TAJIKISTAN with the Tajik Outlaws...War & Peace...the Rise of the Kool Kids


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Published: December 2nd 2017
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TAJIKISTAN with the Tajik Outlaws Part 6...War & Peace...the Rise of the Kool Kids.

Through the Akbaital Pass at 4,655 metres...the highest point of the trip...long descent to the village of Kara Kul 3,914 metres...spectacular landscapes on our left...the Chinese border with razor wire fencing on our right.

A Tajik military post opposite our homestay...cross the road at your peril made clear to us...guards with rifles visible...a tourist ended his trip by doing so...the Germans irritation that there are restrictions on them because of that.

Enter the homestay...flat roofed white dwellings with the highest salt lake in Central Asia behind it.

Suggested the Irish woman share the fourth bedroom with Naddya..."No way" she yawps...entering the room. "This room is filthy, I'm not occupying this room until it is cleaned...and the window sill is dirty"...stamping her feet.

"I insist the window sill be cleaned as well."

The owner, a slender Tajik woman picking up the vibe...the bike riders behind us looks of horror as they scurry outside.

The German woman complaining when told there would be no electricity until 8pm.

Then when told there was no internet...the Irish woman demanding it be connected even though it wasn't available!!!

Pandemonium within the group.

Shane doing his best to calm the storm...allocating bedrooms...we offering for Shane to share with us...he moving his backpack onto the third bed in our small room.

Naddya ultimately moving to a room outside...sharing it with Shane who needed a bit of extra space as he was not well!

The remaining bedroom inside going to others that came later that day.

I inspected the alleged filthy room.

It like the other rooms was small, beds neatly made, clean and the window sill maybe could be wiped but OK to me.

The remaining bedroom inside not yet ready to be cleaned as the occupants flashing shocked looks at us in the process of moving out.

"If you won't clean the window sill I'll clean it for you"...sliding the words to the Irish woman as if I was offering to be helpful.

But I was seething inside.

I had seen glimpses of demanding superior attitudes earlier in the trip...but this raised it to an unacceptable level in my mind.

We are due to stay two nights here...and we've only been here 5 minutes!

Since the first homestay particularly the Irish woman ...but joined by the Germans...complaining about accommodation...the simple food...sporadic internet availability...and that electricity by generators was only available at night.

We in the Dancing Car had been in three separate homestays...so how lucky were we to be unaware of the vibe in the rest of the group on those nights.

In our observation our hosts always sharing what little they had...so generous with their hospitality they would have preferred to go without.

The Panj River as we followed the Afghan border earlier in the trip had been threatening to eat us...any past pandering to complainers now threatening to bite.

But at Kara Kul...Heaven in the High Pamir...the tantruming complaining was making me itch for a fight.

And I was not the only one who felt that.

So it was decided they would be asked to leave.

And early the following morning they did so.

We would meet them again for our farewell dinner in 5 days when we arrive in Osh.

******




The Rise of the Kool Kids

When I arise the following morning they had already gone!

Only Naddya, Shane & Sherali are up...telling me the Irish woman had said goodbye to Naddya but the Germans had not...the rest of us emerging from our bedrooms with a yawn but a smile.

The sky is vivid blue...the High Pamir air clear and sharp.

We may be at high altitude (3,914 metres) but a peace has settled over the group that is palpable...as if dark clouds had been lifted and blown away.

Everyone is lounging on cushions on thin mattresses around the low table for breakfast...laughing...relaxing...all commenting in their own ways at the elevated lighter atmosphere in the group...even expressing relief.

Shane saying Kudash had taken them in the red car and would stay with them. He had told them they would stay at Sary Mogul in Kyrgyzstan and have electricity and internet but no guarantee of their own bathrooms and showers. Once there they would have to take what they get.

Sherali telling us the Dancing Car is regarded as "co-operative in all situations and not the source of any problems on the trip."

Naddya making it clear she is with us all the way.

And that day and
NaddyaNaddyaNaddya

" Kool Kid "
the following days our four became five...Naddya, Dangerous Dave, Merry Jo, Denise and I.

And from that day we would greet each other with High Fives...and a vocal salute..."Cool Kids"...planning to get T-shirts made...an enduring bond formed.

Cool Kids or Kool Kids...I prefer the double "K".

