Tajikistan – Road to the Pamirs

I think I messed up a bit on dates. Anyhow, the journey continues.

7/12 Karshi–> Dehqonobod

I couldn’t resist tears as I said goodbye to my new Uzbek family. Father sent me off with a pharmacy coat (“it’s white, cooler under the sun!”), Mother gave me a pretty headscarf, and Gayrat (brother) wished me well. They told me I should spend the night in Dehqonobod–Father’s home village 90 km away–so I could stay with Father’s sister. They gave me the phone numbers of their relatives there, then Ulugbek biked with me to the edge of town.

P1020142Fayoza (Gayrat’s daughter)–cutest baby ever!

P1020144Honum, fried crepe thing with meat and onions

P1020146the fam sends me off from their little pharmacy shop in Karshi

Throughout the day, it was pretty slow going–I don’t know if it was the heat or the hills–but eventually I made it to Dehqonobod before it got completely dark. I met Father’s sister (Aunt Movluda) and her husband and two kids. How nice it felt to be fed and taken care of again! We had a nice meal together with a few neighbors, then slept outside under another starry night.

P1020153road to Dehqonobod, going into more interesting scenery than desert

7/13 Sick day in Dehqonobod

When I woke up the next morning, I had a splitting headache and a whole lot of going-to-the-toilet. My stomach was painful, and it was clear that I could not bike. I took medicine and spent the rest of the day sleeping and drinking lots of water. The whole family in Dehqonobod took care of me, and even though I felt so miserable physically, I felt so lucky to have everyone by my side. Throughout the day, Father and Mother called me regularly from Karshi to ask how I was feeling; Gayrat offered to personally deliver medicine to me; and Ulugbek kept me company over the phone.  Of course, I was in tears again to feel so cared for. By dinner time, I was feeling a lot better, and was able to eat again and chat with Auntie and the family.

P1020156Extended family in Dehqonobod who took care of me in sickness

7/14 Dehqonobod –> Boysun

P1020159I learned that these Willi Betz trucks are carrying US army supplies to Afghanistan

P1020162these village women helped fill my water bottles from the well, and gave me bread!

P1020160long lines at the police checkpoint

P1020172

7/15 Boysun –> Shorchi, maybe

P1020183town of Boysun

P1020184these guys are from Karshi, but work nearby at a natural gas company. they treated me for a super delicious brunch– meat and tea!

P1020194Omonxona water from the Boysun region supposedly has minerals beneficial to health. Police officer gave it to me

P1020190grasslands

7/16 Shorchi –> Denav –> Tajik border –> some camp 10km after border, Tajikistan

After leaving camp, I had a short breakfast stop, then headed to the town of Denav. I was invited to lunch at a restaurant in the center of town, then I was in a bit of a hurry because I was hoping to make it to the Tajik border the same day. But I couldn’t resist a watermelon stop and a short nap afterwards.

P1020196P1020204P1020200In Denav, the bread/samsa maker at this restaurant invited me to sit down for lunch. At first, I was overwhelmed by so many people crowding around me trying to talk to me, but they turned out to be really wonderful people. They refused to let me pay for lunch.

P1020207can’t have enough of delicious watermelons here

I arrived at the border crossing at 5.30pm, and I was relieved to still see so many people crossing at the same time. The Uzbek side was the usual–thoroughly inspected all my bags–but the good thing was they didn’t check my hotel registrations at all. (It may have been a problem if they did because I didn’t register in a hotel my last week in Uzbekistan). The Tajik side was super easy–they didn’t check my bags at all–and my conversation with the border official was pleasant: “First time in Tajikistan?” “Yes” “You go Pamir [Mountains]?” “Yes” “Oh, beautiful!”

Just after crossing, I got ripped off badly by changing Uzbek soms at the border…ooops. I was tired and didn’t want the wad of Uzbek cash in my pocket any more.

But after bad things, good things always happen. Shortly after, I met two Polish cyclists headed in the other direction. They had just cycled for two weeks in Afghanistan! Wow, it really shows that nothing is impossible. Last year, they cycled the main Pamir highway (where I am headed), and this year, they returned to cycle other roads in the Pamirs, and to go into Afghanistan. They had a friend at home who is a climbing guide in the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan (famous mountaineering region), and recommended them to go there. They said as long as you stay in the north in the mountains along the Wakhan corridor, it is very safe. They took the same road in and out, and went trekking in the mountains along the way.

P1020213Tajikistan

7/17 some camp 10km after border –> Dushanbe, Tajikistan (capital city)

After crossing the border, the first thing I noticed was everyone started greeting me with “Nihao!” It turns out the new road from the border to Dushanbe (66km) is being built by the Chinese, so there are Chinese workers everywhere. It’s been interesting to discover where China is getting all its wealth from in other countries.

I was in a hurry this day as well, because I needed to get to Dushanbe early enough to apply for a special permit for my onward journey through Tajikistan on the Pamir Highway. The Pamir Highway is the second highest road in the world and also famous as the most spectacular cycle route in the world (spectacular as in scenery, not road conditions).

