On Monday 4th June we left Khorog to head off for the Wakham Valley. We phaffed around a bit before leaving Khorog to try and extend our special passes for the Pamirs, extend our Megafon SIM cards and also to get the wheels on the car rotated. We concluded that we did not need to bother extending our Pamir passes and we failed to sort out the SIM cards but we did manage to get the wheels rotated!
I felt that the BF Goodrich Tyres were getting such a hammering that they needed all the help they could get and it looked as though the front pair were wearing more than the rear.
The route we had opted to take down the Wakham Valley was a popular choice but it was off the main M41 for the first section. I was a bit apprehensive 😩 after our earlier experiences, particularly as the altitude was creeping up day by day. However we should not have worried as the roads were much better than the previous few days and we travelled between 40-60kms/h rather than 20-40kms/h. We covered the planned 100kms quite quickly in spite of taking on a succession of local hitchhikers in the back of the car. Two women who had been shopping and had a long ride with us gave us a loaf of local bread which was very welcome as we failed to pick up a loaf before we left Khorog.
On arrival at Ishkashim we popped into the only rather down at heel cafe in town, to order something hot to eat. It was there that we met Jean-Paul and his wife Norsiah from Singapore (French and Singapore) who were following the same route (with a driver and a rather smart Landcruiser) who seemed to be just our cup of tea!
We hoped to bump into them again over the coming days - as one does on this route. They had also been up to the homestay village that we had trekked up to in the Bartang Valley, so we are certainly not being original in our choices!
At around 4pm in the afternoon we decided to head off for another 50-60kms so that we could do more stopping the following day and perhaps try a bit of a walk at the higher altitudes. The Wakham is famous for its ancient forts overlooking the Panj (Oxus) River.
So we had fun looking out for them in the small hamlets we passed through and we stopped at weird shrines with Marco Polo sheep skulls and horns.
We were having a happy day with the amazing mountains being constantly framed through the car windscreen and Jim was feeling better - hurrah!
Plus Afghanistan was still with us as we drove along and I spied Afghan children bathing in the Panj.
We later stopped and chatted to a couple of massive bearded and shaved headed Ukrainian guys (Alex and Valentine) on monster motorbikes and took a photo for them in their trademark weird astronaut pose and leathers.
Little did we realise that only 15 minutes later we were to meet them again in horrendous circumstances. The fab roads swiftly deteriorated and although not full of potholes, they were very pebbly with large pebbles in the road surface. This was ok for Landy, but did not work well for cyclists and evidently not for motorbikes. I guess they had become a bit blasé because we had had such a good long stretch of tarmac without many potholes and sadly one of the guys took a massive tumble.
As we turned a corner we saw a sorry sight. A massive bike on its side in the middle of the road and a collection of belongings and bike faring strewn around the road. One of the men was perched on a rock and did not look too good. The other one was just gathering himself and wondering what to do. We were witnessing a real predicament.
You will realise that we are seriously remote here, surrounded by mountains and dotted around are tiny Wakhan villages with no hospitals or medical facilities close at hand.
Taking stock, it was obvious that Alex who had taken a severe tumble needed an ambulance and to lie down. His friend Valentine helped him down off the rock and tried to make him comfortable by the side of the road. This was not easy as he was in pain down a lot of his right hand side including his back, an arm and a leg. Luckily he was reasonably alert and had no head injuries or bleeding and Valentine, the son of a Doctor, felt, after checking his pulse and various other indicators that he was in no immediate danger. Indeed, bizarrely he was still wondering if the trip was still viable in spite of the bike being damaged and his friend in bits!
We had turned up a couple of minutes after the spill and we stayed with them from 5.30pm until after nightfall when first responders and the ambulance turned up around 9.30!
Alex was in a lot of pain and I had dosed him up on Paracetamol and Ibruprophen and made him copious cups of sweet tea until the first responders arrived a few hours later (7.30) with their stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors.
He had injured an arm, a leg and his back so he was very uncomfortable and unable to move from his propped up position on the roadside. Given the pain he was experiencing I guess their trip ends there.
His friend Valentine made him as comfortable as he could and we helped as best we could, but it was quite hard watching him wait for help so long in pain. That help had to come from a couple of hours away. Luckily the men both spoke Russian and that helped massively as they worked their way through the formalities.
Not long after the accident, a minibus full of Wakhani people passed and stopped, so the men helped to move the damaged bike off the road and advised on garages to take it away for repair. The women were friendly and concerned but still found time to take selfies of themselves, the crash site and the rest of us and exchanged phone numbers with Jim.
They all stayed for a couple of hours until the first responders had reached us. The local knowledge was really helpful for Valentine. At this time it was still light and reasonably warm, however as the sun went down and the wind came up, it became dark and sand off the road was blowing in Alex’s face. We had him all tucked up in sleeping bags and emergency blankets to keep him warm.
For the first time since Europe, Jim and I got out our warmer coats and I made myself comfortable at Alex’s side in my camping chair and eventually also with our portable camping light.
There was so much to be done and we were glad that we had the PECTA agency number on us which we rang, who could advise Valentine from Khorog on getting the ambulance out.
It got darker and darker and no help arrived at the roadside until finally the first responders piled out of an old Landcruiser (much like ours) which was then parked as a windbreak to protect Alex on the ground.
He had to wait a further two hours for the ambulance and doctor to arrive and soon after Jim and I drove on to find a place to park for the night.
Poor Valentine could not leave till he had sorted out the damaged bike. Then he planned to go by bike back, alone, in the dark on hazardous roads to Ishkashim to support Alex. We offered to wait and go with him but he turned down the offer. We later learnt from other travellers that Valentine did not arrive at Ishkashim until 3am and then he immediately went to the hospital to see Alex.
So we left when Alex had been given more painkillers and had been transferred into the ambulance and then we drove on a further 15kms in the total dark until we came to the next village and we parked the car alongside a noisy stream and set up camp without dinner! We were so relieved to have been there for them and happier that it was not us needing help this time!