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 …)
As 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.
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.
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.
So 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“.
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?
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.
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.
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.