Dushanbe To Bishkek
If there’s one word to describe the last month there can only really be one – Mountainous.
We had been looking forward to reaching the dizzy heights of Tajikistan and making music on ‘the roof of the world’ as the locals call the Pamir Highway ever since we dreamed this trip up in our favourite London greasy spoon. Thankfully it never came close to disappointing.
Everything has a different feel at 4,000+ metres. The temperature difference from day to night is big – blazing sunshine beats down on you in the day but come dusk the temperature plummets and the wind picks up leaving you exposed to the elements until the sun is high in the sky once more. The atmosphere is extremely thin, giving the landscapes and sky a bright surreal quality. The stars at night are unbelievably vivid with the Milky Way cutting a easy-to-spot stripe across the darkness. Each day you climb a little higher, pushing you further from civilisation and closer to the isolated communities of the Pamir and new lunar landscapes to feast your eyes on.
All these elements come together giving you a powerful sense of remoteness and isolation. Yes, there is a road but hours go by without seeing any other traffic and the silence is deafening. As the old song goes ‘noise flies high, but no one’s there to see it’. The entire month felt like we’d been catapulted into the future to the end of humanity’s time on earth. The further we rolled from the Tajik capital, the more dramatic the landscape became. Jagged, ominous looking rocks surrounded us as we meandered through river valleys and over passes. For a long stretch of our Journey through the mountains, the road follows the Afghanistan border with only a river separating us and a landmass we associate with war and danger growing up. Now we couldn’t be closer without actually being there – the sight of remote villages full of mud huts a short distance away adding to the over arching feeling of distance between us and home.
Against this dramatic backdrop we of course had one thing on our minds: Making music. There’s something magical about the harsh contrast of electronic musical loops, drones and arpeggios against the backdrop nature’s most extreme environments. This juxtaposition fuelled our creativity and after picking spots carefully, the tranquillity of lakes and yurts giving us our platforms, we laid down our tracks. There was no better way to fill the deafening silence of the Pamirs than whipping out the instruments and putting a soundscape to these lunar landscapes.
Reaching our highest point of 4,650m at the Ak Baital pass, it was finally time to start thinking about coming down and leaving Tajikistan for pastures new. For us this was our final Central asian country; Kyrgyzstan. Descending across the border, we rolled away from the Pamirs with the now snow covered peaks looming large in our rear view mirrors. Taking stock from a distance really makes you realise just where you have been for the past three weeks. Having completed this part of the journey and looking back, we realised that not only was it a physical challenge but also an emotional experience. While the scenery is undoubtedly breathtaking and the route magnificent, it was certainly gruelling and not for the faint hearted. There are challenges to overcome to go along with the journey’s rich rewards.
After crossing into Kyrgyzstan, we raced toward Bishkek to catch a flight to New Delhi. Feeling relaxed after our mountainous sojourn we moved through the gears hitting Osh for a post-Pamir rest before completing our journey to the Kyrgyzstan capital.
Sitting in Bishkek with craft beers in hand we contemplated the first six months of the trip – leaving Hackney in London, crossing 2 subcontinents and getting all the way to Bishkek. With so much more to come, we couldn’t be more excited. India awaits, somebody fetch the sitar…