Asalaamaleykum from Tajikistan!
Let’s play catch-up, where I tell you the story of the fuckshow of a month that’s ensued.
I left home on July 30th and since then I have visited the lovely airports of Frankfurt, Warsaw, and Moscow-Domododevo (hell), and visited the countries of Moldova, Transnistria and Tajikistan. I’ve fallen in rivers, turned down marriage proposals, hiked well over 100 miles, puked all over trails, been broke down on the Bartang Highway, shit my pants and even have had to yell at and slap a few pervy men. Oh, and there was the time where I nearly murdered this drunk twat Mongol rally racer in a Dushanbe hostel, and trust me that shit was fully justifiable.
Even though I’ve been to hell and back over the course of the month I’ve gotten to do and see some awesome things… So here’s the highlight reel:
Getting to visit Lake Sarez
This is one of, if not the most difficult place (well, talking Permit wise) to visit in Tajikistan. The Lake is located about 14 miles from the village of Barchidev, which is way up the Bartang Highway. Getting up The Bartang Highway is a feat all in itself, let alone this being the second time in a week I had to travel it. With the help of Nurumuhammed who runs Sarez Travel, I was able to secure the elusive Lake Sarez permit and visit the lake. Nurumuhammed even guided me to the lake (yes, foreigners must be guided and have permits to visit here. And yes, I highly recommend Nurumuhammed).
Some background on Lake Sarez: The Lake was formed in 1911 when an earthquake shook down an entire mountainside, damming off the Murghab River and eventually filling the valley with water. The dam destroyed the villages of Sarez and Usoi, the latter which the dam is named after. If the dam were to ever breach it will send a wall of water down the Bartang Valley wiping out everything in its path speculated clear into Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.so that’s why now there’s a station there that carefully monitors it.
Revisiting the odd breakaway territory of Transnistria
I went to Moldova and Transnistria back in 2012. The way it worked out flying to Tajikistan this year I ended up with a 3-ish day layover in Moldova. Immediately after I arrived in Chisinau I hopped on the next marshrutka to Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria. It was a fun day I ended up having out there. A guy named Sasha ended up showing me around the city and all the sights.
Hiking up to the Khafrazdara Valley
Last year when I was traveling in the Pamir I came across a photo on the back of a map of a beautiful lake and knew I had to get out to. The only identification I could find of the photo was the name Khafrazdara. After scouring the internet over the winter, I finally figured out where this place was and added it to my to-do list. A 7 hour turned 11 hour taxi ride from Khorog, and an annoying 20 year old who repeatedly kept telling me that ‘my eyes were calling him‘* the entire ride there later I arrived in the small village of Pasor to begin my hike.
*Like Dude, I was wearing fucking sunglasses.
Of course, getting such a late arrival into Pasor I couldn’t start the trek immediately and was taken in by a family for the night and subsequently fed to death. Over the next 2.5 days I hiked about 30 miles round trip to reach the lakes in Khafrazdara Valley. I had originally had ambitions to go all the way to Grum Grijmailo Glacier but in the end, decided not to tack on the extra mileage for it… Plus I’ve seen countless glaciers in my life.
Trekking the Fann Mountains, again
I think the Fann Mountains are one of the most beautiful places in the world. So naturally, I had to go back this year. I did two different treks out here this year and one went well although being puking sick the entire 25 miles and the other, well it didn’t go so hot. The first trek went from the small village of Mogiyon through some wild canyons to the village of Rogich and finally up and over the Komichura Pass to the Haft Kul. My second trek started from Artush to Kulikalon, over Alovaddin Pass to Lake Alovaddin. At Alovaddin I was met with a pervy porter who kept insisting on sleeping in my tent with me. I had to throw out the ‘No and that’s inappropriate’ line a few times. He also seemed to think I was going to pay him to go on a leisurely stroll with me and not porter a damn thing. Anyways the trek set off and we were accompanied by a couple who were being guided over Kaznok Pass. We, in the end, were guided over the wrong pass that ended at a steep cliff side and had to turn around and come back. This is probably what I get for not thoroughly researching a trek and trusting guides that come to find out rarely go over this particular pass.
Drinking sparkling wine and exploring the underground cellars in Cricova
The tour to Cricova? Totally worth the $25 (450 MDL) trip out to the nearby town to check out the miles of underground wine cellars underneath the town of Cricova. The place is massive and just a short trip from Chisinau. PS if you don’t want to spend $25 you can visit the cellars at 9 am and you get a fat discount. You are welcome.
Finally getting to meet the lovely Munira at ZTDA
Munira was a huge part in planning my treks in Tajikistan last year, however, I never got to meet her. The ZTDA office is located in Khujand, which I didn’t visit on my first trip. So of course on this trip I had to make it up there. Munira is amazing.
Things I learned this month:
1) Do not ever have a long layover in Moscow Domodedovo airport (especially if you are one of the unlucky countries that needs a visa). There is fuck all to do these. Death would have been a sweet release from the 8 hours I spent there.
2) Hot dogs are probably the easiest food to come by in Tajikistan. You thought Qurutob was the national dish? Well there’s a good chance that the next place I walk into will have nothing but hot dogs left.
3) everything in Tajikistan is ‘no problem’ until it’s a catastrophic disaster that is fucked beyond any fixing. And even then they’re optimistic.
4) there’s a whole different definition of ‘something not working’ in the post-Soviet world. Showerhead is broken off the wall and only 1 sprayer on the showerhead works and it’s dripping about 1 drop of water every 2 seconds? Yeah, it’s still working.
So what’s up for September?
I have a few more hiking trips planned before I finally leave Tajikistan. But guess what? My plans have changed!
I have to be in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) before September 22 to catch my flight to Myanmar. I will be spending two weeks there traveling around with my classmate from college Treva, who picked up and moved to Sydney 5 years ago. After our travels in Myanmar, I will be heading to Georgia. Not the state, the republic. From there I am headed off on a press trip to Abkhazia, yet another breakaway territory… But wait I’m getting ahead of myself because Abkhazia isn’t until October.
I have some more posts on shooting the Aurora coming up for September, otherwise, I’ll be out here in bumfucknowhereistan. See ya next month!
Hey, wanna go high five the Lenin statue? YES!
PS: Sorry I’m too lazy to link my posts from this month on here like I normally do. Blogging from and iPhone SUCKS.