would go up-top. You could tell the Belgian couple was happy to be moving on to the next town where they would have more options for rides. They were also very happy to discover Steve was a big fan of Belgian beers and told us to look them up next time we head to Belgium!