Days Km: 742, Total Km: 10581
So a short hop from Samarkand to the border, into Tajikistan then a bit of riding through the mountains arriving in Dushanbe in time for tea. Sounds like a lovely day? We thought so too.
Well unfortunately this is one of those instances where old Bruce and Brad’s lack of research let the team down. Turns out that lovely yellow line on the map that happily struts across the border near Samarkand is, in fact, only strut-able by locals. Us funny foreigners have to go a couple of hundred Kms north. Great.
Not to let a little thing like grumpy border guards get in the way of our cheery moods off we set back the way we came.. In fact that’s not entirely fair, the chap at the border was rather lovely with a large smile on his face as he gesticulated with his loaded machine gun informing us we should bugger off, he even went so far as to help us pull out the map and show us the clearly marked border closed sign. But in my opinion any border guard that turns us away, as a general rule should be grumpy and so therefore for the purpose of this story there were thunderclouds above his head.. Either way it looks like we’d be spending an extra day riding through Uzbekistan..
Once again it was straight roads of never-ending nothing unfortunately only made better by the friendly smiles along the way. But eventually, as evening rapidly approached and a couple of wrong turns later we came upon our second border post for the day and lo and behold that too, it turns out is a local prerogative only and so once again we were chivvied away without so much as a hello. These chaps really were rather grumpy… This was where the lovely Uzbek locals came to our aid and with our map spread across a car bonnet they showed us a border post which they assured us we’d actually be able to cross, they even went so far as to escort us out of town with a hoot or 7..
And so it was with the sun was just beginning to give up for the day that we made it to our third and thankfully last border post. A bit of paperwork, some cheery guards, they’re allowed to be cheery as they let us through, and the ritual bag search which basically just ends up as us showing off our photography skills as they peruse every photo on the camera more from boredom than anything else I’d say, and we made it into Tajikistan.
We where in, but we definitely weren’t making Dushanbe today as we’d pretty much been travelling in the wrong direction most of the day and so it was into the foothills to pitch the tents next to a lovely little irrigation canal coming down from the mountains. Now when I say next to, at the beginning of the night that’s exactly what I meant however thanks to what I can only assume was some over excited raining up in the mountains somewhere, next to said irrigation canal became in said irrigation canal.
Luckily we hadn’t quite turned in yet and could scamper up the slope a bit, the bikes however were left to fend for themselves in the growing puddles.. Morning found us relatively well rested and the morning’s entertainment for the local goat-herd and his 17 goats. So after packing up and many a cheery wave to our new mate we were back onto the road and off to Dushanbe, First stop a morning swim at the lake. As when in Tajikistan do as the locals do, and it seemed a Sunday jaunt to the lake is definitely what the locals do, the place was heaving.
From there it was off out of the plains to slowly wind our way up into the Fann mountains. Rolling green hills slowly give way to a more rugged and wild land of sheer cliffs and rocky slopes. And then finally the edge of the road quite literally becomes the edge of the mountain altogether, creating sheer drops that are as breathtakingly beautiful as they are mind bogglingly terrifying.
It’s only once you reach the second tunnel that you experience true fear however. On the map it states dangerous tunnel, I think they down played it a tad. It’s 5 kms of utter darkness, not a single light flickers in its depths. As it slowly winds its way down into the bowels of the mountain we felt as if we’d been swallowed for good, never to see the light of day again. To top it all off a fair bit of water has decided it’s a great new way down the mountain and so not only is it cold but wet as well, doing its best to obscure what little light our headlights produced by fogging up the helmets. I think I can speak for the both of us here when I say we were extremely excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Once we were through and the hearts had calmed down a bit we were treated to some gorgeous riding and beautiful curves descending the mountains all the way to Dushanbe.
It was an incredible days riding dampened only by the fact the I was very close to shitting my pants the entire time. Unfortunately the bad belly had come at back at me with a vengeance. Apparently Bruce could quite literally watch the shades of colour draining from my face throughout the day, which for a colour blind chap such as Bruce is quite a feat.. I’m going to give myself a pat on the back here and say it was quite an effort of will that saw me through the day and us riding into Dushanbe, the land of the western toilet, in the early evening. Bruce made a pretty damn fine nurse so a fair bit of credit goes to him as well…