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I’m worth 13 cows?

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Day 35, Sat 06 June – Khorog Tourist/Afghanistan
Today is a big day!  I signed up for the Silk Road excursion for many reasons … the unique opportunity to ride across 9 Western Europe countries and 10 Silk Road countries, 17,000+ km, over a 2.5-month period and more specific the opportunity to ride in Iran and Afghanistan.

For many years Afghanistan has refused issuing visas to US citizens.  This year the visa restriction was lifted.  So eight GlobeRiders were awarded entry visas — the Lucky 8.

Several of our GlobeRider members were refused Iranian and Afghan visas.  i.e. Israel passport, a US citizen career military officer was rejected, and other decided not to apply for Afghan visa because of ISIS, Taliban and terror concerns.

So today eight riders spent an afternoon in a small Afghanistan village and concurrently, 2 riders whet on an independent ride along the Tajikistan/Afghan border and cross over a mountain pass to the Pamir Highway back to Khorog.

The VStrom takes 92 octane. TJS 5.40/liter = $0.86 USD/liter or $3.26 USD/gal

The Lucky 8 arrived at the “Friendship Bridge” (37.527941°, 71.503971°) that crosses the river into Afghanistan at 9AM.  It took 2 hours to exit Tajikistan immigration and customs.  We ride 200 meters across the iron bridge and now we do Afghan immigration & customs – 1 hour.  While we were waiting our clearance, two pickups pull into to the border checkpoint.  The first had a gun turret in the back-bed and the second … a dead body covered with a green blanket.  While our imaginations were running amuck, we later learn it’s a villager who drowned.
Our original plan was to ride to a lake/village 30 km in Afghanistan.  However, the Afghan border officers said “No, that area is dangerous!  You must stay here along the river.”  We turned right along the river on a horrible rocky dirt road and rode 6 km to a little village.
Some of the villagers were suspicious of us but most were curious of foreigners riding large motos.  One villager who spoke limited English quietly asked one of the riders, “Why are you here?  Don’t you know I can get 12 cows for you!”  The inference being, if he turned an American over to the Taliban, he would be rewarded 12 cows.
The Lucky Eight spent 2 hours walking and talking with the villagers.  I purchased an Afghan cap and was wearing it as I walked around.

The adult Afghanistan men were open and curious. The females were no where to be seen.

8 motos parked on a dirt Main Street.

Villager packing bags of snuff.

Everybody wants their photo taken. The guy on the right spoke good English and visited New York City.

At the street market, this man was selling birds..

Young men were friendly and curiuous..

School was a beehive of activity. The boys were out front everywhere, the girls hid their faces and disappeared.


I've always wanted an Afghan tribal pakol hat. This villager spoke english and helped me purchase the hat. It cost TJS50 or ~$8.00 USD.

As I walked around the village wearing the hat, these guys smiled and pointed to their hats and this photo.

After a couple hours, we rode south along the river to find a place to take an “Afghanistan group photo”.  The road turned to river sand and … down I went.  I official did a dirt dive in Afghanistan!  A hundred yards later, I did it again on the other side!  Guess I like to keep things symetrical.

Me riding out of the Afghan village. This stretch of the dirt road was in decent shape.

GlobeRiders Afghanistan 8 - L to R: Dean T, Kurt D, Ian C, Bob D, John R, Joe H, Gary S and Helge P

After the photo, we returned to the Afghanistan border to cross back into Tajikistan – it took approx 2 hours.  This one-day excursion was short but we have great memories of our time in a previously forbidden country … Afghanistan!!!!
The Lost Patrol
Kainan R and Bence H did not get Afghanistan visas.  So they decided to go out exploring on their own.  Kainan R (KTM1190) and Bence H (air-cooled R1200 GS) found out the hard way that the cross-over pass was snowed in and the bridge near the summit was washed out!  They were told that there was a good possibility that the road was closed.  They decided to go check it out anyway.  They had a satellite telephone, a Delorme InReach Sat Tracker with text messaging and their Garmin GPS units.
At 5PM they sent a DeLorme InReach Sat text message to all but Ken S happened to see it.  The message indicated, “we are hopelessly stuck at the bottom of a long grade.  It was not an emergency situation and we are going through our options.”
Apparently they had passed through many ice and snow banks crossing the mountain road.  Now they were in snow/mud bogs where their BMWs are getting sunk to the frame/saddlebags.   They had been going through a cycle of getting stuck, unpacking, dragging the motos out, standing the bike up, repacking, riding 10-15 meter only to get stuck again!  At the bottom was a larger river with the bridge was washed out.  There was no way to cross and no way to return back up the ice/snow covered steep grade.
Now a rescue operation began with Helge and his support staff.  With a sat phone, GPS and DeLorme InReach texting they walked 20+ km back up the way they came in and were rescued around 2AM by the GlobeRiders 4WD chase vehicle.
Day 36, Sun 07 June – Khorog to Murgab, 315 km (196 miles)
The rest of the GlobeRiders depart Khorog.  The Pamir Highway leaves the Pyanj River and continue north east to the 14,000 feet Ak-Baital Pass.

