The Pamirs – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan – Part 3c: The Diary
Day 3 to Kalaikhum
Woke at 5.30am to see kid from last night peering into tent. Shoed him off but woke again at 6.30am and he was in same position. He started singing. Having had a discussion about Oli being early bird and M being non-morning person, Oli went back to sleep and Matthieu got up. Dad was there when we woke and told us to put on shorts when we clambered out of tent. Had porridge with apricots fresh from tree.
Rams kept coming close and warned by dad they would charge so threw stones. Asked if could play music for kid, got iPod straight away, very intuitive but would only let each song play for 5 secs before changing. Great campsite.
Road continued. V hot. Not too much water. Only food could get was Swiss roll, snickers and coke/fanta. Slow going on bad road but still climbed 800m or so despite descending overall.
Finally pulled into kkum at 6.30pm. Found place quickly and settled for what they were offering – $10 for bed, dinner and breakfast. Dinner was beef stock, beef and potato soup, salad, bread, yoghurt and beer. Had hot shower, amazing. Decided to go long route south tomorrow to avoid big climb. Think is right decision. 10pm sleeps…..
This kid’s application to join Road of Smiles was duly rejected as no three-wheeler is allowed on the trip (and he is far too clean-shaven)
Great brekky of fried eggs sausage, bread and black tea. Good to have decent grub. Everything tastes so good when you’re cycling. Bought supplies, running low on water purification tabs so filled up with sparkling water.
Route has been much the same as last few days but good stretches of tarmac with one bad patch of rocks. Lunch with German couple in little house with roses, a fruit orchard and vegetable patch. Tomatoes tasted so ripe and juicy compared to anything we ate in China.
Sloping hills led from village to village. Bought a watermelon and 1 liter of coke each. Set up camp next to river on sandy beach. Massive camel spiders and grasshoppers. Better not think about it. Washed in river, noodles and watermelon for dinner. All very good. Hard day’s ride, prob around 100km but don’t know as gps won’t turn on.
With beer, gherkins, and German sausage, it’s little wonder we were attacked in the middle of the night by the Afghans
100km over mountain to just before Kulob
Woke in night to very loud explosion on Afghan side of border. Didn’t think much of it and went back to sleep. Strange that in such a hostile place we seem so relaxed. I am sure if that noise had happened in China we would be crapping ourselves. Maybe because we expect these things from our current neighbours or maybe just that we are more sure that nothing bad will actually happen and if it does it does.
Up for porridge. Low on supplies so no more condensed milk or dried fruit. As eating brekkie another explosion and we see that they are detonating dynamite on the roads. Strange to have been doing this at night given how laid back they seem.
Road crap straight away and it’s burning hot. Dripping wet in no time and low on water. Stop for an RC Cola quickly and shortly after just before the real climbing starts a fanta and Magnum Pink which turns out to be pomegranate and very nice. Get going, meet Polish couple touring down who say we are 1150m and the top is 2000m. Weird not having gps working, good and bad. Long slog up to top and reach restaurant in small town around 6pm. Famished. Ordered double of mantou (minced beef in giant dumplings) covered in yogurt and served with bread, hard boiled egg and tea. Left very full but revitalized.
Sunset as we reached the top was spectacular. Hazy light over fields recently harvested. Pitched tent as the sun hid behind the horizon on rocky ground but beautiful surroundings.
Kulob to 20km before Nurek.
Great at sunset, great at sunrise. Hazy mist is still around. Pack up quickly and on the road to find a place for brekkie. First one we come to is 5km down road and serves eggs, bread, sausage and coke. Friendly young chap serving trying to learn better English. Kulob is a busy place, we’re thankful to have camped. Buy a magnum and water supply. No bins anywhere but as observed earlier no one seems to buy anything as they grow or make it themselves.
Solid progress on road, get to decent climb and over other side. RC Cola have pomegrante and acai special edition. Quite good. Place for lunch seems unlikely so push on. Cross railway line and old dude conductor waves us over. He speaks broken English but insists we drink his tea and brown bread – it’s Ramadan so he can’t have anything. Have funny chat about distances, whether we are married, what they do etc. 5pm up the road we stop for another drink as so hot. Petrol attendant pulls out biggest watermelon we’ve ever seen and cuts it up for us. Very kind and perfect fuel.
Just before Dangara find restaurant and decide should eat. Look in kitchen and beef stroganoff looks like a good option. Pomegranate juice is so good we drink 4 jugs (6L). Still don’t pee. Big meal and faced soon with another climb. Decide at top as sun is setting will find a watermelon and beer. Just as we say that a car pulls over in front of us and a guy gets out, shakes our hand, goes to back of car and gives us a watermelon. Before we know what to do he’s off. So kind and is exactly what we have come to be used to in Tajikstan. Carry on and next town does not sell beer so buy gherkins and crisps. Carry on and getting dark. Camp spot hard as still towns around. Come to another shop and the owner immediately insists we stay next to his shop on big metal plate. We hadn’t even said anything. It looked great, he had beer, and he immediately produced a rug and a couple of chairs. Very chilled and lovely to finally relax. Dogs are barking and donkeys are eh-oring very loudly but will be a good night i’m sure. We feel like battered dirty Afghan rugs. Matthieu woke with something crawling in his ear that would not come out. Doctor Goulden ingeniously shone the flash light into his lug hole to entice it out. Turned out it was an ant (and not a scorpion according to Matt’s first estimate).
Our two new friends are ready for the first train to pass by since 1987.
Near Nurek to Dushanbe 90km
Tough climb to start the day and Matthieu has food poisoning. Very hot but beautiful view of lake created by tallest dam in the world. Road into Dushanbe good quality and mostly downhill. One big pass before Dushanbe and tunnel is not finished. Up we go again. Stopped at Russian petrol station for yoghurt, Fanta and beef pie. The attendants helped call the guesthouse to find out where it was as very badly prepared. Amazing to finally arrive in Dushanbe, get real food and a shower. It’s amazing how simple things become so incredible when you haven’t had them for a while.
Matthieu recovering in post-op
If Kazakhstan is the number one country in the world for potassium, Tajikistan must be number one for production of flags and portraits of present and ex presidents