|Tajikistan Expedition. Kayaking icy rivers along the Silk route and just 100m from the Afghan Border.|
Update Februray 2005:
Ok, let’s get back to Tajikistan story. After having towed Nikolai’s boat out, we were heading into the Pamirs. The road definitely stood out as a sign of a war which was going on for some time in this area. It wasn’t only the broken blown up military hardware next to the road (or sometimes even as ‘rock’ in a river) but also the lack of maintenance. This went so far, that you didn’t have to dodge the potholes, but had to dodge the pockmarks of the left tarmac in the road.
Bouncing through the arid landscape the load on the roof finally squashed the flimsy roof rack which couldn’t deal with 4 loaded boats. On a hot, dusty Sunday in the middle of Tajikistan you realize, that some welding equipment could actually become a necessity on an expedition out here.
So edging the car fwd with the routine 3minute stop to get the roof rack back into the reeling we managed to get to some farming houses. Some talks revealed, that we would find the equipment with one of the farmers, but before doing so, we would have to have some local drinks, some mutton rice, some fruits and sweets and some more small talk. Quite unbelievably for people just going through a civil war, a former soviet occupied country (even Nikolai and Misha were allowed to eat) and still on the food deprivation list of the UN.
This definitely wasn’t the only time to experience Tajik hospitality but the routine at every stop or arriving in a village or other meetings. A sign of Muslim friendliness in a harsh world but the ‘normal’ people never care about politics anyway.
Finally getting up, around and through this ‘road’ or maybe it be better called a military vehicle test circuit, we reached the Pyanch. Already a trickle in its bottom stretch we hoped for some steep drops further up. The map showed 150ft/mile and this would perfectly suite the flow. But driving and driving and driving up, we then only discovered that the river just meandered in a gravel bed and the flow disappeared away.
At least we didn’t hike up there for some 2-3 days but had our sporty V6 to get us up there in a few hours. So turning around and heading for the Yazgulem was next on the list and on this one we at least knew, that there will be some flow and rapids.
October 13th 2004:
You may have to have a look up Tajikistan on a world map to get a feel for where
it is (I am sure
George W. would too), but by saying that it borders Afghanistan, the search probably gets easier. For more details, see the CIA World Factbook.
90% of the country is mountainous and the peaks reach up to 7500 meters with sparsely populated, undammed valleys : enough facts to make it interesting for an exploratory trip to the Pamir mountains.
Everyone arrived in the capital Dushanbe and we did some warming up on the Varzob river just outside town. Nikolais' boat got pinned and he was literally sitting between a rock and a hard place for a while. He was lucky enough to make it out of the boat before the water pressure squeezed the Nomad deep in between the rocks (more later on the Video). After trying to set various pullies, z-drags and even try the car to pull the boat out, we recognized that it just didn't want to move.
As a multi-linguist I also knew the international hand and foot language, so I managed to somehow get the local spectators to bring a solid winch with steel cable out from a shed and we just bent the Nomad 90 degrees (no joke) and jerked it out from (at this time) under (!) the rock by brute force.
The evening was spent treating this peace of extraordinary plastic with hot water and a little bit of stick beating, to get it back into its original shape. After only 3 hours it looked just the same as before. Amazing....
And so, with the warming up done, we are off following some crazy roads into the middle of the Pamirs. The dry and arid landscape remembers me of Ladakh but unfortunately there are some blown out tanks and other military hardware reminding of bad recent history of this country.
For photos, see the gallery below.
More news coming soon....
Nearest weather station (°C):