There’s a BMW growing in the tomato patch!
It turned out that Hajbi wasn’t the owner of the Chorbogh Inn. The house was actually the home of Hajbi’s brother who was working overseas for 12 months. While he was away the family had decided to put his home to good use and turn it into a guesthouse to earn some much needed money – preferably US dollars!
I was the only foreign guest at the Inn. All of the other guests were Afghanis. Khorog, like Ishkashim, was one of the common border crossing for Afghanis to enter Tajikistan and as it was the weekend of the annual festival there were many Afghanis in town. Hajbi spoke very good English and was very “westernised”. He was very happy to have an English-speaking guest to practise his English. He also commented that he was happy that he had a guest “who knew how to behave”. He also commented that the Afghanis “didn’t know how to behave” and he had taken it upon himself to teach them “proper manners”. I suspect his efforts would be in vain. Continue reading
The plan for the day was to ride about 110km along the Wakhan Highway from Langar to Ishkashim and visit the large market held every Saturday. From Ishkashim it was only another 100km to Khorug. The Wakhan Highway is no more a highway than the Pamir Highway is. Most of it is rough “jeep track” with the added bonus of the return of landslide rubble. However the views across the Pyanj River to Afghanistan were often breathtaking.
Crossing the Khargush pass yesterday also meant crossing another ethnic divide. Since entering Tajikistan from Sary Tash, the majority of the locals had been Kyrgyz. However, once over the Khargush Pass, I had left the Kyrgyz to their high altitude pastures. Now, the locals were mainly Pamiris who had more in common with their Wakhi neighbours across the valley in Afghanistan.
After a good night’s sleep, I wondered what sort of breakfast awaited me. Thankfully, breakfast was much more recognisable (and nourishing) than yesterday’s disaster – black coffee, eggs, naan and, of course, a bowl of lollies. As I was packing the bike after breakfast Ëdgar’s young son decided he wanted to “help”. Continue reading
The daily ritual of collecting water from the local well by donkey
I woke early to pack the bike and witnessed the centuries-old daily ritual of collecting water from the local well using a donkey. Most of the people in this part of the Pamirs are ethnically Kyrgyz not Tajik and their simple lifestyle doesn’t appear to have changed for centuries. How they survive under such harsh conditions is truly amazing.
The start to the day was cool but with crystal clear blue skies – a vast improvement over yesterday’s Arctic winds. I wasn’t the slightest bit hungry but I knew I should eat something, anything, to combat the effects of the gruel from last night. To my horror, the leftovers from the previous night were served up again for breakfast. The goat’s milk had been left on the stove overnight and globules of fat and oil were floating on the top. I drank as much of it as I could stomach before excusing myself from the table. I felt sure I would pay for my good manners later in the day. Continue reading
With a relatively modest itinerary for the day, I enjoyed a leisurely homestay breakfast of eggs, naan, chai and lollies. Lollies were served at every meal at every hotel/guesthouse/homestay I stayed at in Central Asia. Good for a quick hit of energy and does wonders for the demand for gold false teeth. Initially, I was taken aback by people flashing 24ct smiles – something which I found oddly reminiscent of an old James Bond movie. Continue reading
For the first time since crossing the Khunjerab Pass, the weather was very cold. Even though the homestay in Sary Tash was cosy it was still a bit too cool inside at night. Consequently I woke at about 6am, well before the family. Not knowing how to fill in my time until breakfast, I made an executive decision to start repacking my bike. Originally I had allowed two nights in Sary Tash but I had realised when I arrived there was really nothing to keep me in Sary Tash except vast amounts of vodka. 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