Cathy's Birthday!

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July 17th 2016
Published: June 26th 2017
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Sunday 17th July

Cathy's birthday!

Cards distributed.......this time two years ago we were "luxuriating" in the Affina Hotel Manhttan! I cannot think of more of a contrast.......

Up at 0500hrs to avoid the crush for the single "bucket and ladle" powered shower for 15 or two of the group are stirring as we sit sipping our morning beverage........"Oh good morning what a lovely view" Cathy chirrups to "Mystic Meg"............a tight lipped "I'll look at it later" the short terse reply.

Today Mystic Meg is going to solve the Islamic uprising and general strife in the Middle East by throwing a "specially charge" "Mystic CRYSTAL" in the general direction of Afghanistan...........that should do it me thinks. be frank this is a genuine gesture and if the world were full of people like this we would be in a better place........perhaps......

0610: As we sit admiring the view we chat in low tones to a nice Danish chap.......a pale arm suddenly appears and shuts the window nearby......clearly the crystals are feeling a bit off colour.

0820: After decent breakfast we set off and leave the Afghan border behind us after throwing pebbles across the 100m wide river separating the two countries. The jeeps suddenly start climbing .........3,500m......4,000m........4,200m.....heading due north across and high plateau and snow capped rugged peaks.

We are now entering a new and totally distinct part of Tajikistan.......we could be in a totally different country! We soon spot Mongolian style yurts with groups of oriental looking people dressed in traditional Chinese style dress with thick boots to keep out the cold. Even in July at 4,000m it is chilly and a roaring wood fire burns in our lunch stop roadside cafe full of cheery locals serving bowls of noodle soup.

POSSIBLY THE WORST TOILET IN THE WORLD! stood alone......white and innocent looking with no roof and small entrances either side.......strategically located some 250m from the nearest dwelling......I approached with reverential awe and peered into the "inner sanctum sanctorum "........and there beheld a simple wooden pedestal set a convenient 1 inch off the ground. Perhaps a herd of partially sighted bison had been caught short earlier in the day or more likely every day for the last 6 months..............reeling and sinking from the pestilence I beat a fast retreat wiping tears from my eyes!

On we press ....deeper and higher into this baron sublunary wildness which could easily have been mistaken for some far flung planet devoid of all mortal existence. Suddenly, the jeep slows and we pull off right onto glacial debris that crunches loudly under our tyres .....YES!......about 300 yards away we spot two White dome like Yurts around which are clustered a traditionally dressed family group going about their daily tasks and at some distance a herd of Yaks are grazing.

We eagerly clamber down and are greeted by several children and family. After much excited shaking of hands we are beckoned into one of the Yurts clad with animal skins. Inside there is a wonderful smell of charcoal and baking bread and at the far side a round rosy cheeked older lady is rocking a wooden crib covered in a vivid red shawl. A woven blanket is quickly unfolded and we are pressed with hand made delicacies such as "yak butter" and "yak yoghurt" or otherwise known as "yakult"....all very pleasant.

At about 1600hrs we slowly see signs of habitation........Murghab! last!............the outskirts of the town have a worringly smashed up gets worse.......wrecked jeeps and other twisted metal lie about the unmade up streets lined with low rise crumbling dwellings ........has there been a nuclear war? this the last human colony trying to survive some sort of nuclear winter? in funny white hats shuffle about........full of nervous anticipation and preparing ourselves for the worst we turn off into a labyrinth of even more smashed up dwellings and wrecked vehicles.........drain smells permeate the breeze.

The jeeps slow and we pull into our little Homestay which in fact turned out to be a pleasant little establishment run by a young lady who spoke excellent English having spent several years in the USA.......err one way ticket me thinks....we were well catered for and had a relatively comfortable night apart from having to totter across the mud yard to the "outhouse" at 1am.....a western wc but no running water......

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