[‘Friends of the road (Vrienden van de weg)’ bestaat enkel in het Engels, excuses hiervoor]
Although 33.2% of the Tajik population is poor and malnourished, they never doubt to invite you to their house for a cup of ‘chai’ (tea) and some bread with ‘Smetana’ (cream). Hospitality and kindness are endless in the country of the Pamir Mountains.
As usual, I want to give these people a special place on my blog. I want to say ‘thank you’, ‘taşakkur’, ‘spasiba’.
Thanks a million for making Tajikistan memorable.
On my first day in Tajikistan, I had a little picnic in an orchard. This kind man came towards me. He was the owner of the orchard and was having a break too. We started chatting. He invited me to drink some ‘chai’ with him. With my ‘njet, spasiba’ we continued our conversation. Although we didn’t speak the same language, I had such a good feeling after this first Tajik encounter #tajikistan
In Dushanbe, I stayed at Warmshowers host Véro’s place (Véro in front of the picture). On opening the gate I immediately felt at home. Her garden is a cyclist camping paradise. Her wonderful house became ours. A little heaven in Tajikistan’s capital. Along with the other cyclists, we cooked lots of veggies, rice & lentils every evening. Véro knows everything you want to know about the Pamir Highway. She’s such a friendly woman, somebody you feel immediately at ease with. Believe it or not, but she once cycled with her son, on a tandem… the Pamir Highway! Girl power! #tajikistan
At Warmshowers host Véro’s place in Dushanbe I got to know Natalie, Madame Bicyclette as she is known on the World Wide Web. A super friendly Belgian girl on a bike, cycling the world. It was very nice to talk again in Dutch, to meet somebody from my country, to share experiences, or just to cycle or camp together for a day/night. Really glad I got to know you, Natalie. Looking forward to having a beer together in Belgium! #tajikistan
Because it was hard to find a safe camping spot, I could pitch my tent at a meadow next to this family’s house. In the evening, when their work on the field was done, the grandmother showed up with a delightful bowl of kefir. The following morning I got a bowl of fresh cows milk. Yummy! Thanks a lot for the nutritious drinks #tajikistan
Looking for water I ended up at this woman’s house. She didn’t only offer me water. But insisted I eat there. I received soup with bread and a bag full of mulberries. She wanted me to take a selfie together and showed her precious bird. The bird is known for its singing abilities #tajikistan
This little boy accompanied me on his fancy bike, not only through his city but way beyond. Once the climbing to the pass started he waved me goodbye. For sure he has the most unique bicycle I’ve ever seen. Completely custom built with ghettoblaster, flags, horn, … Wonderful to meet you, little fellow! Keep on pedalling and being so unique! #tajikistan
Checking if I could camp in a field next to a house, a man showed up. He invited me to stay at his place. I was spoiled with a room for myself, dinner, breakfast and litres of chai. And not to forget, lots of attention from extremely lively and sweet kids #tajikistan
It was before Shidz that the river seemed extremely powerful and wild. I was thinking ‘strange they don’t have a hydroplant here’. When I arrived in Shidz, Urzu came towards me. He saw I was looking for a shop and he wanted to help me. So he did. He went to the house of the shop owner to ask her to open her store and like that, I could buy my lunch ingredients. While I was picnicking he accompanied me and told me they were planning to construct a hydroplant near Shidz. He’s a geologist and was in charge of advising the Swiss company who was in charge of the whole construction. Beginning 2018 they will start to built it. The plant will supply Tajikistan with 80% of its electricity #tajikistan
In Rushan I wanted to check with locals if I could cycle Bartang and Khudara valley. Knowing that this area is one of many landslides and river crossings, it’s the best thing to do. This guy worked for the army and spoke perfect English. He tried to call people he knows in Khudara. But he couldn’t reach anybody. He started asking around and bumped into a man from … Khudara. That man said it was ok, not for cars, but for a bike it is fine. As if this help wasn’t enough, he also invited me to have dinner at his house. Thanks a lot for so much kindness! #tajikistan
In Rushan I realised I had problems with my internet connection/hotspot. I went to the Megafon shop. The girl at the desk didn’t find the solution but she did know two guys who were such a great help to me. They even went with me to the hospital because there was a guy who knew even more about the internet connection on a Mac than they did. 1.5 hour later, problem solved. Thank you, guys #tajikistan
My first real river crossing was one with lots of doubts. While I was throwing stones to check how deep the water was and how fast the current, this old man (left on the picture) came towards me. He rolled his pants and went with socks in slippers into the freezing cold water. One tiny detail: he took my bike with him. ‘Yeah! and ‘Spasiba!’ #tajikistan