Patrick O on the Pamir Highway

A perfect day ... a road, a bike, a river, blue skies, snow capped mountains and no time limitations.

We saw this ol' cable & wood plank bridge.

Patrick O walked out on the planks and a car stops and a lady runs over, grabs Patrick to photo bomb the shot. She was yelling at her husband to take a photo too.

So far my favorite country for the people is Iran followed by Azerbaijan and Turkey.  My favorite country for riding is Tajikistan.
As I round a bend, I see Chris P parked in the center of the road on a spread out roll of carpet!  We’ve encountered some pretty strange things on the Silk Road.  But a large roll of commercial carpet played out on the Pamir Highway?????

I ride around a slow sweeper and find Chris P and moto parked on carpet in the middle of the road.

A few seconds later, John R joins him!

Today John M ran off the road, and endoed/flipped his water-cooled BMW R1200 GSA shearing off his windshield and bending some crash bars.  John doesn’t remember a lot but a nearby shepherd came to his aid getting his bike up and back on the road.  By this time Joe H noticed John was not behind him and returned.  Together Joe escorted John approx. 100 km to Murgab our next night’s stop.  Being extra careful about a possible concussion, John and his BMW rode in the chase vehicle the next day.
Lost Boys
Long story short …Today, Sun Jun 7, Kainan R and Bence H and chase vehicle got back to the hotel after we left.  After some sleep they decided to hire a huge industrial front-end loader to clear snow banks off the road and cut a new road around the bridge and carry the bikes across the river.  They also had to hire a chase vehicle for Shiree, Kainan’s wife.  The rescue attempt will take place tomorrow – Tue, June 9.
Pamir Hotel was the only thing in the village.  2 storied, many rooms with only 2 toilets and group showers (no hot water!).

Chris P flying by.

Ken S, Patrick O and me on the road summit of the 4,655 metres (15,272 ft) Ak-Baital Pass. it is the highest point of the M41/Pamir Highway.

Crossed into Kyrgyzstan over the 12,840 foot Kyzyl Art Pass.  Snow all around but the road was dry.

4280m (14,042 foot) Kyzyl-Art Pass

Kyzyl-Art Pass. We just rode through the notch in background center. Beautiful blue sky day.

Border crossing from Tajikstan into Kyrgyzstan took ~4 hours in the harsh cold wind and light snow.  Most of the time was waiting for the Kyrgyzstan chase vehicle exchange.  It was ~40km of dirt and mud road between the two border stations.
We stop mid-day at Karakul Lake, Kyrgyzstan.  This lake was created by a meteor ~10 million years ago.

Karakul Lake, Kyrgyzstan - Created 10 million years ago by a meteor hit.

Gary S taking a break.

These girls were playing a hand/pebble game kinda like jacks. Took a minute to convince them to let me take their photo.

This section of the Pamir Hwy was potholed, muddy, and radical washboard!  In a 30 km stretch of washboard, my Strompasours’ engine started cutting out!  When I got to smoother gravel or sand, the engine ran strong, but, when the road turned washboard again, the engine lost power again.  At first I thought it was fuel starvation/my fuel pump going bad.  But, I noticed the GPS was cycling off/on/off/on.  I was able to maintain a 60-70 kph speed to stay with the group to the Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan border crossing.  Since the loss of power happened during violent shaking, my suspicion was battery terminals.  And yes, the negative terminal’s bolt was loose!  When I encountered washboard, the cyclic jarring was enough to break contact and momentarily kill the engine.
No hotels in Sary-Tash.  We stayed at Aygul’s Guesthouse & Yurt Camp!  A third of the riders slept in yurts and the others in a guest home.  No running water, no heat, and the single toilet was an outhouse with a slit in the floor!  There was a wash basin but ran out of water.  No bath or shower.

Aygul's Guesthouse & Yurt Camp, Sary-Tash, Kyrgyzstan

The guest house is on the left.

The outhouse is the little building in center right. It’s a long walk in the rain!

Outhouse - straddle the slit and take great care not fall in OR to drop flashlight, TP, glasses, wallet, keys, hat, etc. into the pit of despair.

Lost Boys

Today the front-end loader used all the diesel fuel clearing the road but did not get the bikes across the river.  The rescue attempt continues tomorrow.

