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7/06/2011 – 10/06/2011 – Dushanbe: A rest before the mountains

August 15, 2011
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I arrived in Dushanbe a day before the others, an old knee injury decided to flare up making the last dash to Tajik border by bicycle a dangerous option for the longevity of my trip. Instead I had to get buses and trains to the border, past the most beautiful scenery in Uzbekistan, my bike shoved helplessly into the aisle between bemused Uzbeks. It was a sacrifice, but as much as it pained me to watch it all go by from behind the glass it was the pragmatic option to take. With some of the largest mountains coming up, I wasn’t going to risk having to be ferried by bus through them, I was going to cycle the whole way.

I cycled from the border, 100kms to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, the knee seemed to hold up ok with none of the shooting pain that had plagued me the past few days. Excited to arrive in Dushanbe, a decent sized city with huge government buildings and lots of road works, I set about trying to find somewhere cheap to sleep.

It would seem this is difficult to find in Dushanbe, every place wanted at least $15 for a night, and my offers to sleep on the roof, in my tent for less, were laughed at. The trail led me to Farhang, a huge white soviet block disrupted only by the pink balconies. This place had real character, run by a wiley old woman who sat behind a glass fronted room, it was half apartment rental for down and outs, half hotel. As I wandered down the shining-esque corridors I glanced into a few rooms and caught fleeting glimpses of single male life of all ages: T.V’s, simple dinners being prepared and a lot of vest wearing.

I cooked dinner on the balcony watching people in the apartment block facing mine and sipped my Russian beer happy to be here. I had only been in Tajikistan since the morning but it felt like very different place from Uzbekistan, people were more relaxed and generosity seemed like a natural part of their psyche.

In the morning I set about trying to complete a lot of internet duties but finding an internet café that wasn’t crippled by hordes of young boys playing video games proved very difficult. Outside a flash Italian café which supposedly had WIFI I met two Canadian cyclists, Mel and Kate who were loaded up and ready to set off into the Pamirs. They recommended a hotel, The Adventurers Inn, where you could camp and many cyclists were congregated, just then another two cyclists showed up, Jens and Zuzska who showed me the way.

The garden of the Adventurers Inn was packed full of tents when I arrived, always a good sign. The place had a very relaxed atmosphere and I sat around and chatted with Jens and Zuzska who had cycled from Australia, a couple of Polish Guys, some Swiss cyclists, Norah from Austria and Pete an Australian cyclist. Jessie and Ludo, the Belgian couple we met in Samarkand arrived towards the end of our stay, having made good time from Uzbekistan and added yet more cyclists.

We spent the majority of the time sat in the garden, talking about routes, the Pamirs and different stories, we’d never been around so many cycle tourists before so it was great to chill out with everyone and get geeky about equipment. The garden had a lot of room and people were constantly tinkering with their bicycles, fixing bottom brackets, regreasing hubs and sharing tools and parts, it felt like a bit of a convention.

We did venture out occasionally, but it was only to get a visa for Kyrgyzstan and to go to the bazaar, after all the city hopping and site seeing, sitting around in a garden not feeling the pressure to see this and that was bliss.

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