The owner of the very trick BMW was an Austrian guy called Markus or Mex as he preferred to be called. His BMW was heavily modified with very few parts left in their original state. It was a work of technical genius, far beyond my level of mechanical or riding expertise. Mex, and his wife Moni, and I were to become good friends during our many days together in Dushanbe. They also had bike problems. The clutch on Moni’s bike had failed and they were waiting for a new clutch plate to arrive from Germany via DHL.
I had three major tasks to complete in Dushanbe. Despite the urgency of fixing the bike’s electrical problem I had to give priority to getting my visas for Iran and Turkmenistan. I could work on the bike while I was waiting for the visas. In direct contradiction to what I had read on many websites, it was NOT possible to get my Turkmen transit visa without getting the Iran visa first. So my first port of call on Day 1 was the Iranian Embassy. With a bit of Tajiklish I managed to get a taxi down Rudaki for what was to be the first of many, many trips. At the embassy I was relieved of US$185 and told to come back on Tuesday (it was now Thursday). This meant I now had several days to concentrate on fixing the bike. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
The day had started out with such promise.
I had asked the advice of the manager of the MSDSP guesthouse about the best road to Dushanbe. He and another visitor both confirmed that the southern route was longer but in better condition (once you got past Kulyob) than the shorter northern route over the pass. The time would be about the same, 6-7 hours. They both assured me it could be done in one long day. Given my previous experience with other peoples’ estimates of travelling time, I neither had the need nor the desire to try to get to Dushanbe in one day. Even if I did make it in “6-7 hours” it would be late in the afternoon before I started the search for the guesthouse – something I always tried to avoid. My aim has always been to be in my accommodation (no matter what it was) before the sun set.
So the new plan involved a short ride (168km) on “jeep track” to Kulyob, a large town approximately halfway to Dushanbe. My estimate was about 4-5 hours depending on how bad the “jeep track” was. As well as that, I knew that about 45km from Kala-i-Khum, there was about 30km of perfect bitumen between between Zohag and Zigar that the Italian government had built for some bizarre reason. Once in Kulyob, I could then rest overnight before covering the last 200km of supposedly smooth bitumen to Dushanbe.
Everything seemed set for an easy day. It was not to be. Continue reading
The time had come to leave Kashgar and head for Kyrgyzstan.
The mission for today was simple. Ride about 110km on good bitumen to the new Chinese Customs and Immigration post at Ulagqat, clear Customs and Immigration, ride another 150km on bad dirt to the actual border at Irkeshtam Pass, enter Kyrgyzstan and ride 70km on good bitumen to the little town of Sary Tash. Continue reading