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Published: September 4th 2014
Fan Mountains, Tajikistan
Being in the former USSR, I'm finding it difficult to avoid the vodka theme based traveling. I had every intention of heading straight to the Fan Mountains from Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital, but while traveling in the share taxi to Sarvoda I was invited by my fellow passengers to their family's house in Aydin for a pre-wedding party (the wedding would take place the following weekend). I initially tried to politely refuse because I only had 2 days for the mountains, but when we got to Sarvoda kind of late in the afternoon I was asked again and accepted.
From the moment I walked through the door last Saturday it was a Tajik feeding frenzy with piles of bread, fruit, yogurt, meat, and plov the ubiquitous Central Asian dish that I'd somehow not yet eaten during the first 5 weeks in the region. The place was packed with countless uncles, cousins, and close male friends from the village. The women would have their own party on Sunday. Food was continuously brought out til 7:00 pm or so then the seal on the first bottle of Tajikistan's own brand of vodka was cracked. Either the vodka was pretty, pretty smooth or I'm
Fan Mountains, Tajikistan
getting used to this type celebration. The shots came in rapid succession with many toasts in Russian and Tajik that I could not understand although I gave it my best in Russian to toast peace, friendship, and girls on the beach in Florida which unsurprisingly was a big hit. One of the uncles was going to Florida this winter so the toast did not come out of nowhere. Watermelon was available for chasing the shots... not too shabby.
I had no idea how many ½ liter bottles of vodka were consumed but I knew it was more than a few. The drinking ended abruptly ~9:30 pm and a few of us crashed out under a Tajik gazebo. Slept great, almost certainly aided by the vodka, until morning muster at the harsh and bitter hour of 7:00 am. Was really not in the mood for more food but managed to get down some bread, melon, and tea. Found out at breakfast that 8 of us had drunk 7 bottles of vodka.
Now in Khorog in the Pamir Mountains after an absolutely brutal 17 hour trip from Dushanbe in a cramped Hyundai Galloper II SUV.
$US ≈ 5 Tajik
One of too many vodka bottles, Ayni.
Had to come here earlier than planned in order to sort a permit for the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, fortunately more easily known as GBAO or simply the Pamir Mountains. Not a bad place to spend a few days and much cooler than sizzling Uzbekistan. Accommodation and food
Spent a few nights at Yeti Hostel for $15 in a 4 or 8 person AC dorm with firm mattresses, clean sheets, and a towel. WiFi is lousy but the bathrooms are clean. Not much of a kitchen (fridge, electric kettle) and it's far from the center. There are a few local places to eat nearby and a couple of supermarkets across the street at Saodat Trading Center which is also a great place to change dollars or euros as the rates are better than official and without commission. Dollar dispensing ATMs also there. Transport
To the center take marshrutka
8 for 1 or 2 TJS which also passes OVIR (for Pamir permits), the Green Market, the Badakshan jeep area for transport to Khorog, and the airport. For share taxis to Fan Mountains and possibly Khojand and Penjikent, take marshrutka
17 to the end of the
line then bus 3 (1 TJS) to the cement factory. Share taxi to Sarvoda was 50 TJS but I went to Ayni for the same price. The ride, normally 3 hours, took forever because the notorious Anzob Tunnel
was being "repaired" and open in one direction only in 2 hour intervals Border crossing from Uzbekistan at Tursanzade
After long train rides from Bukhara to Samarakand then to Saryasiya I caught a share taxi to the border for 2,000 UZS/person, ~$0.70. Leaving Uzbekistan proved to be much easier than purported and I quickly cruised through Tajik immigration 5 minutes down the road. From the time I got off the train til I was "in" Tajikistan was about an hour and ten minutes. I waited for a couple of Russians I met in Saryasiya and we proceeded to the taxi staging area for a ride to Dushanbe where we were quoted 40 TJS/person. A local woman took us in another share taxi to Tursanzade for 7 TJS/person and there we got another ride straight to the hostel for 15 TJS each. Long trip - I left Bukhara around 7:30 pm and arrived at the hostel 6:00 pm the following day.
My one day in the Fan Mountains would mostly be spent getting there. My Ayni hosts gave me a ride to the center of town where I got a share taxi to Sarvoda for 15 TJS. Then spent 2 hours hitching first to the turnoff to the lake, then to a couple of villages, and lastly to the middle of nowhere which was supposedly 4 kms from the lake. Maybe it was 4 kms as the crow flies but the road endlessly switchbacked over a minor ridge and it took me 2 hours to get to the lake. I spent the night at the Turbaza in my own cabin for 50 TJS but I threw both mattresses on the floor and slept there rather than either of the springy Red Army cots. The on site restaurant was decent and inexpensive, serving cool bottles of Baltika for 8 TJS. I ran into a couple of Brazilians I met in Dushanbe who had arranged a ride back for 100 TJS/person which was a bit more than we could have done on our own but took the worry about trying to catch a share taxi coming from Ayni with space.
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