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Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 73)

Tajikistan Sum up And The Heart Speaks

Well, what can I say it’s only a little place…well heaps actually.

For a small country covered in big mountains this IS one of the MUST DO’s before you clock out.

Right from arriving at the border 4300 metres above stress level we were welcomed in (I will say we which means Felix and me as we did 90% of Tajikistan together)

Border guard opens the gate, “welcome to Tajikistan” with a big swing of the arm and hand to wave us on in.

That set the mood quite nicely, we had heard horror stories from others and some travellers which maybe they struck these guys on a bad day or they are a bit different, either way my vision of Tajikifriendly was coming true.

Our border crossing over in about 30 minutes complete we set sail and the valley leading down to Karakul wide open saying come and get me.

So many tourists/travellers stick to the main Pamir Highway which in my eccentric opinion is a little over sold other than a few good spots and I believe you have not seen the Pamirs if you stick to the main drag only.

The real toys are hidden behind the doors which you have to open and make an effort to go down the hallway of fun, adventure, unknown and nothing short of stunning, yes Tajikistan is more beautiful than Kyrgyzstan in my other eccentric opinion.

I have to come back because I missed Sarez lake as Felix was sick from the altitude so we continued to lower lands, it was also getting very cold, we (Ellen and I) will come back to see this and all the other cool stuff and more.

Back to the hallway of fun, ok, down this hallway which is not very long offers several doors to those who are nosy and wonna take a punt on adventure and the unknown.

These doors are called,

Bartang Valley

Shahdara Valley

Wakhan Corridor

Vanch Valley

Iskanderkulsky Nature Refuge

Seven Lakes

There are more doors to go but this buys you 95% of the building.

Looking on the map you will see tight contour lines, BIG numbers for mountain passes and even bigger numbers for mountains with quite a few nearly twice the height of New Zealand and a lot of the time you are riding above the height of New Zealand.

For me turning 53 in the Wakhan Corridor looking at Afghanistan and Pakistan was a serious highlight and despite having a small guts ache was excellent to say the least, I thank Felix for allowing me to have half a day off relaxing and being a birthday boy but I know he enjoyed our stunning backdrop, hot pools, green tea and Cognac in the evening too.

Not one part of Tajikistan let me down other than their postal system and too many military checkpoints and I am not sure why there are so many, anyone wanting to do shifty shit are not going to report in to these guys anyway.

Enough on that, Mongolia stole my heart with simplistic beauty, Tajikistan stole my heart and my breath from its raw beauty and unforgiving landscape backed up by mountains that challenge even the hardest of hardcore mountaineers and a climate that will tear life away from the unprepared.

The Police, well, unlike their neighbours the Police were excellent, I was pulled up only once, the officer flagged me down, I stopped thinkin fuck here we go again.

Officer, HELLO … where are you from?

Me, Novoy Zelandia

Officer, Woah …welcome to Tajikistan (puts his hand out to shake hands)

Me, thank you, take my glove off and shake his hand.

Officer, Enjoy Tajikistan good bye

Me, “spasibo” (thank you) and good bye

Off I went, no money asked for, no trying to rip me just a friendly curious face doing his job and making a fun time of it which I really appreciated after Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan which tested my patience a bit (lot).  

The people, well, rated as the most friendly by a country mile on this trip, a stark contrast to many other countries, I am not sure how many kids hands a broke doing low fives (sorry kids but you wanted it LOL) but they came out from anywhere and everywhere when we rode past, 99% of people in all the villages waved and made us feel very welcome.

Even up the Vanch valley were not many terrorourists go we were welcomed even more and given the Himalayan Bears we were taken in as family and treated so well.   

So the burning question, where does it lay in the scheme of things, for me an equal 1st with Mongolia or possibly a nose hair in front, I love abrupt mountains and lakes so this ticked the box from the minute we walked through the front door.

The Heart Speaks, the hardest part for me is being is such a stunning place and not being able to share it first hand, cold, hot, high, rough, fun with Ellen, lucky missing Sarez Lake we have to go back….I think Felix and Ellen secretly schemed up a plot.

