This is an extract from my account of the The Khan Teams Mongol Rally. It is the tale of 3 cars and 6 people’s attempt to drive from England to Mongolia. Our route was to take us 10,000 miles and through 18 countries We did so for the experience, adventure and to raise money for the Cool Earth charity.

The story so far: All 3 of our cars have made it to Tajikistan. We spent the last night in a Homestay in the town of Khorog. We arise and push further along the high altitude Pamir Highway.

Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

Paminr Highway, Tajikistan

Day 26 – Homestay Tearoom Fish 

August 8th 2013 – Alichur

On the map Jelandy boasts some hot springs. In reality it is a small group of disparate houses that don’t even have a town sign to unify or identify them. Unfortunately when we set out from Khorog this morning this is where we had agreed to meet. This is also where we failed to meet.

I am assuming that this is why I am now at the top of the Koy-Tezek pass on the Pamir highway on my own. I Know I Khan has been behaving very well since the bodged bearing, but for about the seventh time in the last couple of hours she has got a little hot. This would be less frustrating if I wasn’t at 4,272 meters and feeling more than a little unusual. I open the door and walk slowly to the bonnet before returning to my seat with equal measure. I haven’t seen another car in about an hour and I am not sure I Know I Khan is going to make it over the small climb that lays ahead of me. Ten minutes later I Know I Khan’s temperature seems to have dropped to an acceptable level to attempt the assent. The climb itself should be no trouble — a small matter of 50 meters — but two-thirds of the way up the rutted road is covered by a four or five meter stretch of sand. I Know I Khan is only a two-wheel drive and is not keen on sand. The small sandy section of road looms ever larger as I struggle up the hill. I feel the rocky track change to soft sand under I Know I Khan’s wheels. All is going well until I feel large rut that was submerged in the sand hit the undercarriage and momentarily pause our progress. Nothing for it but to put my foot to the floor. For two or three seconds I am a stationary sand storm. Just as it seems I am high and dry, a new noise emanates from below me. I Know I Khan has managed to dig deep enough to find some rocks. Her tyres grip and slowly – very, very slowly — her front wheels edge out of the sand and onto the track. We creep to the summit where I would have collapsed with relief except collapsing with relief would have been too tiring at this altitude. I just carry on driving.

Huge, jagged mountains rise out of the smooth desert. A vast snow-white pool stains the desert floor, the salty remnants of an evaporated lake. The track loops down to the desert floor, and I continue my journey hoping to find my teammates and benzin at the first village after the pass. Unfortunately there is no sign of my teammates at Alichur. There is, however, benzin and a homestay. The sun will be setting in a couple of hours, and not knowing the condition of the roads I feel it would be unwise to attempt to drive at night. Three large words are painted on a nearby white wall ‘Homestay tearoom fish’, enough to lure anyone in and I head for an opening in the wall. I am greeted and booked into the homestay by a young lady called Aisha. Maybe my perception is tainted by relief having survived todays’ hair-raising drive, my first experience of high altitude and seemingly being abandoned by my teammates, but Aisha has one of the most beautiful and welcoming smiles I have ever seen.

Alichur is a mishmash of white or mud single-floor buildings that dogs and cows roam freely between. I am befriended by a young man called Daniel, who helps translate as I talk to villagers. He offers me tea at his family home. I remove my shoes, then I am ushered through a small dark hallway into a large, dark room. The circumference is cushioned with the exception of one corner, where the stove sits. Daniel’s brother, Baha, sits cross-legged in the near darkness listening to loud rap music on his phone. And so it is that at 4,000 meters in Tajikistan in near dark, whilst Daniel’s mum prepares tea on a wood-burning stove I play Faithless on my iPhone to Baha.

Day 26

A roadside village on the Pamir Highway near Khorog.

Lunar lanscape near Alichur, Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

Lunar lanscape near Alichur, Pamir Highway.

Portrait of a young Tajik woman, Alichur, Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

A welcoming smile. Aisha in Alichur

Day 26c

A Tajik cooking stove. Daniel’s house Alichur

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