Say hello to my little friend
If I order sauce in Tajikistan will I get Tajik sauce? That was the big question in the days before going to Tajikistan. Kinda gives you an idea about the level of intelligence I have to deal with daily. Also gives an idea about how well I was prepared for these countries. So what to expect from Tajikistan and Kyrgyztan? Former Soviet-Union, big round tents and men with beards riding the horse? Had no idea, I went in there blanco.
Central Asian countries. The ‘stan’ countries. That must be sketchy, dangerous and full of terrorists right? In fact you cycle for days along the Tajik-Afghan border. Here they hide in caves, walk around with long beards, tribal turbans and Kaleshnikovs. Probably they hunt down cyclists too! I took my heroic chances and decided to go for it anyway.
Yes it has been extremely dangerous. But I’m still here today, alive, due to my surviving skills. Especially the “Hellooow, goodbye, how are youuuuuus!” from the kids, the countless invitations for tea, talks, smiles, home made breads, invitations for spending the night and food were one big mental torture. To get things straight, since you probably don’t really know me: obviously, just like many other countries where people (or media) have warned me for, the people were great.
The Pamirs is a mountainous area in the eastern part of Tajikistan stretching all the way to the southern part of Kyrgyztan. It has many small villages and (sub) cultures and is famous among cyclists around the world. I have seen more here than in one year cycling to Rio de Janeiro. But it’s definitely still doable, not overcrowded or so. It has become some kind of bucket list trip for those who have a holiday and those who do long trips. If you ever think about going there, august and september are popular and the best months in terms of climate. Dushanbe – Osh is a relatively popular route.
Cycling the Pamirs has been intense with lots of off road (sand, stones, difficult). It was the first time that I had to go back on high altitudes and I got worried since my system gets all messy. High altitude sickness is something I have experienced more than once. And believe it or not, I was stupid enough to go up too fast again. My cognitive skills shrank down to a seriously low level and I almost got hit by a jeep cycling in the dark. Thought of myself as a real stupid ass afterwards. The down side of persistency? Being persistent. I shouldn’t have gone so fast to 4300 meters. Don’t make the same mistake. Good thing that night? Clear sky, zillion stars.
After the Pamir mountains I arrive in Osh, Kyrgyztan. Coat off, different food, and coffee. Yes! It is here where I meet a cyclist who’s doing central Asia in 6 weeks. We talk about my dream trip going down over the Karakoram Highway down into Ladakh. Unfortunately an impossible route due to visa issues. China, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, it’s all geopolitics. Crossing so many borders must say they are a great tool to devide people. But that’s good for business right..
In the end it is here in Osh where I decide to go for Ladakh after all. It’s late in the season, getting freezing cold but I have made up my mind and will cycle Ladakh if the mountain passes are still open. In the next update you’ll know how that worked out. Let’s hope.
The second good reason – or was it maybe the first ;) to go to Ladakh is that I have to be in Bishkek asap to organize my India visa. And in Bishkek there’s a special somebody waiting for me that I met earlier. Like most of the times, it’s the people that are the highlights in my cycling trip around the world.
Don’t know if you read about why I’m cycling my ass off. Basically it’s all about connecting and in the process I want to show how good (most) people are. Now, the little guy in the picture on top of this page..his family invited me to spend the night in their house. They said it was too dangerous to camp out because of the wolves. Great tip of advice by the way. So I did and this (poor) family took care of me like one of their own. I had drinks, food and could spend the night. Safe and warm. The little guy soon became my buddy, he followed me around everywhere and every time our eyes crossed we smiled. He was this little bundle of positive energy.
When I told them I would leave early in the morning the family asked me to stay. But I wanted to move on, go deeper into the mountains. Saying goodbye in the cold morning they went inside after some hugs and kisses but my friend just stayed there watching me and waving. When I was cycling he just kept on standing there sad watching me go untill it was too far for me to see him. Made me all soft. Sometimes when I’m cycling I still think of him. He is a good ‘symbol’ of the goodness of the people in this region. All the best buddy, see you in a next adventure.