While I had reasonable communication with head office I was still reporting in from abroad and wanting to share it first hand, this is the hardest thing and real to your heart the better the place, that is when you really know you care about someone and love them (ouwh fuck he said the L word…).((and the F word))

I travelled of course with Felix, young punk from Germany and good bastid, would travel again with you mate no worries just stop breaking yourself or you will end up like me.

45, well, again she didn’t just take it in her stride running like a swiss clock she did it in style to over 4600 metres without a complaint, the places that wee bike can go with ease really shone through as we spent a lot in this part in some interesting spots, a bike lite weight making my life easy and Felix felt the weight of his Africa Twin a number of times.

The only thing causing concern was the front sprocket which I had fun getting, thanks to “The Bike-House” in Dushanbe this was sorted, of interest my sprockets did turn up 3 days after I left the hostel a week overdue from their latest delivery time so there are 2 new front sprockets for a WR250 or Gas Gas there if anyone needs them in Dushanbe. 

In a sum up, Tajikistan was a POI for me on this trip prior starting, it exceeded everything I could have asked for (apart from my crook guts) and I left there not wanting to leave but with the comfort of knowing this is defo on the return list

Uzbekistan Sum Up And The Heart Speaks

From the stunning rooftop penthouse rock garden of Tajikistan down the elevator to the flat courtyard of Uzbekistan, ok, while I enjoyed my stay the highlights for me would be Chust for the knife making and Khiva for the old town.

Moneywise my card would not work anywhere so I ended up having to exchange some of my USD for Somoni. Lucky I carried a slush fund or it would have been interesting as a lot of places are cash only unless you hang in the terrorourist spots which I don’t.

The knife making, for me being an engineering type I really enjoyed this and as you well know we now have new steak knives to cut the hindquarter off an Elephant in a single swipe.

I look forward to slashing the first lump of steak at home on the bar b q.

Khiva was very cool, I would like to go back and see in detail the rest of it, for the rest of Uzbekistan for me not entirely my gig, flat, asphalt and arsehole drivers who will run you off the road in an instant.

I had a nice camp in the desert enjoying a 10000 square km campsite that was very peaceful and extremely cold. The Police left us alone which was cool, I sort of never “looked them in the eye” if you like and just blazed past like they were not there so I not sure if any even tried to flag me down as these guys are known for wanting beer money too.

The Heart Speaks, well the wifi was slower than a wet week so I pretty much did not see Ellen on WeChat the whole time as the wifi was too slow, it was all text and voice message stuff which was a bit harder not having a face to face chat.

My first real with contact with Ellen was in Kazakhstan after exiting Uzbekistan.

Would I go back?, yes but only to see Khiva or to Chust but that is a massive expense and drama just for that, the rest I have to say done and dusted with other places to ready to see.

If you are into history deeper than me (which isn’t hard) then this place could be of interest to you, the downside for me is this really is their main attraction for tourism so yes you have to put up with the mainstreamers and the fact that white faces have $$$$ crosshairs on them at these spots.

The sum up is Uzbekistan for me is more of a transit country than a must see but don't take my word for it if history is your gig.

Kazakhstan Again

One and half days from Border to Port, they wanted $34 US Dollars for insurance, minimum one month so $34 US. Still grumpy at my treatment in Kazakhstan last time and paying my minimum month and using only 7 days I decided to wing it and bolt. I had a list of excuses and ready to be pulled up and asked for insurance but no not 1 single Policeman or car to be seen.

I made it to port unscathed and $34 USD or $53 Kiwis better off, now I feel better I have got one back on Kazakhstan thanks to their Police, great sales pitch they are.

Now the waiting game at port Kuryk and time to catch up on all this.....next up Caspian sea then Azerbaijan.

 

Port Kuyrk Kazakhstan To Port Alat Azerbaijan

I toyed with the idea of going around the top of the Caspian sea, I could either torture myself with more borders and VISAs or stick to Plan A and suffer the onslaught that seems to fit with crossing the Caspian Sea. Going around the top would just be mileage of flat and boring so the ship won.

Felix who I had been traveling with had a great run, me not so much.

I arrive at this massive 1st world port and there is no one but a guard, I talk with him and he said the boat leaves 5.10 that night, couldn't believe my luck.

Nothing happened, I went and saw some others and I got the STD answer...please wait.