******




For the record

I got on well with the Irish woman. She was very "me, me, me" but we had a lot of laughs.

She had the knack of manipulating the cooks to give her better than the rest of us by using her over the top charm...triumph over her face each time.

Often complaining about accommodation...the simple food...sporadic internet availability...and that electricity by generators was only available at night..

The brochure titled "Tajikistan Tour with the Travel Camel" was clear as to what to expect with the "Reservation Form" commencing with the words:

"Before booking ensure you are familiar with all the "Road Trip Information" below, especially accommodation, altitude, cultural immersion, food and road information."

The "Road Trip Information" in the brochure included such gems as:

"If you are looking for a luxurious experience, you will not find it on this trip" and

"Electricity supply is reliable in Dushanbe, Khorog and Osh, but elsewhere it is variable...", and

"....your chance of having "comfort food" is almost nil. The local food...does not have strong flavours or spices."



Claimed she would not have come on the trip if she had read the brochure (but as the Reservation/Application Form was part of the brochure nobody believed her).

Her standard line was, "This is what happens when you don't read the brochure."


She was manipulative and a complainer...But I liked her.



We'd even done a pre-arranged dawn walk together in Murghab only that morning!



The Germans were a formidable couple and I admired their photographic skills.

He had the biggest video camera I had ever seen and would spew venom if anyone walked where he was filming.

He seemed to think he was superior to the Bulgarians but they ignored him. Chavdar was a businessman that I suspected was looking for investment opportunities and Kalin was his assistant...more interested in drinking beer and chatting to the drivers in Russian than what anyone thought of them. The Dancing Car got on famously with them as they were the ultimate party boys.

Naddya's only similarity was she was also Bulgarian...probably smarter than any of us...knew Shane through travel expos.

Mrs German was a pleasant woman with the heaviest SLR that took incredible photos. Naturally in disputes she sided with him. Often complained about non availability of internet and electricity but generally tried to get on with the group.

I got on well with both of them until our last afternoon in Murghab only the day before.

I had shared a bottle of Moldavian wine with him the previous evening and had him declaring he knew more about Australian aborigines than me and more about Mali and Timbuktu than Denise even though he had never been there.

Who is put off or concerned by know alls?

Wind is wind and I couldn't care less.

It hadn't occurred to me but in hindsight...maybe he thought he was superior to me as well.

That last afternoon in Murghab...the whole group just chatting outside the hotel enjoying the cooling air...the German guy talking to me about China. He knew twat but even though I've travelled in 16 provinces he making it clear he knew more than me.

"What do you think of the Dalai Lama?" he enquires.

I pause...he's the guy who says his religion is kindness.

"I think he is a great man", I reply.

The German rising to his feet...loudly exclaiming "That is your biggest mistake"...me so shocked by his aggression I do not recall what he was saying after that but aware he was wanting an argument with me.

"I can't handle this" I said..."Discussion over. You do not discuss...you impose"...and walked away...him yelling that the conversation was not over as I walked around the corner of the building.

(Fortunately an NGO walked past looking for the loo so I was able to chat to her for about 20 minutes so I didn't have to emerge from my hiding place!)

The German had not spoken to me or acknowledged me in any way after that.

Not until after our farewell dinner in Osh...but you'll have to wait to see if I tell you about that.

As I used to often tell the group, "I'm just a dancer"...but those that know me may know that I am not just anything!



Kara Kul...Pamir Heaven

The scenery here is out of this world.

I thought the lakes to this point were stunning...but here they are at another level...the blues are bluer.

The Irish & the Germans still here as this is the day it was decided they leave.

Naddya and I walking through the village finding a viewpoint of the lake that is stunning...the snowclad peaks of Kyrgyzstan with Lenin Peak that we will visit later smiling at us across the water...we'll be back at sunset.

At 5pm Mr Zee takes Denise, Shane, Dangerous Dave & Merry Jo for a drive down to the lake.

But Naddya & I stay 'cos we reckon no better than the spot we are going to.

We meet an American couple Jessie & Kwan who had sold their house in Denver, Colorado and are travelling the World. So we set off at 6:15pm with them to see the sunset...leaving the complainers uninvited.