“What is the most important item to take with you on an around-the-world adventure ride?”
Some of you might ask this question.My response is, “TP/toilet paper!”  It’s neatly packaged in a waterproof ziplock baggie and located in the front left pocket of my riding jacket.  When not riding, it’s in my left back pocket.  A backup waterproof ziplock baggie of TP is located in my left saddlebag pannier.

FYI: throughout the entire Silk Road 12,800 km (8,000 mile) route, 60% of the toilets did not have TP!

Every one of the Silk Road riders has had an occasional episode of the “Silk Road Squirts.”  We are eating a lot of strange (to us) yet wonderful foods with unique flavors, spices, aromas … and I try everything.  In every city/village there is a street market in which several of us wonder and consume foods of all kinds. With all-the-gear all-the-time riding, adventure riders cannot travel efficiently with diarrhea.

So the second most important item …  Imodium.

“Praise the lord and pass the Imodium!”

The Strompasourus is holding its own!
Out of 18 bikes, only 2 are non-BMW.  Kainan R’s KTM and my 2004 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000.  The Strompasourus has been a workhorse.  Rebuilding the Olin rear shocks and Hyperpro front socks was worth every penny!  In Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan I experienced 7 days of the worse possible roads with potholes, gravel, shale, sand, rocks, washboard, mud, water crossings and surprise whoops that got both wheels off the ground.  The front wheel, engine skid plate and center stand took many hard hits.

The Strompasourus just keeps trucking' along. I did not do an oil change or tire change for the entire 10,800 mile ride.

Helge did not want me to ride a Suzuki V-Strom because of the cast aluminum wheels.  Aluminum wheels on the Pamir Highway is an invitation to disaster if a big rock or pothole appears at speed and cracks the aluminum wheel!  At the time there was another V-Strom rider and together we convinced Helge that we would take it easy.  But Helge’s final word was “if you crack your wheel, its up to you to get your bike back to Xi’an in time for the return shipment.”  I agreed to this arraignment.

So with the thoughts of a cracked rim behind every route, line, speed decision, I gained a reputation of being the slowest rider of the GlobeRiders group.

Well, after the Pamir Hwy crossing, my front wheel has 2 significant bent wheel rim areas.  There are no rim cracks and the tire is holding air.  I check it daily.One of my HID headlamps has burnt out.  This is not a problem since we do not ride at night and the one HID left gives me plenty of awareness.
My Jesse Panniers (saddlebag) are proving their ruggedness!  They were squished in Alaska and rebuilt.  In 2011/2012 I took many dirt naps in Central & South America.  While the bags are no longer square, the covers still close and are somewhat watertight.  There are hair-line fractures in the corners where I had to bang the cases back to square with a big rock.  Still the covers still manage to close and lock.
My confidence and riding ability has improved immensely!  There are several excellent riders and following them is like going to school.
¾ of the riders have hit the dirt at least once!  I’ve had 6 dirt naps. Several riders have 20+ dirt naps.  This type if riding requires absolute attention to the road.  Any distractions or loss of concentration and you can find yourself in a classic dirt dive.  Most of these are tip overs … lost of balance while coming to a stop.
James M and his 2013 BMW F800 GS went down in the rain Turkey.  A couple weeks later the SWmotech saddlebags fell off on the Pamir Highway.  The main support bolts sheared off from all the stress.  This was fixed with new support bolts.
Joe H’s water-cooled BMW R1200GSA has blown both front and rear stock shocks along with a bent front rim.  Joe is an incredible rider and in his early days raced everything with 2-wheels.
Patrick O’s water-cooled BMW R1200GSA is on a truck to Xi’an — possible broken piston rings.  It sounds horrible!  Patrick will finish his Silk Road adventure in the chase vehicle.
John R’s water-cooled BMW R1200 GSA has blown 2 headlight bulbs.  John had backup headlamps.
Terry G’s water-cooled BMW R1200GSA had a rear tubeless tire go flat by Murgab.  He attempted to patch with sticky rope plugs but missed the original leak, planting the sticky rope a fraction off the leak.  The leak continued even after 2nd & 3rd sticky ropes were placed.  He replaced the tire with a used tire only to get another flat the next day.  This time sticky rope plugs did the job (so far).  Over half the riders had new tires waiting for them in Tajikistan.  All used tires that had tread were saved for emergency use.
Kainan’s KTM has had a half-dozen flats.  He’s so proficient at fixing flats that he’s back on the road in 20-30 minutes.
Marty & Billy’s BMW with sidecar is doing fantastic.  I’m amazed how Marty handles that rig over these challenging roads.  They did have wheel-bearing problems with the sidecar wheel but were able to replace it.  The constant pounding of the Pamir Hwy’s dirt, gravel and rocky road caused two taillight wires to short and blew the fuse.  Bob D helped Marty trouble shoot and fix the problem.
13 cows indeed!  The adventure continues.  Tommorow we “wait” our way into China.
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