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Published: September 4th 2017
Drive to Osh
Last bit of adventure before we head back into the city.
The road less traveled has allowed for some interesting tales as we continued our road trip out of Tajikistan into Kyrgyzstan. While our journey took us through much of Tajikistan and a small portion of Kyrgyzstan; from the border to Osh, we found these countries to be somewhat similar. Perhaps Kyrgyzstan is more developed and the roads we experienced were in much better shape. But as we said, the bulk of our travels were in Tajikistan. Flat Tire….. No Surprise
Toward the end of day two of our trip we were beginning to feel a bit road weary. Even though our driver Zamanbek was firmly in control, riding in a 4X4 over what could be best described as the most basic roads proved a bit tiring when riding many hours each day. At one point, we were nearing our stop for the night near Khorog when the “Dancing Car (as we referred to our vehicle) had a flat tire. We all got out to watch the magic of tire repair as per Zamanbek. When you live in western countries, usually the tire is placed on a device that removes the tire from the rim and is repaired…..this
The Travel Camel our tour leader extraordinaire.
is not the case on the open road…. Zamanbek carefully removed the nail from the tire then injected a type of glue into the tire while it was still on the wheel, which then expanded from the heat and sealed the hole. At that point, they took a small air compressor and refilled the tire. We were back on the road again in 20 minutes. Being the flexible group that we are, we wandered nearby taking photos of a cow and some amazing scenery. We will let the photos speak for themselves. Best to leave the repair of tires to the experienced…… Cycling through the Pamir Mountains
One thing that has been surprising to us is the great numbers of cyclists and motorcyclists traveling through Central Asia. Tajikistan is a rugged country and the roads are tough going. Even the paved roads of Kyrgyzstan are chock full of potholes and bumps. We got bounced around pretty good in our Toyota Land Cruiser, so we cannot imagine the agony, challenge and struggle these cyclists and motorcycles were going through. With that said we talked with several of them and they were having the time of their life
and all seemed quite happy. So, the reward and sense of accomplishment must outweigh our perception of insanity and sore behinds. We are certain that all of the cyclists have brought their bikes with them from whatever home country they are from. A few of the motorcycles looked a bit rough and we wonder if they were rented locally. The majority of them we really nice machines and we are certain they brought them with them.
It was after publishing our first Tajik blog that we heard from Jeremy Around the World and he has fond memories of his cycling in Tajikistan. Jeremyaroundtheworld
Jeremy was attracted to this remote location and loved the challenge of the Pamirs and the simplicity it offers. Welcome to our home
Over the years we admit in all of our travels we’ve not had many homestays….. maybe three or four. Frequently we’ve spent the day with locals in their homes and been invited for a meal which we have greatly enjoyed. When possible we’d prefer a hotel with our own bathroom. We’re being honest, we like the comfort of not sharing a bathroom. When going remote and off the beaten
track there are few hotel options and we went in knowing we would have multiple homestays. We had some trepidation but overall we fared well. The people who owned the homestays could not have been more welcoming. We had basic, clean rooms and in most cases had twin beds. Only once did we sleep on the floor but we had several wonderful thick rugs to sleep on to provide comfort. Yes….the facilities were remote from the buildings we slept in, but when in Rome…..
