8 police stops, 5 car break-downs, 1 flat tire, full-blown resurgence of Giardia, pregnant lady throwing-up 17 times, 2 mixed tapes, 3000 m pass, 16 hours of driving on a dusty dirt road with 8 other people + baggage = the first and last time for me thanks.

I’m traveling to Bishkek from Dushanbe today, but I had to take some time describe the adventure of driving from Khorog to Dushanbe. Saturday morning I went to the small airport to find out if I could get on the plane. However, after waiting an hour, nobody was sure whether or not a plane was actually coming, and since the previous days plane had not flown, there were a large group of people with dibbs waiting. So I decided to take the ‘sure-fire’ car route. After shopping around at the ‘car market’ for a few minutes, Askarsho found me a seat among 8 others in a land-cruiser type thing. So I was packed into the middle of the last row. Great, now I can’t see a thing with my backpack between my legs on the floor in front of my and my oversized purse/computer bag on top of me. I was open to the idea of driving since it would allow me to see much of the Tajik countryside. But alas, all I could see were my travel companions (all extremely lovely people) and occasionally the glimpse I stole out a window would reveal a bunch of dust. At the beginning of the trip, before it came to dark and dusty, I saw children in the villages, standing on the side of the road extending bowls full of plums. An image that particularly struck me (of course, I don’t actually have an image, because it was impossible to take photos from my position), was of a little boy, no older than 5, extending his little arm with all his might as high as he could, showcasing a fish from the nearby river. The young man sitting next to me, stopped in his home village to pick up 30 kilos of apples. Now I also have 30 kg of apples beside me, behind me, on top of me, and of course I ate a bunch too. This poor pregnant woman started being sick almost straight away, and the first few times the car stopped to let her do her thing. But the third time, the car didn’t start again. So after popping the lid, fiddling around for 15 minutes and finally taping two pieces together, the engine revved and the driver told her, no more stopping.
Lunch was deemed important enough for stop, so on a tapchan in Vanj, I got to know my companions a bit better. Two of the women were on their way to Dushanbe for a 6 month trainer of trainer nurse course. The other woman was a doctor, working with an AIDS organization, the young man of course, selling apples, and an older gentleman who worked with UNICEF (those are the only ones I figured out).
Mostly because I’m lazy, I’m not going to recount the entire story in painful detail. In brief, there were a few more car break downs, plenty of police-stops (they always wanted to see my passport and search the suspicious foreigners bags). We also drove over a broken metal-plank bridge and the front tire fell through and popped. That was fixed in a relative jiffy, after which we stopped for dinner.
One of the highlights was passing over the Sagirdasht pass. Incredible flora (and any of my bio friends will all know how much I love plants…), there was a shrub that looked like a skeleton of a tree, the colour of a late evening shadow with dried flowers on the end. The top of the pass was breathtaking, despite the police check, rolling pasture sprinkled in snow, sharp peaks and lush-ish valleys below. Also interesting and jarring to the landscape are the remnants of soviet tanks.
Ah yes, not to forget. The 16 hour trip was of course made more pleasant by the 2 mixed tapes the driver had, which skipped everytime we went over a large bump.
Well by the time we rolled into Dushanbe at 1 am, my bags and my body and hair were absolutely covered in dust. My hair actually looked grey, and thank goodness I had my scarf to breath through when the dust was really bad.
In the end, I survived. But I’m sore, tired, and giardia is ___well… look up the symptoms.
Thank you Ninoska for staying up and saving my wretched body with a place to crash!

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