The days are hot but the evenings and nights are cold...a stiff breeze blowing across the lake...time to test my windjacket I had bought in NZ on our travels with Jo Trouble.

Man oh man am I glad I did.

The sunset stunning...the squiggly lines of the shore changing in colour and intensity...the beach soft to sharp and glowing...the water ruffled with kicks of spray...ants we presume are Mr Zee and the others...our elevated viewpoint behind the village inviting the icy breeze to cut us in two.

Naddya, Jessie & Kwan fled at 7:15 but I stay till 8:15...enduring the icy winds in defiance and reverence...capturing from yellow to pink to grey until the mountains disappear from sight.

At 10pm I go to the toilet which is outside. There are two Western pit toilets..."the short arse" as I call it suitable for those with long or short legs...or "the long arse" as I call it...or "the throne" as others call it...set back on a frame so only long legs can use it.

Up a ramp...do my business...gazing at the Milky Way thinking do I grab my tripod and camera...the icy breeze inclining me to try my original plan which is from Lenin Peak...turn...falling through the air.

It was as if I had stepped off a cliff...into blackness and down...landing flat on my right foot...then my left foot stamping next to
Last glimpses of TajikistanLast glimpses of TajikistanLast glimpses of Tajikistan

Approaching the Kyrgyz border
it.

Silent...frozen in my fright...still as a meteorite fallen to earth that night.



I cannot believe what has just happened...no pain whatsoever...my yak skin boots have saved me yet again...cannot believe I have not twisted or broken my right ankle...cannot believe my left foot had not got caught in the wall I had fallen about a metre from that night.

To bed my left knee starting to throb...dreaming of good fortune and what I will say to the Germans and the Irish woman as they leave tomorrow.

******



Of sheep herders and kiwis and bicycles and helicopter rescues

I had chatted with the cyclists staying in the rooms outside...insisting I tell why the commotion earlier..."Why come to these areas if you expect 5 Star?"

About World Music...yet more folk who knew about Tinarawen, Ali Farka Toure and the music of West Africa...Brits on remote roads sharing that.

There was Nigel again I had met in Murghab...been on a bicycle since 2011...his younger companions in awe of that.

But sickness had hit their group. A young woman with them had had to be rushed to hospital in Dushanbe. As they are restricted to light loads...drinking surface water that they boil. Often they
The FragglesThe FragglesThe Fraggles

Emma & Marie
get the water fed from mountain streams but they suspect she drank from water polluted by animals and the boiling had not made it clear. The dangers of such travel...but lucky for her she had joined a group...which had an old hand like Nigel there.

At lunchtime two New Zealanders come in...been in the vehicle held up by the jack-knifed truck that hung over the edge of the cliff road I referred to a few blogs back,

Soon Merry Jo squealing with delight.

They are the Fraggles...Marie & Emma...fellow Travelbloggers...blows us away the people we meet.

Their weapons of choice to counter the simple food...biscuits. Mmmm nice change to our diet. Great company for lunch and dinner...no expectation of internet...great stories of the road.



The lightened atmosphere in the group seeming to improve Shane's health.

Into the two remaining vehicles to search for shepherds for him to interview for his travel talks.

Stopping at the bluest striped lake ever...another that we also loved...I think one was called Black Lake and the other Green but don't quote me on that.

We also found a shepherd who had 500 sheep and 100 yaks. He chatted about his life in the Pamir with his nephew and a younger relative joining in...Sherali was interpreting. He sold 50 sheep and 10 yaks per year and also killed some for food. He had a tenure over the land from the government upon which others could not encroach. He told us how he divided between his sons and the joys and hardships of his life on the Pamir.

Then he asked plenty of questions about us.

At the end we posed together for photographs and Denise thrilled him by giving photos of them printed from her Polaroid Camera.

Who had the better time from that visit?

As we said goodbyes it was truly hard to tell.



That night we met Stefano...a solo German traveller on his second trip to Tajikistan...driving a hired vehicle alone.

Telling us of a lonely valley he was in when he saw a helicopter fly in and hover over a narrow bridge.

A trekker had walked across and some rotten boards had broken and he had fallen...caught hanging above the angry river...lucky he had not fallen in...rescued after considerable delay by the Tajik army helicopter.

No insurance in his circumstances...his rescue costing him US$20,000.