In all but one of our accommodations we were thrilled to have western toilets; we were in a couple of restaurants that had squatty potties, so few complaints. In the hotels, we had showers as well. In a few of the homestays, we generally had a hose or bucket of water for use if no shower was available. Fortunately, we packed three large packages of large size baby wipes for bathing and these proved to be a great purchase in lieu of a shower. Cultural Event in a homestay
In Yamg, we had one of our favorite homestays. It was clean and spacious and the family was a great deal of
Dance, dance, dance
Cultural Folklore Dancing Yamg, Tajikistan
fun. After a wonderful dinner, they had arranged for some traditional Tajik dancers to come and perform for us. They were an amazing group of musicians, singers and dancers. A gentleman who had to be in his mid-80’s stole the show with his light feet. We were quite taken by the performance and took up a collection at the end of the evening. This was an amazing cultural event not to be missed. The family had fun with us and broke out some local spirits after dinner. All in all….a great event and a great experience. A small, small world
We were sitting in our homestay in Kara Kul and in walks Emma and Marie from New Zealand. As we each shared the details of our trip we realized….. wait for it…..yes, they were from the wonderful world of Travel Blog. You just never know where the friendliest travel community people may show up. We were excited to meet the Travelling Fraggles
. Such a small, small world. Meeting a shepherd
When we were staying on the lake in Kara Kul, Shane and Sherali decided we should go on an adventure. We took off
to take photos on the back side of the most amazing lake. The lake was formerly known as Lake Victoria, named after Queen Victoria by the British cartographers. The name stuck until the 1920s when a Kyrgyz name: Karakul, or the Black Lake, replaced the British name by the new Soviet cartographers. We witnessed some of the darkest blue water in a lake we’d ever seen. The photos try, but cannot capture the vibrant hues of the lake that the naked eye can provide.
But this was not the only part of the adventure….there was more…. Shane was in the lead car and had a plan to try and find a shepherd to talk with. They would stop on a deserted path ask a couple of questions, someone would point and we be heading off in that direction. As it turns out they found a local shepherd willing to talk in detail with us about his daily life. He was a man of means who owned 500 sheep and 100 Yak……..a former veterinarian who oversaw his herd along with other male members of the family. Each year they would sell about ten percent of the herd as their primary
means of support. As it turned out, the elder shepherd was equally interested in talking with us and this was a great honor. To the shepherd’s delight, Denise had a picture developer she had brought and was able to present him with several photos of the day’s encounter…….we had a feeling it was a great day for both camps. Other notes from our travels…..
Right to the point, there is no reason to come to these countries if you are a foodie or are inflexible in what you eat. The meals are good but there is not a lot of variety. The soups are amazing! Generally, for breakfast we were offered homemade bread and homemade jam, eggs, and or semolina. Lunch and dinner were very similar meals, homemade bread, soup, usually some kind of meat offering (yak or chicken) and a pilaf was generally a choice. The foods are tasty but repetitious. You will always be full as they are generous portions. The use of broths and spices to enrich the foods are well used. We were impressed by the ability of the homestays to provide us with the best they had to offer.
Challenges of the open road Don’t mess with the military
Central Asia offers an epic road trip
In Central Asia, you encounter border checks by the military each time you enter a new district. As we entered each new district, we would pull over and our guide take all our documents into an office for review. Each time after a few minutes of waiting ….we are on our way. Some wave and some look so very serious and nod. One day we were not at a check point but were fairly close to the next one. We later figured out that it was lunch time for some of the military guys and from our perspective this is what happened…..
We had safely pulled off the highway for a stretch break. David, MJ and Dave had wandered off together in one direction and began taking pictures. Off in the distance we could see smoke, it looks as if someone might be camping or having a BBQ. David was taking photos with his telephoto lens when he announced that those were military people and one of them was looking at him through binoculars. Shane joined our group at that time. It was decided we would not take photos in that direction.
Tallest in Asia...
Moments later we could see two of the military men with rifles heading our way. Shane instructed us back to the cars. He rounded up our guide to go talk with them as they were heading for Gunther, who was taking a video off in the distance. Once Shane made sure all of us were near the vehicles he headed in the direction of the interaction. The military talked with Shane, our guide and Gunther for a few minutes. All was well. The military instructed us to move on and we did. No Man’s Land… China
On our way into Kara Kul, we noticed quite a lot of border fencing made up of wood and wire, stretching for miles on the right-hand side of the road with mountains in the background. We learned that this was a border fence. The fence was part of another “no man’s land”….. this one separated Tajikistan from China. Interesting in that it appeared that mountains would be enough of a deterrent, but the fence existed nonetheless. There were also gaps in the fence which we learned were called “Soviet building supplies.” Seems some locals took to appropriating some of the
Akbaital pass Highest Point - 4655 meters
fence for their own designs. At one point, Dancing Dave slipped away from the group and found a gap in the fence….he was on the loose in “no man’s land!” He is a rogue at times and simply could not resist! We have pictures to prove it! The Border Crossing
We were warned that our border crossing from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan could take up to three hours. We left our homestay early that morning to get on the road. Our small caravan of cars was fortunate to be second in line…..The Traveling Fraggles were ahead of us. As we pulled up our driver Zamanbek jumped out of the vehicle with a fist full of passports and visas and headed into a small room. From the car, we sat and watched, making up stories to entertain ourselves about the conversations being had inside. Some of the faces looked stoic, arms flailed about a bit but nothing looked too serious. Joined by one of our other drivers they entered what appeared to be a small room. We could see shadows and it appeared the conversation continued, heads were shaking. Zamanbek exited about twenty minutes later and went
Yak, yak, yak
They better be careful or they may end up being dinner.
