Although we didn’t get to bed until after 1am in Khorog, we were up early the next morning to head off for another long day of driving. It was going to take 2 days to get to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, and given the roads we had driven on until now – no doubt it would take every second of those 2 days to arrive!
From Khorog, we basically followed the Panj River, which forms the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, for most of the next 2 days. This fast-flowing river and the mountains on either side make a very impressive barrier – so quite obvious why it has become a national border.
Fortunately, I sat on the correct side of the truck for most of the awesome views, and I whiled away many, many hours of back-breaking roads just watching the scenery pass by and trying to take photos. Turns out – it is INCREDIBLY difficult to take photos out of a moving vehicle on terrible roads!
This is another really beautiful stretch of “highway” – if you can stand the bone jarring and the precarious drops of extremely narrow, elevated roads! I kept telling myself that if the articulated trucks we’d seen coming the other direction had made it … so could we!
Obviously, we were driving along a road on the Tajik side of the river, there was an equivalent that ran all along the Afghan side as well. Well, almost all the way along. We came across places where they were still building it … the hard way!
And the fascinating thing is that there were all these people just walking along it, in the middle of nowhere, miles from anywhere – sometimes with animals and sometimes with just themselves.
On the Tajik side, we passed through several small villages and almost everyone who saw us either waved to us and/or openly stared at us in disbelief. It was quite funny actually, and really interesting to see that the faces have definitely changed from more Asian-like features to Afghan/Turkic features. i.e. The Tajiks look completely different to the Kyrgyz and Kazakh people.
After almost 11 hours of being lost in my own world watching the scenery go by, my travel companions started to get restless as the sun dipped towards the horizon and we drove past a couple of (rare in this area) potential camping sites. We eventually settled for quite a lovely place, right beside some more abandoned buildings (it seems to be a theme for our campsites). And it was warm! A welcome change after our last 5 days in the cold 😊
Another early start to complete the last several hundred kms to Dushanbe along unknown roads.
We were told to turn off the “main road” that we were on, into what was shown as a secondary road on the map, based on instructions from the group that did the trip last year. Much to our surprise, after about a couple of hours – we finally hit a great bitumen road! It was heaven after 4 days of bouncing around in the back of the truck at 20km/hr!
Tajikistan is a country full of checkpoints , and we passed through what must have been our 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th checkpoint on the way to the capital. Some of them are quick, some them are anal about the paperwork and insist on seeing everyone’s passport and visa so they can transcribe the details into their ledger.
We finally hit a large town, had a quick lunch, and continued on into completely different scenery. Gone were the incredible mountains and the river, and instead the views were filled with rolling green hills and tilled fields as far as the eye could see.
So, after 5 days of staring out the window in silence, and given the now-less-than-spectacular scenery, I finally put in my earphones and music 😊