Bakhtiyurt, the angel of the road
CONTINUED: NARRATION OF EVENTS FROM NORBERT AND YOUSONG’S TRIP TO MONGOLIA
On the 30th of April, we are permitted to enter Tajikistan. In the morning we are on the move again.
The BMW ( bike ) stands in the courtyard of the hotel – and again the tire is down. Clever Norbert unpacks the Airman, a small tire pump that he took with him for such purposes, and indeed, the engine starts and inflates the tire up again.
Of course, no one knows how long that will last, so quickly we are packed up and set off.
The Tajik border is not far, and the road is correct until our silly satellite navigation sends us on a twenty-kilometer detour through Uzbek villages.
Gravel and stones, and of course the potholes ( in which you can bury a dog ), yet the mother of all potholes stays out, and suddenly we are standing in front of a border barrier.
It is not the official border, but some strange checkpoint in no-mans-land. Here the border guards get bored, take photos with us, and finally, one of them drive with us by car and show us to the right border crossing.
As we turn off the gravel road, there are lots of taxis and people standing around. I get nervous, want to dodge, and to stop, and we are back on the ground again.
Twenty people jump up, set the BMW up again and get back on their feet. Nothing happened to You Song; the BMW has a broken turn signal, in a flash, the helpers glued it together again. Only I got it this time.
I probably fell too hard on my ribs on my left side. At first, I do not feel much. I want to cross the border quickly. Much better than expected, on both sides procedures are fast and unbureaucratic. Another ten dollars road tax and we are already in Tajikistan.
The road is a dream, good asphalt, and no holes, so we decide to drive through to Dushanbe. We also overtake a few long-distance cyclists – they would be sick if they knew what was still ahead of them.
The landscape is utterly different from Uzbekistan, high mountains on the left and right and we drive through a fertile valley. The valley finally narrows and becomes a gorge. Again and again, there are green spots in between where small villages are tucked in.
I hope that it continues until Dushanbe and we do not have to pass any passes. Sadly, this is not the case. About a hundred kilometers before Dushanbe it goes right up against the mountainside, and there is no end. Snow-covered peaks everywhere and in between the mountain road, which winds ever higher.
The climax comes, finally, in the form of a dark hole in front of us.
I get sick as I read the blackboard at the entrance: almost six kilometers of the tunnel.
Worries won’t help, so we put our headlights on and venture into the hole. Inside, it is better than expected, some lights on the ceiling indicate where it is going along, and the road surface is reasonably ok. We make our way through the haze and exhaust fumes of the trucks, and finally, a glimmer of light shows us the end of the tunnel.
The landscape is terrific when we come out, but I have a strange feeling in the butt: we have another flat.
I stop and try to pump up the tire with the Airman, but no chance, the crack in the casing has opened again and everything whistles out there. Besides, now the tank is empty, the constant driving in the small corridors has cost more fuel than expected.
Since the fuel gauge of the BMW is not working correctly, we have always taken the kilometers driven since the last refueling as a benchmark, and dare not to guess now not at all.
We find luck in misfortune: we stand barely twenty meters next to a road keeper’s house, and there are already two Tajik street guards.
Hard to imagine if we had the flat tire in the dark tunnel, I don’t want to think about what would have happened then.
So we push the flat BMW to the house, which is large but looks pretty dilapidated.
Using hands and feet to gesticulate, we make it clear that we need a tow truck to Dushanbe. The Tajiks are on the phone, but there seems to be no result. Finally, I call a number in Dushanbe, which we found on the Internet to be a workshop. But it is the president of the local motorcycle club, and he can not get a tow truck.
He advises me to remove the flat tire myself and drive to Dushanbe by car or stop one of the many trucks driving by to take us. My ribs are now hurting like hell, and I can not do anything, not even carry the bags to the house. You Song is worn out – so we’ll spend the night here.
Our host is Bakhtiyurt Rachmanov shows us the palace. Two of the many rooms are habitable; one is used to cook and eat, the other has four beds, an oven, and a TV.
Water supply is scarce; water trickles out of a hose next to the door, the toilet is Oriental: on the other side of the hall, in this case still across the yard. Bakhtiyurt shares with us his meager last supper (potato, macaroni and cereal and tea stew)
Then we’ll break a little more with the help of a Russian dictionary clever You Song has wisely taken along, with Bakhtiyurt and finally, we go to sleep. Our pajamas are again made up of sweaters, jackets and thermal pants because they do not heat up, and we are at an estimated altitude of two thousand and five hundred meters.
In bed, it is still pleasantly warm, and when I wake up at some point, I hear it rushing outside. Sh.. – it rains. The next morning it rains lightly, and the mountains are in a fog. According to Bakhtiyurt, a tow truck should come today, but we may have misunderstood it. We are waiting.