45 in the crowded out in the busy carpark
Now here is formally a vision of "Please wait"...this is what it looks like

Night rolls in and nothing, it was clear we were not going anywhere, I set up for the night and bunk down.

Next morning, guy comes over and says ship arrives at 12.30 so can I have your documents please, no worries with that here they are.

He disappeared and way past 12.30 no ship and no docs, mid afternoon he turns up and says ship will be here at 4.30pm.

I get organised, guy comes in and says lets go and through the gates I go with the truckers.

Customs then took my paperwork again, there would be 15-20 people playing on cellphones and talking, not doing much...these are the customs workers, 10 truckers and me.

All afternoon with nothing then finally I get my paperwork back but still no word.

One guy says loading 6.30pm, cool we will be on our way.

6.30pm comes and goes, I am starving from no lunch and now needing something to eat, it was clear nothing was happening again, then I get word boarding 2.00am.

I manage to get 3/4 of a meal with not quite enough money left so that was ok, I then lay down for some make-believe sleep on their plastic chairs….. yeah comfy…..

Alarm goes off at 2.00 am so I go to the desk, they say 4.00 am please wait, I got back to my seats and set the alarm for 4.00am, alarm goes off at 4.00 am and back to the desk, 6.30 am we will be loading, please wait, I go back to my seats again and this time fuck it I am not setting the alarm they will wake me if I am asleep.

I got intermittent sleep but very broken, 7.45 am I go to the desk…..no boat then just as a go back to my seats the boat comes in.

Finally at 11.30 am we are loaded and midday we are on our way, couldn’t believe we were actually sailing.

The last of the Stans

The crew were ok, met 2 cyclists and a hiker so there were only 4 passengers on the ship, the rest were truckers.

The food was very average and the servings small, pretty much everyone said WTF including the truckers. Sea conditions were calm and our sunset was brilliant.

Crane making a night shot
Sunset

The morning rocks around and we are still chugging, arriving to the channel in the middle of the sea we stop and drop anchor, amidst confusion 1 lady can talk a little English, she said the bridge is broken at port and we cannot land.

An hour or so later we were on our way and the bridge must have been fixed.

Generator room
The Caspian Sea

Arriving at Port Alat we sat again for another hour on the boat waiting for our passports to be given back, finally to unload and do the normal customs entry paperwork.

That is when the fun started, this is now 7.45 pm in the evening, no food bla bla bla, I had made an electronic payment and they wanted a 7 digit number, I have the receipt, transaction number, bank statement etc showing everything but no 7 digit number.

After ¾ hour the other guy said you will have to pay again, ($110 USD or $176 Kiwis), me, yeah NO, NOT ON YOUR LIFE, I lost my patience and said pick a number any fucking number and write it down I don’t care.

Things were awkward and they realized that I was serious and not in the mood for stupid games.

Eventually we discovered an email had been sent to our TMK addy from “autofill” on Google, the guy at customs in Kazakhstan who did all the form and payment for me not realizing it had done this despite me writing down onemotokiwi. They discovered this after ringing the office so I am thinking why the hell not do that ¾ hour earlier when he could not find it.

Computers are slowly making people easier to use every day…this guy has a slow computer LOL.

Finally on my way I get to the hotel, the only one there, they want $40 Manat ($40 NZ), I was armed and dangerous with $23 Manat so there was some negotiations had and they gave me a room which was good.

I had an excess of Somoni from Uzbekistan and managed to trade it for Manat and GEL for Georgia so it all panned out ok in the end.  

Baku

Plan was to meet up with Mahsa who we met in Chile 2014 and her man Gerald.

They were at the Avand hotel so I plugged in the GPS and got there, we met up and I decided to stay there for convenience.

Was cool chewing the fat and talking motos, travel etc, you know the drill. I had some issues with no hot water and no wifi in my room and to be fare the hotel manager was an egg and not very pleasant and kept saying the 2 dreaded words “Please wait”

The crew eating out

Masha then left the following afternoon to Iran so Gerald and I headed out for some dude fud and drinks which was cool.

My mission before leaving Baku was to change the oil on 45 which I managed to get done my 11.30 am and I was on my way outa town.

Mahsa on her way and Gerald organizing her life LOL
Yeah
Leaving time
The flaming towers
Twomotokiwis
Author of this article: Twomotokiwis
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