The Kool Kids, the Fraggles, Shane, Sherali, Mr Zee, Jengish and our new friend Stefano...chewing the fat...the Pamir wind wanting to bite but we are too content to be worried by that.



Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave


Additional photos below
Photos: 105, Displayed: 32


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Akbaital PassAkbaital Pass
Akbaital Pass

4,655 metres






2nd December 2017

I'm transported!
My goodness... those panoramas had me from the very start! The story?... wow I want to be a Kool Kid every day! I feel so privileged to be able to travel & to travel with grace & fascination & appreciation of such a beautiful world, words are inadequate...
2nd December 2017

I'm transported!...the Panoramas
The panoramas blow me away Denise...I sit back and let the Panorama Slideshow take me back on that journey and wonder how high does this part of the High Pamir of Tajikistan rate among the most beautiful places in the World. Among the top in my view!
2nd December 2017

Rollercoaster of impressions!
First off I'd say good riddance with the complainers finally leaving the group. I'm really surprised that such inflexible travellers, no strike that, tourists, would go to such a country as Tajikistan. As an insurance adviser the guy needing rescue strikes a cord. I spend my days trying to convince people to have proper coverage and often talking do deaf ears and knowing full well that situations like this happening. We had a guy a while back who went abroad without proper coverage, cost him 7 million Swedish crowns. Would love to hit the road with you and Denise, Shane and all the epic TB'ers!
2nd December 2017

Rollercoaster of impressions!
I never believe that people go to a remote destination without some knowledge of what they are getting into Per-Olof...but to be inadequately insured is a risk that it appears so many say "It won't happen to me", Then when they return they have to consult people like you or me! Yet some continue in their own bubble oblivious of their effect on others like the complainers in my story. What happens when or if the bubble bursts?
2nd December 2017

Kool Kids Rule!
Once again Dancing One.....you've taken us back to a marvelous time....despite the less than grateful travel companions who ultimately remained irrelevant to the big picture....as they should....Kool Kids Rule!!!.....The Dangerous One
2nd December 2017

Kool Kids Rule!
You must have wondered with the titbits in my previous blogs if after all the warnings of some poor attitudes within the group I would report the Panj would ultimately bite. Well as you know it did. The heaviness lifted...cleared the air...friendships bloomed...and were magnificent. Karma is a ***** isn't it?
2nd December 2017

wow this trip looks amazing!
How did you arrange it? Who was it booked with?
2nd December 2017

wow this trip looks amazing!
All the info is in my Tajikistan blogs Claire...more than amazing as I hope my blogs convey. I'm sure if you contact The Travel Camel he'll be happy to advise you if he's doing it again.
2nd December 2017

Cameraman
I know a few videographers like the afore mentioned venom spewer... They can be an interesting breed! Another great instalment to the Tajik series. I am moved by your conversation with the shepherd about his sheep and yaks - very special to have these interactions. Dave
2nd December 2017

Cameraman
As you have joined and/or been following the ride Dave...albeit vicariously...had to let on what ultimately resulted with attitudes within the group. Yet it to our surprise it did not end there...no siree! My Faces of Tajikistan blog is next. Watch this space!!!
2nd December 2017

High Pamir
Looks like it has been an interesting trip for you guys to this remote part of the world. Desolate with little modern amenities like internet, hotels or spicy food. Not for fussy kinda tourists though! The landscape is beautiful, people are welcoming. It's anybody's guess when this area of the central Asia will get noticed and start becoming popular.
2nd December 2017

High Pamir
I thought of you Hem when I bought my new tripod for this trip. The sharpness of the images in particular the nuances of the Kara Kul sunset would not have been possible without it. All the day shots were hand held though. Magic part of the World. My next blog will explore issues of whether it should become popular or whether it is best if it remains as it is.
3rd December 2017

Grumpy pants
Oh dear. Their privilege is showing, and it’s not pretty. I laughed that you guys voted to throw them off the island – how toxic must they have been! But it’s fabulous that all of you managed to have an enjoyable trip regardless of the negative elements. The guy getting stuck on the broken bridge is scary stuff. We never travel without full medical evacuation insurance… but in our younger days the most thought we‘d have given that sort of thing would have been to throw a pack of Band-Aids into our packs. How times have changed :)
3rd December 2017

