оҳиста суст, жай жай...Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan- Dushanbe to Kalai-Kum (Qal'ai Khumb)

Published: November 25th 2021
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Day 9

Dushanbe to Kalai-Kum (Qal'ai Khumb - fortress on the banks of the river of Khumb) in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.

Distance- 352km

Sleeping altitude 1287m

I need to get up early to try to repack my entire belongings into 1 manageable pack from which to work from for this next chapter of the trip- it takes an hour to create order from the explosion of my stuff from yesterday. Head down the stairs for an early breakfast- it is too early for Marian's so sit in the garden for a bit until the kitchen guy is organised. Eggs, coffee, yoghurt, muselei, cheese and bread consumed, Mohammed arrives ahead of schedule (I'm happy with early). I have a new driver- Baakah (he reminds me a lot of Dhana the Nepalese guide that i met in 2012). Seems gruff on first impression (this proves not to be so after spending the next couple of weeks with him), we have a new car and Baakah is very keen on it. We finally hit the outskirts of Dushanbe by 9:30 and cross the city limits- the road trip begins. We drive through a new tunnel- the longest one yet at 4.5km, Chinese built and are into small town territory. There's a big beautiful intensely blue lake and the River Vakhsh, many teahouses and small stalls along the dry, dusty road. Continue onward past field after field of harvested hay. The roads are lined with melons for sale. We make a stop at a market in a carpark set up with stalls- lots of spices, fruit, figs and dried cheese. It overlooks "The Blue Sea"- another vibrant lake. More pasture with cows, sheep and goats, incredible colour and hills everywhere around. We make a loo stop at a toilet in a field, there's a young girl guarding a bunch of turkeys, she is very shy, avoiding any eye contact. Mohammed tells me that this is the area where four foreign cyclists were murdered last month while cycling the Pamir Highway. It's a chilling story.


Around midday we reach the 9th century silk road archaeological site of Hulbuk (once one of the biggest cities in Central Asia). Mohammed summons up the professor/curator/archaeologist/caretaker who comes over and gives me the honour of opening up the massive gates. The site has been under excavation since the 1950's, the professor tells me that much was done from 1965 with the Russians spearheading the works. The old walls were replaced with new ones and the minaret strucure. Inside the massive site I am shown the garbage holes, ceramic water pipes, the haram, the stage (complete with warming braziers), the pool, etc. The professor has a spiel in rapid fire English, he's very passionate. I give him my "donation", have my photo(s) taken with him and we are back on the road. Refuelling stop (carefully detailed in log book), then lunch- a cafeteria, "fill your tray" affair. Lots on offer, I go with the meat/vege/lentil/potato soup (excellent), stuffed pepper (very delicious), salad (hmm), hot tea and apricot iced tea and bread. The three of eat together, total bill about US $6. M supplements our lunch with cherry iced tea - apparently it's ok to help yourself to other customers leftover 1/2 empty jugs of iced tea in Tajikistan.

We spend the rest of the afternoon winding up hills on bad roads. Actually there is no actual road but lots of cars dodging pot holes and each other. We go through several police checkpoints, roadside police wave us through (tourist in vehicle- wave through, locals- stopped for "payment"). The countryside becomes brown and mountainous, we have another passport stop and end up giving the 2 police officers a lift. The Pyanj (Panji) River presents itself, the Afghan border is just across the water. The river is churning- roiling great water. Across the river are simple brick huts and an occasional village green. No photos to be taken near police patrols. Blue school buildings and a UN health tent. More soldier foot patrols. M tells me that we are allowed to get out of the car at the waterfall near the landslide that took out the bridge! OK!. We do. It seems that most people take the opportunity to wash their cars under the water fall that casually abuts the road. This is going to be a month of surrealness!

It's nearly 5pm when we arrive into Kalai-Kum (Darvoz). It's a town with a river running through it and is a popular stop for locals, drivers and tourists. We pull into the Bahram Homestay- looks really nice- get settled but then there is a late change of plans- M hears that 20 tourists are arriving, we rapidly decamp to the Roma Homestay next
Local MarketLocal MarketLocal Market

Family affair
door. The Bahram guy is unhappy (the Roma guy is very happy), Bakaar is very happy because he thinks that the car is more secure at the Roma. OK. My room is brothel pink. Beautiful garden. Comfortable place, has an ensuite! Winning. Dinner is waterside sitting on cushions. Noodle soup with lamb, salad, watermelon, plums, bread, biscuits and tea. Seriously delicious. M tells me he is glad I eat meat (he will go on to tell me this every day of our time together). The Roma is pretty busy- 2 Korean cyclists who have cycled from Osh, 4 motor bike riders (including 1 very loud American- he is the first person that i have heard swear in my time in TJ, he's really over the top- I cringe). The TV is on - the Asian games are being held in Indonesia. Sleep comes quickly after a hot shower in my hot room, I sleep with the windows open to the sound of the women and kids of the homestay family, the rushing river and traffic noise. It's great.

Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 25


Plentiful Cotton CropsPlentiful Cotton Crops
Plentiful Cotton Crops

or are they potato?
Hulbuk CitadelHulbuk Citadel
Hulbuk Citadel

Guarding the western entrance of the Pamir Highway and the nearby salt mines of Khoja Mumin. Two palaces were built within the walls but by the 12th century had been destroyed by the Mongols.
Excavations continueExcavations continue
Excavations continue

From the 1950's excavation has occured. The palace walls, miniaret and battlements have been restored

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