Brisbane2Bristol

On our great adventure

We have’nt done a crime but we’re Doing time in Dushanbe…

After an exhausting ride over the Pamir Highway – the ‘Roof of the World’, we arrived in the ex-Soviet Central Asian city of Dushanbe in the late afternoon after a day that was filled with various events…

A brief recent history lesson on Dushanbe in the 1990’s…
Peace was shattered when a brutal civil war claimed over 60,000 lives.
A former Soviet republic, Tajikistan plunged into civil war almost as soon as it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, and is Central Asia’s poorest nation.
Dushanbe means “Monday” in the Tajik language, and the name reflects the fact that the city grew on the site of a village that originally was a popular Monday marketplace.

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The civil war turned the remote mountainous republic into the bloodiest corner of the former Soviet empire, the once scary and dangerous country has now plastered over the bullet holes, and the tenuous Tajikistan is now safe for travellers. Which is good for us…..

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Back to our events- we followed Arran past the tree-lined avenues to an address he had of a home stay.

We arrived to find that it was full, but the owners daughter who spoke very good English, said that she was in the process of having guests rooms built at her house, and even though they weren’t ready we could still stay there ….

Her family would all sleep in the living room while we had the bedrooms!

We followed her up through some very narrow, twisty and potholed lanes to here house, where she put fresh sheets on the bed for us, she showed us the loo which was an awful squat loo that they had built them selves and the shower which was also outside was a small tin shed with a water container on top and a shower hose fed through the roof and had a on/off lever to release the water-it was very clever, the only downside to that was the water was heated by the sun, it was only slightly warm, not sure how they manage in the winter!….

We stayed here for a couple of days, until there was room at the home stay….
The ladies whose house we were in was telling me that having guests stay with them was good as wages as in Tajikistan weren’t very good.

Ramadan had just started when we were in Tajikistan and the owner of the house was taking part,this was her first year of doing it, and she was finding it difficult but was determined to do it.
She was telling me that she can only eat during the times of 8pm and 3am other than that no food or drink is to be had, she also went on to tell me that as muslims they are not forced to do this, it is entirely up to them.
It was quite funny, they would have all their food layed out on the dinner table at 7.45 and sat at the table constantly looking at their watches waiting for 8.00 to arrive..

We moved to the home stay once the rooms were vacant, which was good as it was within walking distance to the city.

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Lots of grand monuments and government buildings around the centre of the city…

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Staying in Dushanbe was going to be a waiting game, waiting for our E-Visa for Azerbaijan (we applied for this visa in Bishkek) and until it come, we couldn’t apply for our Turkmenistan visa!

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great name for a window cleaner…

Our first few days in Dushanbe were spent looking around the city parks,they love water fountains here…

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Bens Azerbaijan E-Visa arrived first, so the next day he was off to apply for his Turkmenistan visa, which would take, five working days for express service!
While Clive, Arran and myself waited for ours…
It seemed strange that as we had applied as a group, the visas didn’t arrive together, but we just put it down to Ben being on a British passport and the three of us were traveling at that time on Australian passports.

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Outside a art shop on our way to our coffee shop…

So while we had time to wait out, Clive had to do a few things to the bike, one important job was to change the fuel filter, hoping that this would fix the problem that we had with the bike while riding into Dushanbe….

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Bike having surgery…

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The culprit fuel filter, it should be white…
The back tyre on the bike was still had some tread left so that didn’t get changed, so we will still look like a tug boat….

We needed to see if the fuel filter that Clive had just fitted was the cause of the bikes problems so we went for a ride up to a lake we had passed while riding into Dushanbe, we couldn’t find a way down to the lake….

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and ended up at a water power plant, the water flowed fast and looked freezing…

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The water was really a rich blue colour full of tiny bubbles and crystal clear, it looked really deep…

I used the time to wash every thing that needed a wash and that could be washed, plus pumping some water from our Katadyn filter for drinking.

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Pumping water with our filter…

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Clear water on the left untreated water on right..

The next few days were spent in a bored haze, get up do some washing, write up some more blogs, play solitaire and sleeping on the day bed, our room was way to hot to go into during the day, as we had no air-con let alone a fan, it really was unbearable to go into…

In the afternoons we would drag ourselves out into the hot streets and walk to the coffee shop where we could have a cold beer, where we could publish our blogs and catch up with the kids via Skype….

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A few days later I mentioned to Clive that it out seemed rather odd that we hadn’t heard anything about our e-visas, as Ben had done the applications all together as ‘one’ we wanted him (or we would) to contact the company who we got our Letters of Introduction got all our E-visas printed out through (they also dealt with the Azerbaijan visas as well).
With a bit of a push, an email to the LOI Company we were using, proved effective as a few hours later our E-Visas had been emailed to us, with the LOI Company blaming the Azerbaijan Embassy!
We’re not convinced of that, as Ben’s E-Visa was dated 4th July and our 2nd July!