On the way, I bumped into another cyclist, Sebastien from Slovenia, who gave me useful information about the Pamir Highway and Dushanbe. He gave me the unfortunate news that there were many cyclists sick in Dushanbe right now because of bad water and bad watermelon (apparently they suck all the chemicals and fertilizers out of the ground). No more watermelon for me!  He also suggested I find an alternative to the hostel in Dushanbe because it’s pretty much the worst hostel ever. Duly noted! I thanked him by giving him my Turkish currency and other useful maps for his journey.

P1020217

At the permit office in Dushanbe were the most foreigners I’ve seen in awhile, applying for the same GBAO permit. To apply, I went to the Amonotbank to pay the 20 somoni, then handed the receipt back to the permit office. They told me the permit would be ready next day at 10am.

While waiting, I met a group of 5 young guys from the University of Cambridge (UK) who were on a climbing expedition in Tajikistan. They started 2 weeks ago in London, driving an SUV with a trailer. I could not believe they covered the distance from London to Tajikistan in such a short time! Later on, I bumped into them again at the internet cafe, and they said they rented an apartment for the night. Since I didn’t have a place to stay yet, they let me stay with them. Alternative to hostel, check!

Back at the apartment, it was like entering the MIT Outing Club office. Mountaineering gear was scattered everywhere — maps, ropes, axes, boots, medical supplies, hiking poles, sleeping bags, more climbing equipment. They argued about how much and what food to bring, what gear to send home, and planned their climbing/ trekking routes (reminded me too much of Winter School).

When I asked them how they knew where to go, they said they acquired really great Soviet maps in the archives at the University of Cambridge, and they knew of two Polish guys who climbed a similar mountain range in Tajikistan recently.

P1020219P1020223P1020222expedition guys from the University of Cambridge, planning their next steps

P1020218streets of Dushanbe

7/18 Dushanbe

Picked up the GBAO permit this morning, and did a lot of internetting. On my way soon to the Kulyab, Khorog, and the Pamir Highway! I will have very limited internet access in the next few weeks until Osh, Kyrgyzstan, so hope to update again on the flip side!

18 Thoughts on “Tajikistan – Road to the Pamirs

  1. Yuki on July 19, 2013 at 3:17 am said:

    What delicious looking bread! :) I’m sorry to hear you have been sick, but I’m so glad that you had amazingly kind people to help you when you weren’t feeling well. May the next leg of your journey be smooth!

  2. Peach on July 23, 2013 at 2:58 pm said:

    Dushanbe is sister cities with Boulder, CO, and the mayor gave Boulder this amaaaazing tea house. When you come visit me, we’ll have to go!

    Glad you got better so quickly! Can’t wait to see mountainous pics!

    • This poistng knocked my socks off

    • Kia Ora RobbYes, closure is important for the family. Also, for those of us who tred the mountain paths, we like to see those who are lost or missing, put properly to rest.Have a good weekend.Thanks for the email about the new addition to the family. You and Tara are so caring.Bob

    • Eu tocava algumas musiquinhas no violão, mas, hoje já esqueci as notas! Tbm estou a fim deste shorts, mas, achei salgado o preço…bjoks flor

    • Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

    • też nie wierzÄ™ w strzaÅ‚ w górÄ™ na srebrze ale temat pÄ™kniÄ™cia baÅ„ki na tym surowcu chyba mamy za sobÄ…. Jedyne co mnie martwi to /i to w odniesieniu do zÅ‚ota i srebra/ to, że przez szykujÄ…ce siÄ™ bankructwa kolejnych paÅ„stw nastÄ™puje sukcesywne delewarowanie i ilość pieniÄ…dza w obiegu siÄ™ zmniejsza. PróbujÄ… to zrekompensować gwarancjami i dziaÅ‚aniami ECB ale to i tak za maÅ‚o i zmniejsza siÄ™ potencjaÅ‚ cenowy obu kruszców. A przecież odnoÅ›nie dóbr codziennych i tak jest inflacja, wiÄ™c osoby przetrzymujÄ…ce kruszce mogÄ… potencjalnie tracić w najbliższych miesiÄ…cach.

    • Entre ce qu’il avait déjà promis en 2007 et ce qu’il a annoncé ces deux dernières semaines, il n’y a rigoureusement aucune proposition nouvelle dans ce discours. Ca doit être ça la « surprise » qu’il avait évoquée il y a quelques jours.

    • I tried looking at your website on my iphone and the format does not seem to be correct. Might want to check it out on WAP as well as it seems most smartphone layouts are not really working with your site.

  3. Hi Min
    I happened across your blog, love your stories and was amazed to see your story of the 5 Cambridge guys you met in Dushanbe (Struan, Calum, Max, Leo, Theo). They are on a sponsored expedition – you can see their story on their website and on the sponsor company website.
    http://www.christopherward.co.uk/tajikistan2013expedition.html
    Have a great journey!
    John

  4. Yup, that’ll do it. You have my appriceation.

  5. I was suggested this website through my cousin. I’m now not positive whether or not this post is written through him as no one else know such special approximately my trouble. You are amazing! Thank you!

  6. I’m a huge fan of your work, Richard. And this is just brilliant! You have to do some more of these! Did you get to see the latest Indiana Jones yet?

  7. That’s a genuinely impressive answer.

  8. par dessus toute polémique, j’ai pour l’heure une pensée particulière pour les hommes engagés dans ce conflit et pour leurs familles.

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