Another (mostly) great week in the stans! We loved Uzbekistan alot, and are now finally in Tajikistan, in Dushanbe, getting ready for… The Pamir Highway! Huzzah, we are finally here!
We left Bukhara last Monday and took some big, busy, badly surfaced roads towards Samarkand. We managed to get invited to sleep on some gym mats on the football pitch of a school, which was great fun, and have experienced alot of amazing Uzbek hospitality. We are getting quite used to sleeping out beneath the stars, no tent needed.
The road East has gotten greener and greener, and much more inhabited, with little villages with shops every few km, which makes the going alot easier. We no longer have to carry 10 litres of water!
One afternoon we began passing melon sellers on the road, and the Great Uzbekistan Melon Feed began. These lovely ladies kept stopping us to say hello and to force feed us delicious, ripe melon and watermelon. It was so yummy and so filling, and they wanted us to eat so much! I ended up dripping with melon juice as the ladies laughed at me. We camped near the melon women that night, and one of them gave us a further two melons, and brought her husband over to meet us. He was quite drunk and wanted to share his vodka with us.
The road started getting hillier and busier as we approached Samarkand, and we had quite a bad headwind. When we arrived in Samarkand we found Adam and Tim outside a shoe shop, where the very nice owner gave us with cola and somsas (little pastries) while we chatted.
We spent a few days at a hostel next to the very impressive Registan. I was very ill and bed bound but Jim, Adam and Tim enjoyed some sightseeing and a trip to the local hammam where they got thoroughly scrubbed down, coming back alot cleaner and missing a few layers of skin.
Not quite ok but managing to stay on the bike I managed to set off one day later than planned, and we made it to the border. Suddenly we could see mountains, huge, rocky, impressive, epic mountains! The border crossing was easy, everyone was super friendly and we had alot of shouts of ‘Welcome to Tajikistan!’ as well as hellos from everyone we passed!
We followed a big river up the valley to Penjikent, the road becoming super hilly with some quite steep sections. And after a very nice lunch I started to perk up a little. The scenery is so incredible here. In a small village we got invited to sleep in a pavilion behind a restaurant where the chef kindly slaughtered and skinned a sheep right in front of us for dinner. That was interesting…. We also went for tea at another locals house as he wanted to show us (and try to sell to us) some antiques. Unfortunately for me his son decided he fancied a snog, Although I did enjoy Jim shouting ‘Oi that’s my wife!’.
From here we started our first big climb. It was long, steep and hot, and we got up to 2880 m. We climbed for a couple of days following the river through this insane gorge. The rocky mountains were huge above us, and all sorts of colours, and everything was just so big. It was amazing. At the top of the climb was the ‘tunnel of death’. An 8km, mainly unlit, unventilated tunnel, busy with coal trucks and lorries. We hitched through this on a coal truck (so we didn’t die), and came out the other side to even bigger, steeper mountains and cliffs.
We then had a long long descent into Dushanbe, only slightly ruined by the intense headwind and the THREE punctures I got in succession. Luckily we arrived in Dushanbe to the Green House Hostel to find the parcels of new tires and cassettes had arrived. (Thanks dad!)
Having some time off in Dushanbe to get some stuff sorted and hopefully for me to get better before we start the Pamir highway. I have been most excited about this since the trip planning so can’t believe it’s finally here!
Jim’s words – School, Kofte, Pulsar, Registan, Hammam, Tajikistan, Undulating, Coal,