Khujand to Dushanbe

We leave our hotel in Khujand at 6.30am and by 7am it is 30 degrees!! Lucky we will be climbing over a couple of passes today so it should be cooler – we even have our sweaters handy. I have had butterflies about today’s ride for sometime: the thought of going through 2 tunnels over 5kms long, and a shorter but pitch dark one still makes me gasp for air. The other reason I have been stressing out about today’s ride is because Streak has been behaving eratically since we left Almaty: the engine just cuts out when running slowly. That means when slowing down for tight turns or traffic, at traffic lights, when pulling up to park basically at all those potentially awkward times. I just hope it doesn’t die completely inside one of those tunnels!!

I am relieved to say now that as of this afternoon, Streak has been fixed. More on that later.

The scenery over the 2 mountain passes over 3200 m altitude is breathtaking and the road is good. Traffic isn’t too bad, but it can be very slow at times as overtaking is a challenge and the number of broken down cars and trucks makes it interesting at times. It is no problem for locals who regularly overtake, ever so slowly, on blind bends. The tunnels were ‘interesting’ as one says!!! The first one, the Shakhristan tunnel was completed in 2012 and the famous Anzob tunnel, in 2016. That one used to be known as the Tunnel of Death. While it no longer warrants that title today as the road had been fixed, massive potholes filled, dim lighting installed and there are vents so you won’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning anymore, but it certainly did feel like the tunnel of death as we entered it: an old truck was just exiting as we arrived, leaving the entrance filled with thick choming fumes… I always let Anthony lead when going through tunnels as it makes it easier for me to follow – I find it quite disorientating otherwise. Luckily, we had heard of the pitch dark one and its cows!! Yes, cows live in that tunnel – they’re not silly cows, the tunnels are cooler than outside.

Leaving Khujand

Typical road in this part of Tajikistan, cotton fields on the right

Workers carrying their daily melon to work

Why so many part built and boarded up new houses in this region?

Khujand-Dushanbe

Another broken down vehicule

Khujand-Dushanbe

Fruit sellers on the pass

We have just ridden the switchbacks across the river before going back up again – Khujand-Dushanbe

The dry apricot seller was proud to sit in Streak

Khujand-Dushanbe

Khujand-Dushanbe

Khujand-Dushanbe

An unnerving situation – a car has driven off the road and people are searching the river

Part of another fabulous CCCP mural

Part of another fabulous CCCP mural

Khujand-Dushanbe

Khujand-Dushanbe

Khujand-Dushanbe

About to enter the Anzob tunnel – notice the fumes!

Getting through those 3 main tunnels was such a relief. I was so glad to make it to the otherside of them – my reference in my last post.

I made it through the 2 long tunnels!!

Khujand-Dushanbe

Khujand-Dushanbe


Must learn to take better selfies!


All the tunnels were much smaller and manageable. The scenery once again kept changing and was stunning. It was such a great ride.

Down from 3200 to 1500m altitude here

All partly built houses 20kms north of Dushanbe – future weekenders?


We get to our hotel in Dushanbe after our 300 km ride very hot and tired – the extreme heat takes a lot out of us. It only went down to 25 degrees at the high passes and we never needed those sweaters. We are told it must be over 40 degrees but the authorities don’t like to admit to such high temperatures. First priority is to cool down, shower, change and get some lunch. The restaurant “300 metres down the road” is really more like a kilometre each way. In this heat, it feels like a lot more. Fed and watered, it is time to look for a mechanic for Streak. We have two potential mechanics in Dushanbe – motorcycle forums are so full of helpful information! So we decide to get a taxi to take us to both. The first one we go to, Bike-House, we feel comfortable with straight away and decide not to bother to seeing the other but return first thing the following morning – we could not be bothered riding again that day so late in the afternoon!

When we get to the Bike House, Aziz get to work on my bike immediately. First thing he does is start it up – it dies of course which is great, there’s nothing worse than reporting a problem and finding you cannot duplicate it when you want to – and dies again as it should, perfect. He found 4 problems!!

1. A split air intake pipe
2. Cracked casing where the Scottoiler vacuum pressure pipe goes in
3. Pipe that had at sometime possibly been reinstalled twisted, we could see the small fractures
4. Faulty throttle sensor, very loose, we swapped with Anthony’s and tested ok

He and his colleagues made me feel good by their reaction when I told them I had ridden with Streak in that condition from Almaty, 1550 kms away. Going down the steep mountain pass hairpin bends required quite a bit of throttle and brake work together.

Aziz was fantastic. At one point we considered either trying to Fedex the throttle sensor part so wait however many days here for it, or just soldier on until Istanbul. But Aziz was not going to stop working until Streak was fixed. 4 hours later, Streak is fixed – with the throttle sensor, Aziz did a ‘Tajik’ fix!… – well enough anyway to move on.

Streak being fixed at the Bike-House, Dushanbe

The first of 4 problems found – split rubber pipe

Ecstatic Aziz, aka Copperfield, and Anne

We highly recommend the Bike-House Dushanbe, Druzhby Narodov Street, Dushanbe, Tadzjikistan, Latitude: 38.57002 | Longitude: 68.81145.

Riding Streak away from the Bike-House back to the hotel was wonderful! Streak feels like a new bike. I feel great. And drivers here are the best so far.

The rest of our time in Dushanbe is spent doing washing, downloading/uploading photos, shopping at the Sultoni Kabir market for empty containers to have extra fuel for crossing Uzbekistan which still has a bad shortage of fuel, visiting the Auchan hypermarket for more snacks, resting in the very comfortable Lotte Palace hotel (the best hotel on our trip so far) and best of all, making the most of good internet to call family.

