Preparing for a trip is never an easy task, let alone to a region far less travelled by an every-day adventurer. It takes planning to a whole new level. There's a huge amount of meticulous research and organisation involved that could ultimately mean the difference between completing the project, injury or even death. Pair this with the task of learning an entirely new camera system (Matt) and testing how far we could push these cameras in different situations, it was clear we had our work cut out for us.
The hard-core planning and preparation however was well worth it as we have been gifted a rare opportunity to travel and document a land far from peoples’ imagination. The allure of 7000m+ mountains and valleys had us hyped and the leaving date was within sight.
Let us take you through our preparation for our journey to the roof of the world:
After countless hours trawling the internet, scrolling travel blogs, emailing previous explorers and tediously plotting GPS coordinates, our route was set.
With the ease and availability of the World Wide Web, one could be fooled into believing a simple Google search would provide all the information needed to plan a trip anywhere bar Antarctica. However, just when we thought our route was settled, we encountered another logistical bump in the road that without amendment, would have a major impact on the trip.
The most significant bump came with our car hire. The original plan was to arrive in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, pick up our hire car, drive the Pamir Highway and finish off in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. From our research we believed this to be possible. We were perhaps too hasty in booking our flights trying to ensure our total transit time was a casual 26 hours and not 47, which many were. A few emails later we learnt that it's actually not possible to leave the car in Tajikistan, meaning we would be forced to drive back into Kyrgyzstan to drop it off and fly back to Tajikistan. Ultimately completing a full circle.
Check it out here.
Now for the fun stuff…. If you haven't already, go check out our gear page HERE. It’s hard to believe that so much ‘stuff’ can fit into two suitcases and backpacks. From the Olympus cameras and lenses, drones, filters, solar panels & radios down to quick drying underwear, everything must have a use or it’s out.
The new Olympus cameras are truly something special. The amazing amount of technology inside this small piece of equipment means that processes such as compositing, star trails and light painting can be now done in camera and live. No more countless hours stitching in Photoshop. Being a Micro 4/3 system also meant that we could consolidate everything down into a smaller volume and cover a wider variety of focal lengths without breaking our backs.
Being a gear junky, Matt was uber excited to learn the ins and outs of each piece of new technology and we were both fortunate enough to have the opportunity to test it in the field on some recent famils around Victoria and NSW. There is a lot to consider when testing out gear, particularly when travelling to areas with little to no power. How many batteries will you need? How much of the solar charger will one battery use up? How many cigarette ports are in the car? How quickly will these charge each type of battery? What weather temperatures will we encounter? How long will we spend at altitude? How will we ever get out of this alive?
Nothing beats old fashioned practice though and with the arrival of Vivid, autumn colours, morning fog and cold gloomy weather we were able to gauge how frivolous we could be each day with battery life and learn what the cameras and filters could produce in any given situation.
One month on the road, what do you bring? Being the middle of summer and relatively arid, the temperatures could range anywhere from 5 up to 40+ degrees C. With these temperatures fluctuating relative to our altitude which at its highest point on the road hits a comfortable 4600m, it’s imperative that we pack for all occasions.
As with any other trip - flights, visas and insurance were the initial focus. Australian Nationals do not require a visa to enter Kyrgyzstan, woohoo! However Filipino Nationals (Kel) do and both nationalities require a visa for entry into Tajikistan which can be obtained online
Hotels vary drastically in quality and price throughout Central Asia, and not always relative to each other. Lo and behold, Air Bnb was our authentic cultural saviour. Surprisingly even in some tiny villages scattered around the country there are hosts willing to open up their doors / tents to weary travellers. From our experiences with Air Bnb, these places will surely be the wildest and most remote. For the remainder of the nights the plan is simple…. wing it. Be it under the stars, knocking on a local’s door or roughing it in the car, it's all part of the experience… right?
Appropriate levels of physical fitness and adequate medication are no brainers. Too often do travellers fall ill whilst abroad, trust us, we know. Phone reception or basic medicine will be extremely limited in some areas, let alone access to a hospital or medical centre practicing in western medicine. Basic cold and flu tablets, painkillers and vitamins are essential. Many of the areas neighbouring Afghanistan and in central Dushanbe have malaria warnings. At $5 a tablet they would want to work!
The final component to our preparation: inspiration. Creative preparation is as important as ensuring we are physically fit. What images do we want to take, is there a particular theme, angle or emotion we want to capture? How would we do it? Where do we need to be to make this happen? So many questions.
A select few before us have conquered the route by means of bike or car and documented it in a creative form. It was through these images and articles we drew inspiration and formed an idea of the direction we wanted to take our adventure. Ultimately that inspiration and excitement is something that we hope to pass on to people reading this right now and inspire you to begin planning your next adventure.
It's been a long seven months of planning and preparation and it's all done and dusted.
It's almost time for us to go and we cannot wait to share our experiences of what Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the Pamirs have to offer!
Make sure to follow our journey as we explore and discover the highlands of Central Asia.