Month: September 2017

Sleep – eat – ride


Tajikistan Part II: There I was: on the Pamir.  In the morning I was awakened by a golden light …


Region Lake Churukul

… in the afternoon the sun was bright and all the mountains colors switched on like a Christmas tree: red, green, purple, yellow …


On the way to Sargidast Pass

… while in the evening everything was burning like a fire: yellow, orange, pink, red … pure beauty.


Shokdara Valley

No idea about the time, the day … is it Monday or Saturday?? … who cares! I never felt so free.   F R E E D O M.   My life became exactly as that slogan I saw on the T-Shirt of a cyclist in Dushanbe: SLEEP – EAT – RIDE (and repeat). Nothing than more simple, but … my life has never been so  i n t e n s e.


Shokdara Valley

The “SLEEP” part was really not a problem … super comfy sleeping-bag and exhausted cells are a good combination for long and deep sleeps.


If you travel “solo”, it doesn’t mean that you ARE solo … visits early morning in Shoshbuvad, Shokdara Valley


Best toilet in the Pamir … Dirum, Shokdara Valley

The “EAT” part is another story … Just once I had a delicious Plov (rice and vegetables) with chicken cooked with love by Dasha, a beautiful and very generous woman in the Shokdara valley:


After that I have not seen many times meat (once!) … Their diet is mostly based on bread and ch’ai (or at least this is what I saw when I was hosted by the locals). And since the bread is often stale or hard, it is intent in the tea to soften it … yes, I was feeling like this:

duck-11.jpgI didn’t want to be a duck! I WANTED a duck!

duck-31.jpgYou feel that your body is desperately begging you F O O D : fruits, cheese, milk (ooooh miiiiiiiiilk! I missed it sooooo much!), meat, vegetables … but the only thing that you are giving to it is: bread, horrible biscuits, pasta, sometimes potatoes or tomatoes and water … after more than one month it starts to be difficult … physically and psychologically. Only in Ali Chor I got finally something different: rice with milk!!, butter!!, yack cream!!, apples!! and THEM …Manté (dumplings with meat, traditional Kyrgyz food)! It was like Christmas:


The Magazines (shops) up there are empty als sound chambers … biscuits, candy of any kind, shape and color were easy to find, but real food … almost nothing. This is simply because families are autonomous and produce all what they need. They have cows, goats, hens and sometimes gardens … no need for shops …


The village of Ali Chor ….more people on the street here at 4000 m.a.s.l. than in Faido! 🙂

It is in the “RIDE” part that everything happens. You wake up and you just know that you have to ride … no idea about the conditions of the road, no idea where I will stop, no idea if I will find food or water, no idea about the weather, no idea if I will meet somebody … you mount on your bicycle and you go. E v e r y    s i n g l e   km, e v e r y    s i n g l e day was a discovery, a surprise, an adventure.


Shokdara Valley


Ak-Balyk (White Fish Spring, sacred place)

Everything depend on you. The road is too bad and/or steep? You push. Big boulders and deep rivers? Take off your shoes, jump in the water and push. Magnificent descent? Brakes free and enjoy the fun!


Shokdara Valley

It is when you RIDE that you get connected with the people. This man (the owner of the guest house) made my days in Ali Chor (yes!! He served me the dumplings.)… Sometimes it is like you can feel the soul of the people and the soul of this man was so peaceful and so … serene! Pamir-41He is Kyrgyz, like 70% of the population in the Murghab province … and again: different physiognomies, language and attitude of the people. Life there is very difficult: long winters at -45 °C, no electricity, no running water, no wood, the soil is too dry to be cultivated … I asked him “why do you stay here?”. With an exquisite simplicity he looked around, with a quiet voice he gave me what for him was the most obvious reason: “Because it is beautiful“.Pamir-47And the children??? Oooooooooh I loved them!! Like this little mouse: he came straight toward me with a high head and he shake my hand like a true gentleman “Salam!”.


Very proud to show me his toy.

Honestly, I don’t know how many times up there I was riding, laughing and crying at the same time. Thank you! Thank you life!


Approaching Maysara Pass


Maysara Pass


On the way to Okbadal Pass


Okbadal Pass 4655 m.a.s.l. … yes, it is because the lack of oxigen …

Many will think “Oooh! Lucky you!” … Luck has nothing to do with this … You choose your condition, you choose wich kind of life you want to live. You have just to move yourself and maybe take THE decision that at the beginning seems so difficult … almost impossible. It is not. It is just the first step, then everything flows like a river.


Chandindara River, Shokdara Valley

Still I cannot define the Pamir experience … it was intense not only because of the people, the   a m a z i n g    landscapes, the nature, the fatigue, … but I think also because I was there alone.


Descent after Sargidast Pass

You spend the days in silence (ok, not when I was singing). Only the wind and the sliding of the chain of the bicycle are the predominant noises. During the pauses the flow of the river and the birds were my music. In the evening the noise of the gas stove, the bubbling water, and dishes were my companions. I was not on the Pamir … I had the impression I was part of it.

