Wednesday, June 28, 2006

15km North of Khorog

I was really enjoying Tajikistan. The people were friendly, with a smile on my face & a wave I would almost always get a similar response. The landscape was glorious. Even when chaykhanas weren't around to feed me there were fruit trees beside the road to keep me going until I found somewhere to get something to eat.

I arrived in the market town of Vomar, the capital of its district. I also managed to catch the bazaar before the vendors left for lunch. I went to a local cafй & ate the dish they had on offer, a stew of pasta, cracked wheat, mutton & carrots. The only choice was whether I wanted black or green tea. I asked for green & got black. In spite of this it was a friendly place. The daughter of the family who ran the place spoke English & we had a nice chat. When I asked if there was any fruit available they picked a bowl of cherries & myrtle berries for me.

I continued on the Pyanj, marveling at the mountains. At Vomar the river had widened & the banks on either side were larger. Every available piece of land was used in small plots. There were trees all along the road when it ran by a field, many of these were Myrtles laden with pickable berries.

Shortly before Khorog I'd had enough & stopped in a village & asked if there was somewhere that I could camp. I was taken to someone's yard, which had a nice spot to pitch a tent. I was about to start cooking when an English speaking Tajik appeared & said that I was expected to eat with my host & his friends. The English speaking guy stayed around to translate the many questions they had about New Zealand.

All the people at the dinner table were Ismaelis, an offshoot of Shia Islam that venerate the Aga Khan as the 39th Imam (Shias stopped at 12 Imams) or 'keepers of the faith' with the Prophet Mohammed being the 1st. When his name was mentioned there was a clear sense of respect. It was confirmed that during the blockade of Badakshan during the civil war that the Aga Khan kept people from starvation. Even with some of his millions being put into development, for those living in this valley the terrain must feel like bit like a prison, even if a pretty glorious one. Many of the guys around the table were quite idle. With no jobs a lot of time was spent sitting around drinking vodka.

I cycled 102 km in 7 hours & 41 minutes
Total so far 7624 km in 111 days
GPS Coordinates of end point - N 37°36.182, E 71°30.849

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