Our opulent hotel!!

A chandelier in our hotel!!

Our hotel garden

Mural on the side of a fabric factory next to our hotel, Dushanbe


Off to see our friends in Samarkand next – no idea how long that will take – all depends on the next border crossing. Til then, thanks again for all your comments!!

– Anne

Almaty to Khujand

It is 6 days since we left our bubble life in Almaty already. By the time we have finished our ride for the day, cooled off, recovered from the exhausting heat and intense concentration due to potholes and locals’ driving style, then downloaded the photos, and spent hours to upload the selected photos to the blog, we have had no energy to write before going to bed not too late for our early morning start. It is a real pity we can’t record our thoughts as we ride as there are so many details we’d like to mention…

We have seen the most amazing scenery, often dramatically changing from one bend to another, from stark and majestic mountains, to lush green valleys and to desperately dry and hot desert where breathing seems to dry your lungs. And once again, we have met more wonderful, friendly and generous locals.

Here’s a silent picture drive from Almaty, to Bishkek, Toktogul, Osh, Konibodom, Khujand – for the last few days, riding through the fertile Fergana Valley and past numerous enclaves and exclaves, the result of the post Soviet break-up and local feuds. Luckily, the new M13 road allows drivers to skirt these safely.

The history in this part of the world is fascinating but too long to talk about here. Just very briefly though, where we are now in Khojund for example is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. It was established by Cyrus the Great in the 7-6 centuries BC and Alexander the great built “Alexandria the Furthest” nearby in 329 BC. Located on the Silk Road it soon became a cultural hub. Khujand was later captured by Arab armies in the 8th century, fought Genghis Khan’s army then got destroyed in the 13th century. Then in the 19th century, it was occupied by the Russian Empire and became part of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. The result of various invasions is seen today in the ethnic mix of Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz people.

As depicted by the fabulous huge town monuments, the Ferghana valley saw cotton cultivation mandated by the Soviets and continues to this day. Seeing how dry this region is, except along the rivers, it seems like a tragic waste of precious water to grow cotton. We have seen people drinking from water channels in the streets. Riding through those valleys and along the treed villages always gave us a welcome respite from the oppressing heat – we love the sweet wafts of rotten fruit as we ride along the inumerable fruit sellers along the side of the road. How many water melons do people eat here?!!

Enjoy this 6 day ride!

Ever changing scenery

Too-Ashuu Pass, Kyrgyzstan – see where we came from at the bottom

Hello from Too-Ashuu Pass, Kyrgyzstan

Scenery from the other side of the Too-Ashuu tunnel

Time for lunch – more manty!

The beautiful Suusamyr Basin, Kyrgyzstan

The beautiful Suusamyr Basin, Kyrgyzstan

2000m high Suusamyr Basin, Kyrgyzstan

The beautiful Suusamyr Basin, Kyrgyzstan

Love the carefully painted and placed white pebbles

2000m high Suusamyr Basin, Kyrgyzstan

2000m high Suusamyr Basin, Kyrgyzstan

2000m high Suusamyr Basin, Kyrgyzstan

Good to know there is a clinic and ambulance around

How many greens are there?!

and honey, lots of honey

Back to fertile valleys

Heading down towards Toktogul

Kyrgyz man with traditional hat

Toktogul reservoir, Kyrgyzstan

Toktogul reservoir, Kyrgyzstan

Sunset over Toktogul reservoir, Kyrgyzstan

South of Toktogul resevoir, Kyrgyzstan

South of Toktogul resevoir, Kyrgyzstan

South of Toktogul resevoir, Kyrgyzstan

South of Toktogul resevoir, Kyrgyzstan

South of Toktogul resevoir, Kyrgyzstan

Naryn River, south of Kara-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Naryn River, south of Kara-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Naryn River, south of Kara-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Coming into Uzgen – those colours made me wish I could paint

We skirted around numerous enclaves, the result of post Soviet breakup and new borders – see fences in the distance

Town or region monuments

Soviet monument outside Almaty

Jalalabad town

Entering Batken, Kyrgyzstan

Mosaics

Entering Osh – look at that mosaic!


Fabulous Soviet monument, Isfara

Konibodom

Welcome mosaic – Khujand, Tajikistam

Safe travels mosaic – Khujand, Tajikistam

Ismoil Somoni monument – Tajikistan currency is named after him

Part of Ismoil Somoni monument, acknowledging his ancestors’ Zoroastrianism

Driving style

Typical driving – expect to move over

Move over for the Merc in a hurry

Typical driving

Typical driving

Typical driving

Osh

They love stretched limos in this part of the world

That’s a metallic car!!

Beautiful and delicious local bread, Osh market

Kids cannot resist playing with water, Osh park

A Yak 40 plane in the Osh park!

Anthony finally tried some local cheese in Osh – he did not finish it…

Lively local park, Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Museum Sulaiman Too, Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain – Unesco listed – and Museum, Osh, Kyrgyzstan

People and what travelling is all about

Random kindness – they got us a bottle of cold water as we were leaving this restaurant

We get so many waves and beaming smiles as we ride by


Buying some dates in Osh market, Kyrgyzstan

Met Laura and Toby on the road, looking for a restaurant – funnily they were going to the same hotel as us in Osh

A common occurence whenever we stop


A special time after stopping here:

I turned back to photograph this stunning mosaic…

and got invited into Nenuphar’s garden

Nenuphar picked 2kgs of nectarines for us which we could not refuse as we did the cheese

Little Aziza enjoying her new pencils

Next stop, Dushanbe – see you on the other side!! By the way, we are going with Plan B as we did not get our Turkmen visa so cannot return to Iran this time.

– Anne