It was in Bartang Valley, in the beautiful village Basid, I asked a girl if I could camp in her garden. She was Sairam and invited me to her house. It looked like a small musical instrument museum. It was beautiful. She told me her father, Faiz Mohammed, is a famous Tajik musician. He also toured in Europe once. And played in Brussels -yeah-! Later that evening, after the typical welcoming ‘chai’ (tea), I got to know her father. He started to play every instrument that was hanging on the wall. And if that wasn’t just memorable enough, three of his students came over and gave me a private concert -wow-. After the concert, it was dinner time and the next morning I couldn’t leave without having breakfast. At least those were Sairams words. I wanted to take their picture, as a souvenir of this wonderful evening and morning. But Sairam had an allergic reaction on her eye because of gardening and her father said he got older, slimmer and was wearing work clothes. So they shook their heads when I asked it. But I could take a picture of the poster in their room on which he looks bright and shiny. Thank you so much for this wonderful experience Sairam and Mohammed #tajikistan
Asking for water ended up in drinking ‘chai’ (tea), eating homemade bread dipped in homemade ‘Smetana’ (cream). The hospitality in the Bartang Valley is really unforgettable #tajikistan
In Khudara Valley slopes are steep and people non-existent, except for these two shepherds. They were waiting for me on one of many hairpin turns while I was pushing my bike up to a pass. Not only for offering ‘chai’ (tea) but also for offering help by pushing my bike up the pass. I didn’t want to drink their tea, neither did I want them to help me. They still had to walk for days to Khudara village. This with worn out shoes and clothes. They still had to cross rivers and sleep on cold nights. So they had to save up their energy and hot drinks. Good luck guys, it was nice meeting you. And not only for having a rest without feeling guilty #tajikistan
When I arrived back on the Pamir Highway, I needed water. At high altitude, it’s important to drink enough in order not to have symptoms of altitude sickness. No river so far. Luckily I met these three Slovenian men on their motorcycle. I asked them if there was any river with drinkable water before the pass. Without hesitating, they offered me their water. Wonderful! #tajikistan
It was in beautiful Murghab, the highest city in Central Asia (at 3,650 m) and where 75% of its population is Kyrgyz, I met Zulpidin (10, right on the picture next to his mum) and Ferusa (12). I was strolling around and couldn’t stop taking pictures. Suddenly Zulpidin waved to me and asked me to take a picture of him and his sister. ‘Oh… You ask? I shoot.’ A minute later I was invited to their house a bit further up the hill. His two little sisters came outside and wanted me to take a picture from them too. Once inside, while playing with non-stop laughing Robia (6), I didn’t notice Ferusa and her mum were already preparing dinner. I couldn’t say no, although a dinner was awaiting me a bit later in the guesthouse. They invited me to sleepover. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because I had already promised to sleep in the guesthouse. That same evening I went back to give the children some candy, a balloon and WWF-stickers. They were super happy to see me again, clung around my neck and were thinking I would sleep there. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Again, I was invited to eat with them. Three dinners in one evening is two too much. So I said no but stayed the evening. The next day I saw them again. Bringing some new balloons and extra’s for the kids. It was an unforgettable and lovely experience to get to know such a warm and friendly Kyrgyz family #tajikistan
After Langar, the last village in Wakhan Valley, the dirt road really starts and the climbing as well. Pushing those pedals I suddenly got wings. It was this little fellow that started pushing my bike, just like that. Well actually, not really. After a couple of hundred metres, he stopped and asked for money. I gave him candy, a balloon and many thank you’s instead. He was all smiles with his consolation prize #tajikistan
Some fifteen kilometres further I met a man who asked me if I cycled alone. He told me there were two girls cycling ahead… Did I understand this properly? Two other cyclists? A bit further, I saw cycling traces, so yes, it must be true! It was steep, I actually wanted to start pushing my bike. But hey, I didn’t see any footprints, so those girls cycled all the way up. Com’on Trien, peddle harder! Finally, I reached them. They were Sophie and Tali from New Zealand and Canada respectively. The first thing they said: wo-o-ow, you cycled all the way up, that’s strong! I told them it was because of them not pushing. They started laughing: ‘no, are you crazy? We pushed all the way up…’ We had a good excuse to have a rest, we needed to chat. After 45 minutes we decided to move on. We cycled together for almost the whole day. For me a very nice change to cycle with these two crazy girls. Thanks a lot sweeties! Oh, by the way, it’s worth following Sophie on Instagram, she takes wonderful pictures! #tajikistan
The Pamir Highway is the Mecca for many cyclists. From all over this planet people come over to cycle the so-called ‘roof of the world’. Everybody rolls at his own pace. But now and then you’ll meet each other again and again. Like Yogesh, Elliot, Mayu, Stephane, Raphael and Sarah. We didn’t only cycle together for a couple of days but also camped together. Which was a nice experience. So far this was the first time I met so many fellow cyclists. Thanks for the good company guys! Enjoy the road #tajikistan
Karakol is the last village on the Pamirs, before rolling into Kyrgyzstan. I met Victor, Samuel and Arnaut, three crazy Belgian cyclists in Khorog. Later on, I saw them in Murghab. And finally, we left Karakol together to cycle the last stretch (or three days) of the Pamir Highway to Osh (Kyrgyzstan). Really glad I met these ‘locos’ on the road. Looking forward to having a beer together once back in Belgium. Cheers guys, enjoy the road! #tajikistan
Thanks a lot Shirley for going through my texts.