- Jamie Shannon
Entering Tajikistan. I survived the madness of Uzbekistan!
I arrived at the border at ten and saw the familiar outline of a touring cyclist by the side of the road. He was a Malaysian guy whom was about to start his journey through Uzbekistan. I wished him good luck and we exchanged words of advice.
I was soon having my camera ‘investigated’ at the entrance to the border. The two soldiers seemed nice enough though but, like I have said, I was getting pretty tired of this.
The border was unusually quiet which wasn’t a good thing for me. The process on the Uzbek side took almost an hour and a half as every single bag was checked and every item meticulously analysed. “What is this?” “It’s a multi tool for the bicycle.” “For me?” “No, no, no, I need it.” What’s this?” “It’s spray for your eyes so please be careful!” “For me?” “No!” His eyes lit up when he found a memory card in one of my pockets but I just didn’t have the heart to tell him there was nothing on it. He took it and inserted it into his computer where he waited for it to load. When he found it completely empty he didn’t look too pleased and so told me to turn on my laptop. The power is empty I said. This seemed to speed things along somewhat. He missed my actual external hard drive which I was pleased about as it would have taken him ages to look through that.
He arrived at my last bag and stuck his hand in. I was as surprised as he was to find the gloopy mess covering the contents. My oil had somehow leaked and mixed with various other foodstuffs to become a slimy mess. “Enough.” I was through. Now I just had to get through the registration part. Feeling a little nervous as I had previously spent the last three nights out of official accommodation and had declared that I had $220 left, I walked over to passport control to be processed.
I needn’t have worried though, as he just put my registration slips to one side and concentrated on my passport. All that worrying and needless (and expensive) hotel registration for nothing! Oh well. I couldn’t complain.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that exit stamp was pressed into my passport and I retuned to the searing heat outside where I was able to reassemble my bike and within ten minutes I was in Tajikistan. The process on the Tajik side took about five minutes and I was able to change ten dollars into the local currency too.
I pressed on, excited, not to be in Tajikistan but to find a shop where I could purchase some ice cream and coke. I had had no money for the previous two days and so couldn’t wait for some refreshing sweeties!
I still had 65 km’s to cycle to Dushanbe and, as was expected, I had the most perfect, most beautifully smooth asphalt to ride on. I could almost hear my wheels humming along. I was in heaven.
I found a spot by the side of the road to take a break and eat something but turned round to find a man sat on the other side of a little stream staring at me. “Otkuda?” Oh man. I left immediately. Things obviously hadn’t changed so much.
I had a head wind all day and I was feeling utterly drained of energy. Cycling at 5 km/h was utterly demoralising and I just wanted to get to Dushanbe now.
With the wind hindering my progress I didn’t make it to Dushanbe until 6 pm. I found my hostel without too much trouble and what a hostel it turned out to be.
I have been surrounded by lots of different travellers all doing very interesting things. I even met the German guy whom I had seen two weeks previously in Khiva.
The hostel is just fantastic though. We have all been exchanging stories of our trips through Central Asia and the Pamirs whether it be by motorbike, cycling or hitching. I have enjoyed two days of well earned rest, a few beers and some great cheap food in the city. I have wandered the Bazars and got my permit to travel in the Pamirs yesterday. I could write a whole post about that but I just don’t have the time.
Today is the 1st October and I’m leaving in about one hour with Brecht form Belgium and heading into the Pamir’s. I’m very excited about the awesome scenery that is to come. Travelling along the world’s second highest international road should be a real highlight of the journey but I’m also feeling a little apprehensive about the extreme cold nights that are on their way. I’m feeling happy that I won’t be alone, at least for some of it which also gives me confidence too. I expect It’s going to be the single hardest thing I have ever attempted but I can’t wait to start it now. The time has come and I expect to be in China in a little under three weeks’ time. I might have some internet when I reach the small town of Khorog in eight days’ time but, after that, I will be offline for at least two weeks so you will just have to trust me when I say I’ll be alright.
So until then, I’ll see you in Kashgar, China!!