This part of the journey had us experiencing the most amazing time of our tour… and some very low points too.
The Road is Long
We heard that the road can be bad here in Tajikistan and decided to stick to the main M41 highway. With our current bikes we couldn't take the detours such as the Bartang, Wakhan or Zorkul areas. The constant feed of beautiful snaps from other cyclists on Instagram make us want to come back, with a more suitable bikes and revisit our Tajik friends.
With Many a Winding Turn
The road between Khorugh and Kalai-khum was extremely tough, testing both our bikes and mental endurance. Although it was bumpy and windy, it was interesting being able to peek at the Afghan people. Nothing unusual actually about them - kids go to school, men herd the sheep and the donkeys can still be heard loud and clear from across the river.
Pheng's bike broke first - the front rack snapped at one of the attachment to the fork leaving the front right bag hanging at 45°. Then 3 days later the same happened to the left side. Now they match at 45°! Luckily we had cable ties to hold it temporarily until we got to Dushanbe.
Matt's bike broke several days later, also the front rack. There was one screw that was always coming loose and it finally gave way. We ran out of spare screws so now there's only one bag attached to the front wheel. The bag on that broken rack also suffered a bad snap at the hooks, rendering it useless now. We're having high hopes for Dushanbe after such bad luck.
That Everyone's Heart
The way people greet here are genuine and heartfelt. We'd start with "saalom" and they'll reply back with a hand on their heart. We've noticed only male doing this.
Once we passed a kindergarten and all the kids started calling out "hello" together like in a choir. The humming sound was amazing and so loud that the teachers were so embarrassed they covered their face with their hands.
Why Not Share
The road is so popular with cyclists we occasionally have meetings on the side of the road. The biggest meeting we had was seven of us.
One time we spotted a cyclist with the same brakes system Matt had. Matt was in desperate need of a new brake pad and to our luck, he had two sets of spare brake pads! He kindly gave us one and we gave them some fresh veges.
Another time we met two Italian guys at a military checkpoint and after the meeting, we went into town together for some supplies. After further talks, we learned they needed alcohol for their cooker and we had some! So we gave them what we had left and they kindly offered to pay us a night stay at a guesthouse with them. We happily accepted their kind offer and had a great evening hanging out with them.
Emanuele and Renato's guesthouse provided the most filling dinner we've had in a while
For I Know
After crossing over the last pass from Kalai-khum heading north, we noticed Russian wasn't widely spoken anymore. The people there were speaking Tajik and we were able to try our Farsi for once! Speakers of Tajik and Farsi can understand each other and it was great to be able to use the newly learned numbers and phrases in the shops.
Meshei yek-kilü birench behem bedeet? // Possible that you give to me one kilogram of rice?
The afternoon we met the Italian cyclists, we helped them bargain with the driver as one needed help getting across the pass. He asked for 3000, then 2500 somoni ($400 NZD).
Un'addr pool heylee ziodeh // That amount of money is too much
Un'addr pool boheem neest // We don't have that amount of money on us
Eventually a car was booked for 500 somoni with a different driver. Matt also provided some physio advice for his knee and provided translation at the doctors.
We are in Dushanbe now, enjoying a much needed rest, and run around the city to fix our bikes. The visas for the next countries will be another challenge that deserves its own blog post.
Show us the Photos
Sadly a under-used bridge to Afghanistan
Picking some roadside pomegranates
Celebrating good road