Darling Downs pair close to danger in Pamir Highway cycle

Jessica and Peter Cappendell on the Pamir Highway.
Jessica and Peter Cappendell on the Pamir Highway.

IT wasn’t until they were safely back in their Darling Downs home that Peter Cappendell and his daughter Jessica realised just how close they had come to danger.

The avid long distance cyclists enjoy take their bikes on massive multi-day treks across challenging terrain, such as last year’s 1500km unsupported ride from Uluru to Kalgoorlie along the Great Central Road.

Last month they went international as they tackled Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway, the second highest road in the world at more than 4600m above sea level.

Mr Cappendell said the gruelling 21-day cycle had been an amazing experience.

“We wanted to build on the success of last year and challenge ourselves a bit more with mountains and see another culture,” he said.

“Rough roads, days off due to stomach problems, 40 degree heat in the low lands, head winds on the 4000m plateaux and the altitude made the trip an endurance test, but the effort was worth it.”

Just a day after they returned home, the family was rocked by news a car had deliberately ploughed through seven cyclists riding on the Pamir Highway, killing four.

Terrorist group ISIS soon took ownership of the attack.

Mr Cappendell said they had been wary of something happening because of their proximity to Afghanistan, but news of the attack had shocked them.

“Although there have been no reported attacks on tourists in Tajikistan, due to its proximity to Afghanistan we were very aware there was a risk of being involved in the first,” he said.

“We first heard of the attack the day after our return to Perth on a Facebook page dedicated to cyclists travelling through the Pamir mountains.

“It was first reported that cyclists had been involved in a hit and run accident and then witnesses started to report of the cyclists being killed by knife attacks as they lay injured on the road.

“I think it will deter many new tourists however I don’t think it will deter cycle tourists, many of the other cyclists we met were on multi country, extended tours and are therefore already familiar with the risks of travelling through Central Asia and beyond.

“They will see the lure of the unique Pamir mountains and its people are worth the risk.”

Mr Cappendell said they had not been deterred by the attack, and were already planning their next adventure-a cycle across the Sahara Desert.