Grumpy pants
While the first 5 minutes of our time in Kara Kul led to the three complainers leaving the group, until that moment we in the Dancing Car regarded their attitudes as just foibles of group dynamics and as Dave puts it "irrelevant to the big picture." However, the lightened atmosphere and rise of the Kool Kids after they left was quite profound. It was only what happened next (which I reveal in my next blog) that to me was so pivotal to the flavour of the trip that, with regret, I give their behaviour any attention in my Tajikistan blogs. I'm still shaking my head in disbelief this could happen...but it did!!!
3rd December 2017
High Pamir

Like a painting...
Gorgeous landscape shots! What travel camera and lenses are you using these days David?
3rd December 2017
High Pamir

Like a painting...
I am pleased you have checked out the Panorama slideshow Ren. I've always said Chile is my Number One for staggering beauty, followed by Bolivia and New Zealand. But when we hit the Higher Pamir of Tajikistan I really was blown away. The camera is my Sony NEX-6 (replaced my NEX-5 in 2013) with my workhorse Sony 18-200mm lens (that I have had since 2010) but the Sony 50mm lens I used in Bolivia and the Atacama & altoplano of northern Chile is a smaller but better lens. This trip I also took a tripod which is why the sunsets are so sharp. No digital SLRs for the Dancing Ones yet.
4th December 2017

I feel so sorry for Shane as the tour leader...
he did his due diligence by advising every potential traveler what to expect...probably why I didn't go as I'm pretty much over roughing it at the end of the world. Some people are just complainers, or judgmental, or think they are superior or know it all, so sending them away was the right thing to do. Anyway, you had quite an adventure. I'm looking forward to reading about the farewell dinner!
5th December 2017

I feel so sorry for Shane as the tour leader...
So did we Bob. It was his decision as leader that he had to ask them to leave as he felt they were unsettling for the group. We were prepared to put up with them but he did the deed with skill and verve that they probably thought he was doing them a favour. That it resulted in such peace within the group is a testament to his judgment and we were all appreciative and hats off to him for that. Frankly, the only one we felt sorry for was Shane as he put so much effort and enthusiasm into organising the trip. I assure you he knew without a doubt that we had his back and he could rely on us for support. With Shane and the four of us in the Dancing Car, that made 5 Travelbloggers...and we were a powerful force!
5th December 2017

Canterbury tales
Amazingly beautiful. I wonder why people go on trips like this when it is clear that they are not going to like it? As for the Irish woman, charming be damned, Idon't think other women would like her, did Denise like her? Probably saw through that pretty quickly.
5th December 2017

Canterbury tales
Great title Jools...I kinda liked mine as well. Denise and I both liked her...but we saw immediately what she could also be like. What we didn't see is what happened next. Watch this space!
5th December 2017

Bated breath
Whoohoo, I await with bated breath!
7th December 2017

She was manipulative and a complainer...But I liked her
Manipulative people often are the most charming. I try to appreciate their positive traits and block off their flaws. But charm can usually offset their bad traits. Lovely read and incredible photos! Amazing what you can achieve with your mirror-less camera. This is just what I needed today to get my energy back to finish my mundane job! I want to go to Central Asia but It doesn't seem wise to go there alone and it's difficult to find people adventurous or interested enough to visit that part of the world with me. Organized group tours are beyond my financial capacity at the moment though. No other choice but to muster up the courage to go it alone one of these days. And so exciting to hear you met other TBs by chance!
7th December 2017

She was manipulative and a complainer...But I liked her
Now its time to dream Harold. Having spent time with you in Oz experiencing your enthusiasm for life...I know you would fit in great on a trip such as this. I suggest you contact the Travel Camel and see if it can happen. Glad you loved the pics...even better in real life!
7th December 2017
Black Lake

On complaining when it's just stupid to do so...
Your story about the people who were complaining and makes me frustrated just reading it. I remember when we visited Angel Falls in Venezuela. We were in the middle of nowhere and considering that the accomodation and the service was perfectly OK. I can add that it was raining hard the entire night and when I woke up I was dry and so was my luggage. Still a woman had the nerve to complain. I regret that I kept my mouth shut. I should of course have said something.
7th December 2017
Black Lake