Ben got set to leave Dushanbe as he now had his visa, even though Ben was leaving a week ahead of us we all still thought that we would catch up with him some where along the way, his bike is bound to break down again!…

While Arran got our E-Visas printed out we went to the car bazar to look for some cheap car mats, to stick onto the top of our bike aluminium boxes as the ‘Pac Safe’ security meshes were marking our bags with a horrible metal dust film with all the rubbing from the mesh…

The following day the three of us went to the Turkmenistan Embassy and applied for our visas,it would be another five working days before we could collect them.
Back at the home stay Clive carefully cut his car mats and glued them onto the ‘boxes’…this was as exciting as our days got sometimes….

Later in the day we went to the cafe to catch up with some emails and also talk to the kids on Skype, later in we went to one of the the currency exchange and brought some Uzbek SOM..
We only brought $100 dollars worth but ended up with a shoe size box worth of money…
We decided to splurge and have a curry at the Indian curry house ‘Nameste’ that was across the road from the cafe, it did the best curries 😛

Early the following day, i noticed something under Clive’s bike, oh my it was the tinniest kitten i have seen, with amazing blue eyes, we gave him some water and went around asking a few of the neighbours if they had lost a kitten, no one had, the kitten followed me everywhere at the home stay…

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When Arran got up he said that that there was a bit of a commotion during the night with two adult cats chasing the kitten into his room, he thinks they were trying to kill it :(…when the owner of the home stays daughter woke up (she spoke very good english) we asked what could be done with the kitten, as we had already checked online to see if there were any animal shelters -which surprise surprise there wasn’t, she said she would take care of it and not to worry…i don’t know what they did with the kitten, and i just hope it went to a good home….

Arran had decided that he was going to do a bit of exploring and when he returned he was full of excitement and told us about his adventure, one of the things that he told us about was that he thought he went through the ‘Tunnel Of Death, the way he described it, it certainly sounded like it….
So the next day we decided to take his advice and check it out, we needed to blow the cobwebs off the bike anyway.
We packed up a little picnic and headed off out of ‘town’…
oh goodness why the heck did we not get out sooner….
Must have been the ‘black’ cloud hoovering above us…

We rode past a crystal clear river that twisted around the mountains that had houses, hotels and restaurants built on on the edge of the river and just about all of them had swimming pools…

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donkey under there somewhere…

We carried on up the mountain going through dozens of avalanche tunnels….

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Then finally at the top we were greeted by stunning views of the valley below…

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About 50 klms from Dushanbe we came to what we thought was the Tunnel Of Death…

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We covered our mouth and nose with a scarf, and followed a car into the tunnel….why?…so when the car in front came to the potholes we would be able see when he hit a pot hole when his tail lights dip when he hits them…

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Pitch black inside…

The tunnel was cold, smelly,five KLMS long with no ventilation and the concreted road surface had the reinforcement bars poking through the ground, mountain water was coming up through the ground and was pretty deep in places, finally after about 20 minutes of holding our breath or trying to anyway we came to the end of the 5 kilometre tunnel, to be greeted by a dozen ‘suicidal’ cows that were sitting at the end of the tunnel in the middle of the road, so either they would get hit by a car/truck or die from the fumes that billowed out of the tunnel…

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We pulled up to the side of the road to do a bit of ‘spitting’….
Then off we went for a ride around the mountain roads enjoying the scenery, and coming across what looked like a mine dug into the side of the hill.
Finally we found a spot next to the river to eat our picnic lunch, then headed back up the mountain and once again having to go through back through the Tunnel Of Death….

While going down the mountain we could see lots of people swimming in the river, Hmm looks like a good idea so when we got to the bottom of the mountain we found somewhere to stop and decided that we should maybe take a dip as it was so hot,that thought was short lived as the water was freezing, you couldn’t even paddle, so we just sat on the rocks and dipped our toes in and enjoyed the sounds of the running water….

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There was this weird structure on a abandoned bridge…

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We met a English guy just outside town and had a good chat..

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Old industrial area outside city had some great tiled pictures on the walls..

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The day came when we could collect our Visa’s from the Turkmenistan Embassy, but first, before they hand them over you have to make a payment for the visa at the Pakistan bank in town, so off we went with our payment forms then raced back to collect our visa…
We spent the rest of the day packing for our early departure the following day to Uzbekistan….

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Saying goodbye to our host..

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