For the first time in two months, and over 5600km, I approached the new day with a degree of trepidation. Until now my bike had been 100% reliable. But today I had the constant doubt about whether the bike would start. Without my bike I wasn’t going anywhere.
I couldn’t even be bothered enquiring about breakfast. I just wanted to pack the bike and see how the day would unfold. With some help from a couple of other inmates from Gulag Khatlon, we pushed the bike down the gently sloping path in front of the hotel. The bike started on the second attempt and I was on the road to Dushanbe.
It was about 200km to Dushanbe but I would need to stop for petrol somewhere along the way. This was not a problem but was just another aspect to consider when having to pushstart the bike. As I left Kulyob a large sign wished me a “Happy Journey”. I too wished that I would have a happy journey.
Every service station I saw I assessed it for a sloping road and a good hard surface. Service station after service station came and went until I found the perfect location. Unfortunately, it didn’t have any “benzin”. Eventually I gave up and just pulled into the next servo that had “benzin”. However, it didn’t have electricity so it was back to the old 5L jug method to fill the tank. With the tank topped up I would be able to ride non-stop to Dushanbe. A couple of local kids helped me pushstart the bike and I was under way again.
I was now in the more heavily populated part of Tajikistan where the traffic was much heavier and more unpredictable. Even though the road was bitumen, it was in an appalling state – endless unfinished roadworks, massive potholes, deep undulations in the wheel tracks from the heavy trucks and even corrugations across the road. Still, it was better than what I had been riding on for the last few weeks.
About 80km from Dushanbe I crossed the Shar Shar Pass near Lake Norak which was formed from a large hydro-electric dam and power station. Scenically it was quite pretty, but my photo stops were limited in time and number due to the constant concern about not stalling the bike. The kilometres kept passing beneath the wheels until I eventually arrived in Dushanbe just after lunch. All I had to do now was negotiate the heavy inner-city traffic, find my way to the guesthouse on the northern side of the city and do it without stopping the engine.
I had a good idea of the general area where the guesthouse was (behind Varzob bazaar) but even several locals in the area didn’t recognise the street address. I was about to give up and just check into one of the large hotels on Rudaki, the main street of Dushanbe, but I decided to have one last search. I relied on my own sense of direction and went down an alleyway which I was sure was close to the guesthouse. I reached a dead-end without any sign of the guesthouse. By now the frustrations of the day were starting to take their toll. I would have to do a U-turn in the narrow dead-end and start searching again. As I did the U-turn, there in front of me was the sign for the guesthouse, The Adventurer’s Inn. Approaching from the side street at the far end the sign was invisible.
The Adventurer’s Inn is well known amongst overland travellers of all persuasions (cyclists, motorcyclists, trekkers and backpackers) and all nationalities. With a degree of urgency I went inside to see if they had any rooms available, the bike all the while idling slightly faster than normal in the alleyway outside. Yes, they had a room and yes, they had somewhere secure to park the bike while I tried to find and fix the electrical problem. Maybe today was my lucky day to make up for yesterday’s misfortune.
I went back out to the bike patiently idling in the alleyway and rode down to the double gates where I could park the bike. As I rode into the yard I couldn’t believe my eyes. There in the corner was another BMW, slightly older than mine, but obviously belonging to a fellow overland motorcyclist. I didn’t know who the owner was but I was very keen to talk to this kindred spirit.
Today really had turned out to be my lucky day!