Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway is one of the world’s most famous routes for the adventurous bicycle tourist. Its stunning scenery is rewarding, but the challenging terrain can be a true test of your endurance.
Because of the high altitudes and extreme climate, most people tackle this route through Central Asia in the more temperate summer months, but a few brave souls show up on the edge of winter – as Christine McDonald did.
In this edition of 10 Questions, she shares her experiences of cycling the Pamir Highway in November.
1. The Pamir Highway is quite a challenging ride; how did you prepare for the trip?
The truth is that we didn’t! We flew into Kyrgyzstan hoping to get a Chinese visa there and ride across the Tibetan plateau, but because it was the year of the Olympics in Beijing, we weren’t able to get visas. At that point, we hadn’t even heard of the Pamir highway. I don’t remember where I read it, but somewhere it was written that “the Pamir Highway is like the Karakorum highway on steroids.” That was what made our minds up.
In terms of gear, we were well-prepared for rough roads and cold mountain weather since those were always part of the plan. We had heavy down sleeping bags, down coats, gore-tex jackets and mittens. Our bikes were rugged mountain bikes and we hauled bob trailers instead of using panniers as these help take the stress of the back wheel of the bike and let you pile a pretty much unlimited load of stuff on top!