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Men, Muscle, Iron, Rock

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On the way up from Dushanbe to Khorog, where the Pamir Highway follows the Panj River along the Afghan border, we encounter a group of Mongol Rally participants briefly taking a break on their trip across Eurasia.

“Going Beyond Borders” reads a sticker on the windscreen of one of the vehicles. And here, there is the border, the river that separates Afghanistan and Tajikistan. On our side the M41, the Pamir Highway, the venerable artery of supplies built to provision the Soviet Pamirs and defend it against potential intrusion. On the other side, a small dirt road with the occasional donkey or motorcycle. Sections of it are submerged by the river. We gaze across and watch Afghan construction workers drive a new all-weather road through a cliff higher up.

Two worlds a narrow river apart, separated by geopolitical rationalities, the legacies of the Great Game, and the many small games that played out across it for a century. Here: a lighthearted overland adventure; there: men, muscle, iron, rock.

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