Mary Poppins

italiano

No news = good news. Yes, a looong silence from my side but I was enjoying 3 weeks in Buenos Aires with my family. Asados, empanadas, dulce de leche, choripan, churros, milanesas, facturitas … and a lot of LOVE. I had such a great time. If the “goodbye” part has always been difficult for me, can you imagine when it is about family ?… Gracias por todo los quiero mucho!

familyBuenos Aires changed a lot in comparison to 10 years ago. I had the impression the country is growing up and evolving well … but all the enthusiasm vanished at few kilometers from the downtown … how can people reduce a river in these conditions? How can people live like this? … frustration, angry, impotence … “Don’t jump out of the car, if they think you are a reporter they will beat you or rob you“, said my cousin. Maybe he was exaggerating but who knows? …

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A river … there is still hope?

Yes, el argentino is a bit exaggerate sometimes, loud, a bit vulgar but very kind and funny … In Argentina there are not people, there are characters that can be easily an inspiration for TV comedies.

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La Plata

I had to find a solution to carry the kitty on the bicycle … not easy as it would be in Europe or USA. I found only a temporary solution. “Everything will be fine” I was repeating to myself. Vaccinations, passport, flight ticket and we are on a plane directed to “la fin del mundo“. At the very nice Ushuaia’s airport I unpacked all my stuff and I loaded my bicycle … should I keep the cat at the leash? Not really … it was/is always on my side.

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Ushuaia airport: preparing the bicycle

I was feeling so heavy! I was heavy  (I eat soooo much!), the bicycle was heavy and also my sense of responsibility was heavy.

The sun was high, fresh clean air, smell of algae, light rustling of the waves and screaming seagulls circling above my head. An amphitheater of snowy mountains and a group of houses that remind me of Icelandic houses … how wonderful is it?

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Ushuaia

Because the high (super high) prices in the city I decided to stay in a camping place at about 10 km from the center. After 3 weeks in the capital it was so relaxing to stay few days in a wild forest. I was feeling like in an enchanted place: the perfumes of the forest, the clear river and wild horses.

Ushuaia-4Is there that I decided to trust my cat. No leash. Pure freedom. It was exploring around, sometimes I didn’t know where it was but when I was calling it, it was running toward me. I was feeling more relaxed … I think both.

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Dimitri

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Cuddles at Lake Fagnano

How was I feeling? I don’t know. Everything was so weird. I should be in China! … but I’m at the other side of the world … I’m at the end of the world … with a cat. Honestly? I was a bit worry. It will not be as before. I will not be free as before. It will be more complicate: hotels, guest houses, food, money, time on the bicycle, pee, poop … I am a mother now!

Tohluin-4Finally in Tolhuin I found a box (thanks Roberto you are great!!) where Dimitri was much more comfortable. The first riding day went really smooth. The second riding day went smooth as well. The third riding day went smooth … Ehi! It works! It works!

During the ride it is sleeping and in the evenings is playing around, climbing trees, discovering rivers, tasting salty sea water and spending hours trying to fight birds, which incredibly make alliances between them and attack the kitty! During the nights it sleeps like a baby with me in the sleeping bag.

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During the ride

My days are different now. The little cat change my way of traveling. I changed all my plan for a kitty … for a kitty! My sister asks me if I was really ME. Sure I cannot do many km per day as before, I have to stop more frequently but it is ok, I’m not in hurry … The plan is to reach Colombia. If I can reach Peru I’ll be very happy as well … It is not about distances, kilometers, time … As I always say: it is about intensity.

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Puerto Almanza

And the Tierra del Fuego, the real Patagonia, is really intense. Central Asia was about people, smiles, children, open doors, hospitality … here it is about NATURE. Wild, incredible, amazing Nature.

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Puerto Almanza

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Ruta 9 to Rio Grande

Kilometers without meeting nobody. Wonderful forests. Guanacos, foxes and many types of birds. Desolated pampa and, yes, a lot of wind. THE wind. It is so strong that the weather is changing every 5-10-20 minutes. In one day you can experience sun, rain and snow… sometimes all of theme at the same time.

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wild camping

Rio Grande-2I’m moving slowly toward north. I’m really enjoying the beauty of the landscape and I’m trying to not get crazy because the wind.

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Lago Fagnano

Now I’m enjoying some time and vino tinto in Rio Grande in the Casa Azul de Graciela, a wonder woman with an incredible personality. When I entered in her home I had a red face from the sun and my hair ruffled … it was clear that I had suffered a bit the wind (it was crazy!!). Graciela asks me: “Are you feeling like Mary Poppins?” … I think yes … I was feeling like Mary Poppins, or more like in the flying nanny scene.

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Wish you  Marry Christmas and a great start in the new year.

Un abbraccio

Stefi & Dimitri

La donna non è mobile

italiano

After the Pamir and the adventurous experience at the Peak Lenin base camp I really needed rest and nutritive food … I could feel my ribs and in my dark tights I was looking like a spider.

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Sary Mogol

It is in Sary Mogol that I decide to stop for a couple of day. I couldn’t wait one minute anymore and I entered in the first restaurant in the village.

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Green – peace

I went in the kitchen to ask if it was possible to eat. I knew it. I knew very well the risk I was taking. The condition of the kitchen was a disaster, but believe me that at that moment I didn’t care at all. When I eat the first piece of this:

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The crime weapon

in my mouth happened this:fuochiA celebration for my gourmet papillae, an explosion of flavors! So delicious …

… one of the worst diarrhoea I ever had.

I needed a pharmacy, a room with private bathroom and “clean” food … I needed to reach Osh. Why I didn’t took a taxi? Because it was impossible for me stay happily sitten for hours. At least by bicycle I could stop when and where I wanted in case of emergency … every 10 km there was an emergency.

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No trees, no rocks … difficult to find a place for my emergencies …

I was literally lying on my bicycle with terrible cramps. I had just to move a single muscle to fill my pants … D o   n o t   m o v e! … La donna NON è mobile (the woman is NOT fickle) would had Pavarotti sing… I told you that the way to Osh was memorable! Yes, cyclingtouring is also this.

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The way to Osh

Despite the inconvenient I was trying to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, the wildness, the prairies surrounded by colorful mountain. Horses, sheep, cows everywhere and the lovely hospitality of kyrgyz people who always traited me as a queen.

Finally in Osh I gain strength and weight! I was a habitué at the magazine and at the restaurant near the hotel. Thanks to me they will go on vacation to Barbados for Christmas this year.

I was ready to continue my journey when … TRACK! I twisted Elvis, my ankle, at the Sulayman mountain when I was admiring the view of the city. Why Elvis? Because I can do this:

I had no choice: not moving for at least one week … la donna NON è mobile. After the two weeks in Osh my legs were rigid and heavy … the first two days of pedaling were a hassle.

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Yes, my legs were tired, but my soul and enthusiasm not! Kyrgyzstan is a  b e a u t i f u l  country and the autumn colors gave me the impression to ride in an endless postcard. Pura vida!

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Toktogul Reservoir

I’ve been riding between hills and cypresses. I entered in coniferous woods, climbed snowy passes, visited arid canyons, cycled along beautiful green rivers and deep blue lakes … perfume of sweet apples, fresh air on my face … wow! And I just saw very little of what the country offers.

Unfortunately there is a sad phenomenon: the alcoholism. Plenty of men with purple faces and uncertain gait, bodies lying on the floor like puppets after a show and saturated alcoholic breaths perceptible at meters of distance … “There is not job, so they drink“, I have been told.

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Descent from Alabal Pass

Actually I see a lot of work … like for example cleaning the streets from all the litter that they thrown out of the car window. Unfortunately it is not so easy and, again, the feeling of frustration and impotence is strong.

23-kyrgyzstanThe problem is that these persons jump in their car and drive … I’ve seen some places where there have been accidents … shattered cars like Chinese vases … and for sure shattered life, families and beloved ones.

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Ancient tombs

The slowness of the bicycle allows you to be more attentive to what surrounds you. You travel in wonderful places, but you also perceive the issues of the people, of the places. I assisted at marvelous scenes full of love, but also facts that left me angry and a sense of frustration for a while.

P1450087Six months. If I think about what I’ve experienced, the people I’ve met, the ones that helped me, the incovenients, the choices to take, the difficult situations, the laughter, the tears … wow! All so intense. If you ask me if I miss something of my old life … Well the answer for now is NO.

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Toktogul reservoir

And now? The initial plan was fairly clear: after Kyrgyzstan I would enter in Kazakhstan and then go to China … but have I told you that often I follow my heart and instinct?
This meeting:

kittymade me consider other destinations (issues for importation rules of animals) and … hey, but why didn’t I think about it before!?
I try to keep the cat and cycling from Patagonia up to Peru (or up to Colombia?). Yes, I know, I’m crazy! Yuuuhuuu!! I’m super excited and looking forward for the next adventure.

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Kyrgyzstan i will come back …it is a promise

Now I’m in Karakol preparing all the bagages an packing Bicio. I will fly from Bishkek to Buenos Aires the 10th of November. Hasta luego!

Un abbraccio

Stef & Kitty

p.s. soon new pictures in the gallery

For the life!

italiano

Bright and clear in my mind were the marvelous scenarios, sounds, perfumes, spotted animals I experienced on the Pamir… my camera was exhausted. I showed you just very little … it is really difficult to select “the best pictures”, the pictures that can resume the variety of the beauties and people I enjoyed up there … impossible.

Perevel-Pass-1Easily I entered in Kyrgyzstan … country No. 7. The 20 km ride in the no man’s land and the descent to Sary Tash were a spectacle. There you can truly see “la vie en rose”, everything was pinkish, even the rivers!

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No man’s land between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

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No man’s land between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan … grey and pinkish rivers here!

I was physically tired and I needed to recover a couple of kg. I was happy to reach the next city Osh, BUT … come on! The Peak Lenin, the 7134 m high King of the Pamir is just at 85 km westward (170 km roundtrip) from my way … Will I come back here just to go up to the Peak Lenin Base Camp? Probably not. Until the last moment I was hesitant, but finally I decide to jump on my bicycle and to point toward west.

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Sary Tash

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Kashka Suu

The Trans-Alay mountain range is awesome. It seems that the mountains are large dominant figures, The Guardians of the region all in a row for over 250 km. Approaching those mastodons I had the impression to enter in an enchanted place, enveloped by mystery … I felt almost in awe.

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Trans – Alay range

I camped on the bottom, before the ascent to the base camp. I was already dreaming a hot shower and a delicious soup. Yes, because I have been told that the base camp is really well equipped.

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Trans – Alay range

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Trans – Alay range

So, can you image my disappointment when the day after I discovered that everything was closed. Nobody there. Just me. A km before I saw a yurt, but here only me and some yaks. Well, not so bad! I will enjoy few days of pure rest by sleeping and walking around.

Peak-Lenin-8I pitched the tend at about 1,5 -2 km southward from the camp. The first night was snowing a bit,  but the day after the sun was bright and hot. Pure relax! In the evening it started to snow again, but this time like in Cioss Prato the 21st December … In the distance I could ear landslides breaking away from the slopes and thunders … oh la la!

Peak-Lenin-5It was already 18:00. Out of question to ride down … But I couldn’t stay there. If it had fallen a lot of snow it would have been almost impossible to get out from there with the loaded bicycle … and I had to cross a river as well. I jumped out from my super comfy sleeping bag and I packed everything. I wanted to reach the base camp, where two days before I saw a sheltered place.

It was getting dark. I could ear the rustle of the falling snowflakes. I had no time to take my shoes and the 2 pair of socks off to cross the river … I close my eyes and to the sky I declared: “Fore the life!” and I walked in … ???What??? … “For the life”?!? Stef, you are so stupid! But at least I was laughing.  My shoes have soaked with frozen water after  o n e  –  t w o   seconds. Finally completely wet I reached THE shelter:

 

Yes … a shitty place, but sometimes you don’t have an other choice … exactly: For the life! I pitched again my wet tend and I try to warm up my feet … a shot of vodka and inshallah the next day it will be not so bad.

I woke up very early … I could feel a sort of adrenaline in opening the zip of my tent and … woooooow M A G I C !

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Peak-Lenin-9Only 10 cm of snow (fortunately!), but I had the impression that I woke up in another world. It was so pure, so quite … I could feel peace and joy! I was really happy to be there.

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So started my adventure in Kyrgyzstan … a memorable start! Even the way to Osh was “memorable” … but I will tell you about it the next post.

Now I’m still in Osh. Can you imagine? I crossed deserts, rivers, hills and mountains but a couple of days ago I twisted my ankle in a stupid stair step, result: an ankle like a tennis ball … c’est la vie … la vie en rose.

Un abbraccio

Stef and Elvis (my ankle)

 

 

 

 

Sleep – eat – ride

italiano

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

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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 …

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On the way to Sargidast Pass

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Shokdara Valley

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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!

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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!”.

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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!

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Approaching Maysara Pass

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Maysara Pass

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On the way to Okbadal Pass

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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Approaching Murghab

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

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Pereval Kyzyl-Art Pass (Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan border)

Un abbraccio Stef and Silence

… The Monsters

italiano

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.

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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.

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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.

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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“.

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… 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.

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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?

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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.

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Panj River separating Afghanistan from Tajikistan.

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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.

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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.

 

“Heeeellooooo!” time

italiano

No matter what I will write or which pictures I will show you … this post will not give justice to what I experienced in Uzbekistan.

Crossed the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border I jumped in a Taxi directed to Bokhara… Popo, my derrière was asking me pity and, as I figured out in Bokhara (yes: mirror and contortionism), it was right: in one area there was no skin anymore; the sweat and rubbing with the pants made it all rather painful … no, no! No pictures!

The landscape was quite monotonous and the periphery unattractive. We took a road in poor conditions (as almost all the roads in Uzbekistan), we turned the corner and … oooooh wow!

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First impression of Bokhara: Xo’Ja Kalon Masjidi

I wondered if even the caravans, after spending weeks in the desert, felt the marvel and the joy I was feeling at that moment … it was just pure beauty.

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Poi-Kalian

One of the first things you need to get acquainted with is money and in Uzbekistan is almost funny because you feel really really rich as never before. People carry money into plastic bags. It takes concentration and ability to count tens and dozens of banknotes at the time of the payment.

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Million Sum baby

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The Lada is back!

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Side od madrasse Mir-i-Arab

Despite some doubts about the construction techniques it must be admitted that some buildings are very resistent and still there after 100-200 years:

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House wall

I enjoyed discover every single corner of Bokhara and I entered in every single court, where I could find beuty and some refresh … it was really very hot!

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One of my favorite café

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I stayed there 5 days and I really felt in love … a very charming small city, full of history and beauty.

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Chor Minor

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Marilù’s house in Bokhara … walking around

When me and Popo were fit again we mounted on the bicycle heading Samarqand. A pretty nice road, cotton fields, head-wind (horrible) and …

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… heat! Sultry humid heat …

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Fifty …

During the hottest hours I had to stop … it was simply impossible to continue. Even in the Karakum desert I was not suffering so much. So I was enjoying (quite ironic) some food and drinks (actually very poor choices) in restaurants like this:

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… of course I was not surprised when the firsts “belly troubles” started …

After few hours I was eating (literally because of the dust) the road again … mmmmh I hear something … Wait, I have to stop and remove the earphones … a little voice: “Hellooooo!! Heeeeellooooo!!”. But, where does it come from?? I looked around … “Heeeeellooooo!!” … There he is! At the other side of the road! A little boy in singlet and shorts, straight on the tip of his feet and his arms straight-straight to the sky to be better noticed … he was maybe one meter and few centimetres high in total: “Heeeeeellooooo little mouse!”. Satisfied and happy he returned to his mother … and so started my “Heeeellooooooo” time.

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I was melting down every time

Women and men greeted me from the fields, the kids ran to reach me on the roadside … they didn’t want anything (even no candy!) they just wanted to say “heelloooo” and get photographed.

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I was invited to enjoy delicious (the best I ever had) melons:

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watermelons:

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Hand to the heart:  is how you express gratitude in all central asia

apples, pears, grapes:

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and Ch’ai:

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It is amazing how PEOPLE did my days on the road. My passage was always a celebration … everywhere!

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But it is not always a joy, or at least for me … sometimes it is hard for the soul … my heart wants just to explode, like when I meet this family collecting empty bottles from the road with their barrow and donkey:

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As soon as I started to ride again I cried. But not for their condition. For mine. I left everything and everyone because “something was missing”, without really knowing what I’m looking for. They have nothing and they seem so serene and happy. I cried because they were/are simply WONDERFUL … and I have the honor to get connected with them. “Byeee byeeee” the two children blowed me kisses with their little dirty hands.

After 3 days I reached Samarqand. I don’t know why, but I always have been fascinated by the blue city and finally, almost as for enchantment, I was there … so surreal. Once again I enjoyed 5 days of pure relax between history, beauty, architectural engineering, parks and markets. Pura vida!

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I was trying to imagine how was it in the past (100-200-300 years ago) and especially how was it before that the Mongols destroyed almost everything.

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Little check …

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… you never know …

With the passion for the sky and the universe, I know that when you rise your eyesight of 90 degrees, you can be surprised by what you can see:Samarqand-8

Often I was walking around with my nose pointing to the sky … wow!

Uzbek people have many qualities … maybe they still have some problems with the English language (like me actually):

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They can even improve in predicting the future, since this task is left to the budgerigars:

But in hospitality they are Master … women and children are just D I V I N E:

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My personal lovely little guides

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I was so fascinated by their lifes, their houses and their technologies, like this antenna for the TV! (right):

The mud-floors (outside and inside of the houses) are kept constantly humid (to avoid the dust rising up), by spreading water. Women spent almost all the day cleaning the house (like my sister).

I stopped in places indicated as villages on my map, but actually they were just few houses in the middle of nowhere …

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… and it is exactly in those remote places that you meet spacial people like her:

a 15 years old girl with the maturity of a self-confident woman. She brought me to the hills, she showed me seeds, fruits and flowers that can be eaten in the desert. It is incredible how people can adapt to the environment.

I slept under the stars with them, warmed by their blankets. They shared their water and food with me … and believe me when I said that in certain places these things are very precious:

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No, it is not going better. I was thinking that with the time I will become less sensitive and maybe the “goodbye-part” will become a routine … I was wrong … as in Iran, I can see all of theme in front of their homes, with a gentle smile, one hand on the heart and the other one rised up  “bye bye!“. The only thing I could say to them (also because I was deeply moved) was “rachmat” (thank you) with my both hands on the heart.

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I was pointing to south-east, direction Tajikistan … yes, because I will have a small deviation from the main silk road … I want to be in the mountains … good ones: P A M I R.

Slowly I was reaching the next country with a mixture of feeling: sadness for the end of the Uzbekistan chapter and excitement for the change of the landscape around me. The first hills, and then mountains, appeared.

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Goodbye Uzbekistan. I’m so grateful for every single day I’m living on the road … this trip is amazing.

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Now in Dushanbe, preparing the last things before THE CLIMB.

Un abbraccio

Stef and Popo

My mime artist life

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Turkmenistan is one of the most difficult countries to enter … yes, more difficult that North Korea. Even the 5 days transit visa is not guaranteed. I was really happy to have the greenish sticker in my passport. Don’t expect many interesting photos because there it is prohibited photograph almost everything: monuments, administrative sites, bridges, … visa

Punctual at 8:00 I was at the iranian border where I met Marc and Peter, two german guys going in the same direction … the first ones! On the road I just met the lovely ukrainian couple Iryna and Andrej (in Armenia) but they were going in the opposite direction …

Cycling in the nobody land for me it represents the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one … excitement, expectations, emotion and even a bit of nervousness … it is like to receive a book with empty pages that you have to fill day by day … and you hope to do a good job.

On the Turkmen side two soldiers welcomed us: asian strokes and brilliant smiles … how old are they? 16??? “So Mr., are we in Turkmenistan??”, smiles: “yes, yes” … “F..k off the jihab!” (sorry) … “yes! yes!” and they made a gesture like saying “throw away that stuff“.

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I heard much about the Turkmenistan border. I was ready to NOT receive the red carpet and to show them EVERYTHING: medicines, photos (ALL), iPhone, Computer, Kindle and all my stuff in my 6 bags … ??! Is it already over?! They were really lovely and very polite. A police man even helped me to fill up some papers. At 11:30 we were on the road and we took a shortcut.

Shortcut means shorter but not necessarily better. Here I had the most spectacular angel flight:

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Because of the strong shaking I lost my petrol bottle that finished in front of the front wheel… 3 1/2 somersaults with 3 1/2 twists  … Marc was behind me: “How was it??” ….”Mmmm well, not so bad“. Fortunately nothing to me or to Bicio happened.

The first 100 km were absolutely in the desert. In 100 km we met maybe 3 cars going in the opposite direction.

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As a mirage appears this mini-market/café

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Exactly what we needed … very tasty.

Before reaching Mary we split. We had different plans and, for several reasons,  I was also happy to continue alone.

How was it? … mmmm well … Take an exercise bicycle, put it in a sauna installed in a wind tunnel (with hot upwind of course) and pedal for about 520 km … voilà, you are cycling in the Karakum desert … but wow! I couldn’t believe I was really there!

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The early bird catches the worm

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… I think without me I would be bored … (swiss children know well what it is)

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…  geeez! … slanted cap … I ‘m pretty tired … (landscape in the background exactly same as 120 km before)

… My visionary friend Alain (Tranchio) had predicted this …

No, I didn’t go home … I just prepared my home. There I am, camping  in the desert …  A warm soup with bread, a cappuccino with biscuits and billions of stars. A M A Z I N G. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep that night. Not because I was scared or similar, but because I was contemplating the milky way, Hercules, the Swan, Arthur, the 7 Sisters… oh wow the Scorpion is so clear!

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4:20 Good morning!

To escape the wind and the heat the best time for cycling are very early in the morning and late in the evening. At 10:00 there are already 41 °C (increasing up to 48 °C) and the force of the wind doesn’t allow you to exceed 7-9 km/h … and here comes the mind: it’s all a matter of the head … just keep going!

Left: can you see the car in the sand dust? Me neither … Right: happy tourist.

Then…BOOOOOM: Carpaccio!! I would like a carpaccio!! Or a cold Cola with lemon and some ice!….STOP! Don’t think! Keep going …. (Josephine was excellent!)

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Is it not the most beautiful café you have ever seen? For me it was …

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Somsa: filled with meat, onions and fat … delicious! Fat is a basic ingredient here in the desert … very good because it fills your belly and give you a lot of energy

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Stop to allow the camels crossing the road: done!

Finally, after 4 days I reached Turkmenabat, where a cloud of smog welcomed me… it was even difficult to breathe. But most difficult was to find a hotel. At 21.15 I was still around looking for a guest house pointed on my GPS …“No, no, no room here!”… It happened also in Iran: in Maps.me there are indicated hostels and guest houses that  actually doesn’t exist or are completely wrong placed. Well! I’m on the road. I should find a place where to pitch the tent and no shower for today. But, again, the children saved me … they are the most efficient means of communication existing: some men and women came to me.

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Still a lot of work to do, but greetings have the priority

The locals are strictly forbidden to come in contact with tourists (and vice versa) but I menage to be invited in their homes (again!). With the complicity of the neighborhood I spent the night at Sofia’s home: “Putin (thump up), Amerika (thump down)”… she was so lovely and she had very nice sense of humor!

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The 5 days were a fight against heat, wind and time. I did it. I cannot tell you much about the country but I was still fascinated by it: beautiful women in colorful dresses, golden smiles, friendly, polite and gentle people. I saw people with blond (even red!) hair and green eyes, others with sharply Asian faces. Really interesting. Passing by Merv I could see the walls of what was the largest oasis-city along the silk road (I had really no time to see the archeological site there!) … Donnerwetter! I think that Turkmenistan can be a very interesting place to visit.

The 5th day I was back in a border check. This time was more tough. The border police was a woman. Serious face: photos, medicines and 4 bags checked. Everything fine. She even smiled to me!

On the Uzbek side: there was NO ONE. Am I in the right place? A young border policeman arrived. Serious and not very motivated … he cannot speak english and me unfortunately nieto parusky. He wanted to check my medicines. He asked me about VALVERDE … Valverde is a natural product used in case of constipation, you take it in the evening and the morning after you can see the light again … ok, now explain it to him … and there I am, in the checking post miming what VALVERDE is … he understood! He smiled … it has been almost 3 months that my life is like a mime artist life. MY mime artist life. The atmosphere relaxes. Now he want to see the pictures in my phone. He started to smile … oh, oh, he started to laugh! But what do I have in the phone??? I ask him to show me … aaah yeah! Those …

Me and the lovely Rosy (Irland: thump up) in the Imam Reza complex (Mashhad)… hard time.

The policeman congratulates me for the photos and wishes me a good trip in Uzbekistan … he even helps me to load the bike … maybe is my alpine charme … The silkroad trip can continue!

Un abbraccio

Stef