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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 38.4537, 70.789
Tuesday 12th July:
PROGRESS UPDATE: 0630hours Kalaikhum
We have been up since 0600 hrs listening to the prayer calls. Whiskey stocks are running low.......very low and I been more than a little concerned at the merchandise in the local stores......Fanta, Coke, Lemon Tea.....h'mmmmm. However, a quick early foray to the nearby supermarket has replenished supplies and we are now "clinking" around with a 1L bottle of Vodka.....
GROUP UDPATE: All quiet and tranquil although there is an undercurrent of grumbling from one ot two.......more will develop I am sure.....
Last night at about 1900hrs we arrived in this bustling little town surrounded by spectacular peaks towering above us. We had been skirting Afghan border for several hours, traveling on gravel tracks through stunning scenery.
Afghanistan! We could hardly believe our eyes....... This infamous war torn country was literally within touching distance and at times only some 100 yards across the fast flowing Panj River which forms the natural border between the two countries. We were were able to waive to children dressed in white and brown kaftans as they merrily skipped down from their squat mud brick houses set high on the rocky outcrops opposite. No visible signs
of Western culture anywhere!
The day had started earlier that morning with double egg omelet washed down with cherry juice. By 0730 we were climbing aboard the sturdy Landlord Cruisers (only to note at lunchtime that our vehicle was in fact a Nissan Trooper)...... and set off from Dushanbe at 0810 plying our way through the bustling morning traffic and dodging "office types" making their way to work in this industrious and fast developing Country.
Slowly but surely, the mountains ahead of us loomed larger in our sights as the urban landscapes gave way to open wildness.
0915 we hit Nurak Lake with spectacular views
0935 Pitstop.....Hilary indicates a "heady" 1260m above sea level...
We press on making good progress on the dry dusty plains heading South East.
Outside temperature now 41C.
Time for a quick stop at a refurbished fort followed by a typical Tajik lunch of stewed goat and salads. We hit our first non western WC facilities.........clothe peg in hand we survive!
After lunch we then turn due east toward China and Pakistan and start climbing up dirt track roads through high mountain passes with military check points. We sit in the jeeps whilst an Officer causually plays with
his wooden stocked high calibre machine gun chewing gum. Eventually we are waived through and descending into a harsh dusty valley bisected by a raging wide river. The natural border between us and Afghanistan.
The sun by this time was beginning to lose it's greatest altitude and as it began it's slow but relentless descent into the West cast golden hues across the bare faced rocks and escarpments surrounding us. We were hot tired and dusty but mesmerised by our experiences!
.....we were preparing ourselves for a "Homestay"....the sort of place where you are out with the goats and living with the traditionally dressed local folk ......after a hard day's drive through spectacular scenery miles from nowhere we were ready but slightly nervous that we were about to experience the "real" Tajikistan"...........WRONG.........we suddenly hit the outskirts of Khalikhum and modern looking buildings appeared from nowhere! Our "Homestay turned out to be a brand new marble 4 star Hotel complete with a brass wall climber lift! A few chilled Stella's have been secreted in the bar ready for us!
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