Words by Brice Minnigh
Photos by Dan Milner
“Why would you want to go to Afghanistan to ride mountain bikes?”
Such was the standard response when I told people we would spend most of June on a world-first mountain bike expedition in Afghanistan’s mountainous Wakhan Corridor.
My answer to this was predictable: “Why wouldn’t you want to go to Afghanistan to ride mountain bikes?”
When I was invited by Anthill Films to join them and Matt Hunter on this pioneering journey for their upcoming short film, “Forgotten Dirt,” it was clearly a no-brainer.
It was guaranteed to be the adventure of a lifetime. One look at a map of the country’s mountain-choked Wakhan Corridor and it was obvious that the trip would be arduous, and therefore exciting.
It promised regular crossings of angry rivers and several traverses of glacier-covered passes well over 16,000 feet in elevation. And the trails we would ride were ancient paths, worn in by the hooves of horses, yaks and donkeys over thousands of years, together comprising one of the legendary Silk Route’s major arteries.
Adding to the trip’s appeal was the fact that nobody had ever ridden mountain bikes in the Wakhan Corridor’s barren, high-altitude deserts. Situated in the midst of the “Pamir Knot”—the junction of the Himalayas, Hindu Kush, Tian Shan, Karakoram and Kunlun mountain ranges—the Wakhan is one of the world’s most geographically isolated places, with no roads and no forms of motorized transport. There aren’t even any bikes.
Which is where we would come in. After spending several days bouncing around in dilapidated four-wheel-drive vehicles through southern Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan to reach the Wakhan’s rugged fringe, we would attempt to cross the sprawling corridor on full-suspension bikes in 12 days.
Anthill Films’ Colin Jones and Darcy Wittenburg would chronicle the expedition—and Hunter’s ballsy riding on the most dangerously exposed trails that any of us had ever seen—in their forthcoming film, “Forgotten Dirt.” And English photographer Dan Milner and I would document the journey in a feature to run in Bike magazine’s November issue.
Stay tuned to bikemag.com over the coming weeks for more in-depth coverage of our many misadventures.
And click here for a teaser of “Forgotten Dirt,” which is scheduled to premiere online on August 6th: