The plan was to meet Nathalie and Iason in Khorog. They were travelling in Tadjikistan for some weeks, and we projected to spend few days together.
First of all: FOOD! The first day was spent to eat any kind of vitamin's rich food, one can find in Khorog. The body was in a really good shape, but asked for fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, after those weeks of deprivation.
And then a bit of sight-seeing. Last year, the city saw what human can do best: war! In July 2012, some Tadjik forces moved to Khorog and 'cleaned' the city, after the murder of general Nazarov. A complicate situation made of political control of opposition and drug trafic control. From Khorog, it's just a bridge to cross to enter Afghanistan, so Khorog is a first class entry door for Afghan poppy, on its way to Russia... They closed the Pamirs' region last year due to this episode, so it was a great chance to be allowed to ride it this year!
The day after, we left in the morning with a car to Dushanbe. We put the bike on the rooftop and started the 600 kms and 14 hours trip. It was great to spend time with Nathalie and Iason, but somehow I felt bad during the drive: it went way too fast for me, I should have cycled this road... But I was in a hurry (the worst ennemy of travellers) and had to apply for the Turkmen visa in Dushanbe (consuls could be also bad friends for travellers).
The first 350 kms, you follow the river, which materialize the Afghan-Tadjik border. A really rocky road, with massive cliffs on both side, and huge mountains everywhere. Life on the other side of the river is quite tough, and not many people can live there.
To see Afghans living, walking, working, children playing was just fascinating: you're back one hundred years ago, in one of the most beautiful and remote place on earth. There is a donkey path running the whole way of the Afghan's side. It finds its way in screes and cliffs. Goes up and down, makes serpentines... And stops sometimes in small villages, some kind of paradise on earth! Walking this path would be great, but even if Talibans are not in this area, I'll let it for later...
|Small paradise in Afghanistan|
|The donkey path on Afghan side|
|The donkey path, once again|
Climbers? This valley has about 10 boulder's paradise, on both side of the river. Unbelievable! And I don't talk about all the beautiful lines in cliffs. Sandstone, granit, limestone, pudding, all that you need. Small roofs or 2000 m long lines... Aie aie aie, so much rock, that I seriously thought about quitting climbing, in front of this infinity...
We arrived in Dushanbe the day after. I had the contact from Véro, a french girl living there with her son Gabriel. It was Bruno, a french guy travelling the world with his wife and five children, who gave me her contact in Ulaanbaatar. The guard opened the door, and... Waouuuh! welcome in paradise! You feel immediately well and at home.
Véro is hosting for free cyclists and backpackers passing by Dushanbe (a cross-road if you travel in Asia). She cycled 3 months in Patagonia with Gabriel, who was only 5 at that time. Tough girl with more energy than you'll ever have!
|Thank you Véro!!! Sometimes, we were 10 guests around the table ;)|
Thanks to an untrusty Turkmen consul, I ended making the longest pause ever on this trip and enjoyed 10 days of rest in this house! 10 days of meeting travellers, making huge food together and spending days and evenings listening and talking about the Road...
Thank you Véro and Gabi!
|Time to leave the paradise's house in Dushanbe. I think it is Raz on the bike.|
So the plan in Dushanbe was to ask for the Turkmen visa. I obtained an Iranian visa in Bishkek, and needed this last one. Turkmenistan is not so tourist-friendly, and you may at best obtain a 5-days transit visa with fixed dates, to cross the nearly 500kms of Turkmen desert. Not so exciting!
It took me 10 days and 4 visits to the embassy, to obtain a 'yes', but nothing to put in my pass! 'It may come in a few days... Sorry!' A bad conjonction of 'computer problems', 'national Tadjik day-off', 'bank closure', 'come on monday' but consul never appear... I started to lose the motivation.
Well... It was time to move. Time was ticking, and if I really wanted to be in Iran on-time, the race through 1200 kms of dry lands and bad roads should have begonnen. And I have only 10 days for that! And I don't like race.
One hour after this last visit to the Turkmen embassy, I left Dushanbe and rode the whole afternoon toward west, to the Usbek border. The road was really bad and dusty, the sun really hot and my head couldn't stop visiting nostalgic remembrances of the nature and those million magic moments in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Pamirs...
One question kept coming: Is it not time to change the plan and slowly come back?
|In the serie 'I love my president', Tadjikistan is really good! Everywhere, huge picture of him, doing everything....|
|My favourite ;)|