into another office. More waiting...... he then jumped back in the car we drove ten feet and he went into another office. More waiting.... we were finally out of Tajikistan.
Before officially entering Kyrgyzstan, we drove a number of kilometers in what was best described as “no man’s land.” There were some amazing vistas along the way. Then it was time to enter Kyrgyzstan. At the checkpoint, we got out of our vehicle and each of us stood in line to talk to an agent from Kyrgyzstan. From our car Dancing Dave went first and looking back on it that may have been a mistake. Our vantage point was outside the office as only one person was allowed in at a time. We watched the Dancing One slide his passport forward and answer a couple of questions. If any of you know the Dancing One……. he loves a good chat. At one point, he was showing his watch to the agent and we worried he might be making a bribe. The conversation continued, heads bobbed and he was finally admitted. As the rest of us took our turn a couple of questions were asked and we were welcomed. We
Our new friend from Bulgaria. Please come see us soon.
suspect David, the Dancing One, most likely wore them down for us. We were pleased it only took us an hour and a half to be processed. Lenin Peak
The scenic drive continued, providing more and more incredible sights, with that night’s stay planned in the shadow of Lenin Peak, which rises some 23,000 feet (7100 meters) above the valley. While it is considered by the climbing world to be the easiest peak to climb, it also has the dubious distinction of having a lot of fatalities as well.
Our plan was to spend two nights in a homestay, but the interesting thing is that while the guide phones ahead to let them know we are coming, it is not really a reservation, but merely a notification. Once again, we arrived only to find out that there were not enough rooms at the homestay, so we were off in search of other accommodations. The Dancing One and Zamanbek along with Shane Sherali were our lead investigators and found a very suitable place.
The next morning, we set off to have a closer look at Lenin Peak after visiting the roving market, which was in
town that day. Lenin Peak is a majestic mountain and we were taken to a plateau that had yurts and what appeared to be a converted truck storage container. This turned out to be where we were served a delicious lunch. The afternoon was taken up with the Dancing One and Naddya riding a horse around the nearby lake while we relaxed and took some pictures. We were offered the opportunity to spend the night in a yurt, but the lure of our homestay with it’s warm shower and internet was too much. David and Denise however, were more adventurous and chose the yurt, which was quite nice. They told us the next day how much they enjoyed the experience, but we were quite comfortable with our choice…..literally.
That evening, we were lounging about in our homestay when the owners came in and announced that dinner was ready. Now normally they set up the evening meal in the common area of the homestay where we were seated, but tonight’s repast would be served in the yurt just outside the homestay. What a treat! It was fairly cool in the yurt due to changing weather conditions, but we enjoyed the
Brutus does Tajikistan
Lake Victoria now Black Lake
meal. We promised ourselves a yurt stay at the next opportunity…..maybe Mongolia?
The next morning we left for Osh….our journey was almost at an end. We stopped at a couple of very nice viewpoints as we descended towards the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. After a stay in a hotel and a last meal with the group, we departed very early in the morning for the airport with the Dancing One and Denise to begin our next adventure……..in Armenia.
You may enjoy reading Shane’s blogs from his 2013 trip. Here is the link to a couple of them. A Perilous Journey A Lesson in Life on the Roof of the World We’d love it if you made a comment below. It is always great hearing from you while we are traveling.
If you are interested in looking at the specifics of our itinerary please view this link. Travel Camel
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