On complaining when it's just stupid to do so...
I figure some people complain because its "me, me, me." Sometimes it is best to say nothing 'cos what happens when you do? I wouldn't normally mention it as we were too busy having a good time. But because of what happened next it cast a flavour over the trip that I could not ignore. That said you pick a brilliant photo...those are the actual colours. How could one not have a great time?
7th December 2017
High Pamir

"Out of this world"
As you said, scenery out of this world. /Ake
7th December 2017
High Pamir

"Out of this world"
Some of it was like an oil painting Ake...correction...a lot of it. Hope you checked out the Panorama slideshow. Gives me a thrill to relive it. It is high altitude so if you and Emma are tempted to visit the Pamir...bring your trekking boots but maybe not your running shoes!
8th December 2017

Keep Calm & Ignore Rude People...Tajikstan
Well Dave once again I've flown on the magic carpet of your blogs to somewhere so unique while enjoying a scotch in my chair. You are taking me to places I most likely won't ever go. I hope Shane is starting to feel better? Lord knows it doesn't help when your comrades turn out to be dinks but that being said, the real mark of maturity and grace is to remain pleasant when others aren't. (This is a time you wish these people had a shock collar and you had the remote!) The story, the pics are fantastic. Your journey is spectacular, and you surround yourself with other travelers that 'get it'. Love love love the blogs as usual. I replied last week and don't see it so not sure what the heck happened...I'll blame it on that scotch I have (that I didn't hit submit) when reading your scooby-doo blogs! Keep on being KOOL!
8th December 2017

Keep Calm & Ignore Rude People...Tajikstan
Always makes me smile when you comment Sal. Pity you missed send last time but don't miss the next one. We'll see if you think I'm Kool then!.
10th December 2017
Tajik Outlaws Fourstep

I love you I love this photo
I may have to get this one framed. Priceless!!
11th December 2017
Tajik Outlaws Fourstep

I love you I love this photo
Glad you found it MJ. Trust you also spotted the surprise in the Panorama slideshow as well. As some don't like to look at more than one page of photos I make it a point to put some of the best ones on the last page...for only true discerners to enjoy!
10th December 2017

Glimpses of demanding superior attitudes
The Travel Camel is a professional who outlined each step of the trip completely. If you don't do your research on any trip you are about to take you are a fool. If you tell people you didn't read the brochure when you are a world travel who used to work for ABC news they might think you are handing them a pile of crap and roll their eyes. Indeed I did like the Irish woman until her ugly traveler side came out. Stomping feet and saying Im not going to sleep there and demanding food they don't have to give is absurd. Wouldn't have believed it if I had not seen it with my own two eyes. Sad behavior really. With all of that chaos the trip was still marvelous and grand. The good thing about the Kool Kids was we would not let anyone dampen our spirits and stop of from enjoying the grandeur of all that was around us. We met so many amazing people who appreciate being allowed to share this life. Loved the blog. MJ
11th December 2017

Glimpses of demanding superior attitudes
Well said MJ. Couldn't agree more.
10th December 2017
Doing the Travel Camel

Nice one
Shane Dallas The Travel Camel.... priceless
11th December 2017
Doing the Travel Camel

Nice one
Shane liked photos of him taking photos so I had to include one of them MJ. What a beautiful spot that was.
10th December 2017
Sunset at Kara Kul

Sunset
Blissful
11th December 2017
Sunset at Kara Kul

Sunset
One of the best things I did on the trip was stay out till dark enjoying the sunset at Kara Kul Lynne. I started heading back to the homestay twice as it was so cold but turned back each time as the colours were changing so much.
10th December 2017

Blue or green lake .
Who cares ... it’s awesome . Swooning again !
11th December 2017

Blue or green lake .
Well spotted Lynne. Gives you some idea why we were swooning there.
10th December 2017

New title ..The Obnoxiuos Ones
As I follow the story along the route ...I am now cheering that they have gone ...well for the moment . That aside the landscapes should really put any human being in their insignificant place . Stunning scenery and you have captured it and shared it with us ...thanks Dave.
11th December 2017

New title ..The Obnoxious Ones
Well said Lynne. And glad you highlight the landscapes. After all is said they were the highlights of the trip...stunning at every turn.

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