The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of eastern Tajikistan -- sandwiched between Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and China -- covers an area roughly the size of West Virginia, but for all intents and purposes, it has only one road.
Actually, "road" is a bit of an exaggeration. Maps alternately list it as M41 -- its old marking from when it was part of the Soviet Union -- or the Pamir Highway, but there are no signs, and hardly any paved blacktop. If you're planning to travel on it, it's a good idea to check before you leave to make sure it hasn't been closed once again as a result of a landslide or civil unrest.
It's also extremely rough, winding around and sometimes over steep mountains that are both jaw-droppingly beautiful and apt to leave you out of breath if you're not used to spending time at such high elevations.
Coincidentally, this was also precisely the type of terrain that our 1-liter Nissan Micra hatchback was not suited to handle. One of our friends had described it as a car "that you would expect a 60-year-old woman to drive to the supermarket twice a week," and now we were pushing it to ever-greater extremes, keeping our fingers crossed that it would somehow persevere. So we weren't totally surprised when our luck eventually ran out.
We had momentarily breathed a sigh of relief when a mechanic in Uzbekistan managed to replace our failing head gasket, giving our car a new lease on life. But the repair job was shotty, and new problems soon developed.
After a chilly night of camping at 13,000 feet, we tried starting the car back up to continue on our way, but it wouldn't budge, and it was too steep for our friends Rosi and Jane to tow us back to the main road. We were incredibly remote, so it took several hours of waiting before some other people finally came along and offered to help.
That wasn't the end of our problems, though. It seems we hadn't had enough adventures in our day, cause then we faced even more challenges, from figuring out how to safely drive our towed car in violation of all the sorts of regulations that would exist back home, to mending our broken tow rope, to getting stuck once again in the absolute middle of nowhere.
Check out episode 17 of Far From Home to find out how we manage to get out of this one!
Finally, if you're interested in learning more about some of the gear I used to record this podcast, check out the latest Tascam Capture Your Art podcast, where I was a guest.
Thanks for listening!
photos by Drew Gurian