So simple … so beautiful …


Approaching Murghab

… and it is not finished yet… I just entered in Kyrgyzstan …


Pereval Kyzyl-Art Pass (Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan border)

Un abbraccio Stef and Silence

… The Monsters


Tajikistan Part I: Long time has passed. Sorry I was a bit busy in experiencing something that I cannot really describe … Let’s start from the beginning. (As usual: impossible to tell you all the stories …)

pamirAs soon as you step in the Tajik border you get sick … I think it is a sort of Tutankhamun’s curse: do you enter the country? Well: diarrhea and vomiting for 3-4-5-6 days … in the first night I lost 2 kg, my family name and part of my soul. The children of my host family came every 30 minutes to ask me how I was feeling … It was really a pity, they just wanted to play at the river with me.


He was MY super hero Spider Man

But in the lovely family, somebody was feeling even worse than me. The grandmother was dying. The morning after strange laments woke me up: she passed away. The village came to share its condolences. Gifts such as jams or pickles were brought. Male children wear a white hut and a red belt. Women sing songs (more laments) rather repetitive (I think they are sort of prayers). They needed their privacy, so it was time to leave for me.


With the last forces (very dramatic) I reached the green and hot Dushanbe where I met a dozen of cyclists. Mostly of them also touched by the Tajikus Malus Horribilis curse. Perfect strangers, but we knew all about the gastrointestinal activities of everyone: “ehy, how do you feel today?” … “uff, today I went 22 times“, “Geeeez! I was like this yesterday, today I’m completely blocked“, etc., etc. I was happy to meet other cyclist and hoping, maybe, to find somebody to cycle the Pamir with.


I never cycled before in my life and suddenly I was on the way to the Pamir … alone 🙂

But my enthusiasm was quickly shaken. It seemed they were preparing for The Mission on Mars and I became worry: am I doing something wrong? … they only talked about how the streets were ugly, dusty, rocky, steep, tiring, exhausting, terrible, which road to take, which road to avoid … I couldn’t keep my mouth closed, so I asked to the cyclists back from the Pamir: “Yes ok, but is it not nice up there?” …  they seemed almost all surprised by my question: “ah! emmh … yes, yes it is nice …”.  For me it was clear: I will cycle the Pamir   a l o n e.

on-the-way-1So after 4 days I left the capital. Pura vida!!! On my way I found lovely people, but I should admit that Tajik people are more closed than Uzbek people. Sometimes it was difficult to get connected with them and sometimes I was not really feeling welcomed. But of course there are also beautiful and lovely exceptions (thank you to all of you!), with some of them we had really a lot of fun:


Sometimes you just want do something for them. So, once I went in a magazine and I bought all the necessary to do this:


An apple cake. They loved it. I also teach theme to do yogurt. They have so many things: apples, honey (they don’t consume it!), apricots, milk, butter, onions, potatoes, eggs, etc., but they don’t have much fantasy in the kitchen … let’s say that it is not in their culture. They mostly drink Shirchai (tea with milk, butter and salt) or just Chai with bread (almost always stale).


There was only one thing that sometimes made me feel uncomfortable. The children. Yes, because Tajik children are NOT like the lovely adorable Uzbek children. When I saw them in the distance my reaction was always the same: “Oh noooo … T h e   M o n s t e r s“.


… yes, it is a bottle full of blood from the last cyclist they stopped … These children were nice and funny … just a bit super excited 🙂

If there are no adults in the neighborhood they can be really terrible. They touch everything, they want to open all the bags, they just want everything: “Me! Me!”, “Give me! Give me!”. Less funny is when they are throwing you rocks or apples, showing the third finger or telling you things that for sure are not “welcome to Tajikistan!“… and really sad is when they insist asking you denghy (money).


They are pretty organized: if a child see you, you can be sure that all the others will be at the end of the village waiting for YOU. They were holding their hands forming human chains to block the road. After a couple of times I learned the lesson: “Stef, do as you were doing in Tehran: hands away from the brakes, close your eyes and GOOO!” … it worked out (don’t worry, nobody injured).


Fortunately this phenomena is patchily extended so you can meet really lovely and polite children … inshallah. The worse region is where ALL the cyclist are passing: between Kalia Khumb and Rushan … exactly: where WE tourists are passing …


Yes, sometimes the contact with the people was missing but Nature was compensating everything. The landscapes were just   i n c r e d i b l e   and often I was moved by the beauty in front of me.



Every day was different. Majestic. Of course it was not always easy. Of course the roads conditions were not always good. Of course some days were really exhausting … BUT, is it not normal when you are cycling in the mountains?



The beautiful Obikhun River

Approaching the border with Afghanistan the appearance of people changes … I saw women and men who could quietly pose for fashion magazines: b e a u t i f u l. Clear green or blue eyes, bright smiles, perfect olive skin.
I asked if I could photograph them but they didn’t want. A girl pointing a finger at the temple made me understand that I was crazy to make her a similar request. Really a pity, but in their religion photos are not well seen.



Panj River separating Afghanistan from Tajikistan.


Afghani village

Not only the faces were changing but also the language. In the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Province they have their proper language. I was officially in the P A M I R, or as the locals say: P O O M I R.


Wow! … so surreal … so beautiful … from Dushanbe to Khorog I assisted at a slowly metamorphosis of the landscape, people, language and … and I will tell you more in the next post, which I hope to publish in the next days.

Un abbraccio

Stef and the Monsters


p.s. As you maybe noticed I cannot update my blog very often, but pictures on Instagram are pretty up to date … so if you want to know where I am just check the Instagram link.