Published on May 10, 2018
From Dushanbe, the M41 leads east and then southeast to Chorugh.
While at the biker workshop, we learned that this is the hard route and after we saw the photo of the KTM of the Russian colleague in the mud we were sure: we would not drive this route.
We should, therefore, drive from Dushanbe just south and in a curve then northeast to Kulob. The road is right, we were told, only from Kulob to Chorugh is a stretch of dirt road.
On the map, we can see that this route is close to the border with Afghanistan, but the Pamir Highway in the later stages also goes directly along the Afghan border.
As we drive on, we find the road is not in bad shape. It leads through a broad valley and passes through many small villages and towns.
In Qurghon-Teppa we see a signpost to Kulob, but our navigation system wants to drive further south. I check the map on the phone and see that there is a small road over the mountains directly to Kulob.
We briefly discuss and agree: we won’t pass any small side roads over the mountains, even if they are not that high, they look more like bare hills. So continue to navigate to the south, clever Norbert has programmed it beforehand in the hotel.
As planned, we soon turn east. Sooner than we notice, the road gets worse. The landscape compensates us with grand views. The low sun bathes the mountains in golden light, a dream for every photographer.
Suddenly we are standing in front of a turnpike. Next to it seems to be the border with Afghanistan, but the road continues in Tajikistan. The two border guards learn our passports again by heart – no one has heard of Austria here – and write our data into a thick book.
After we can continue.
There are still a few villages, the road turns as planned from the northeast – and then it gets adventurous.
Suddenly we are on a narrow gravel road that meanders through the treeless hills. The area is breathtakingly beautiful, there are horses, sheep and goats grazing without visible shepherds and we drive a wild slalom, usually at walking pace, up and down times.
The potholes are enormous; we pass a flag which is in the middle of the road and marks a hole where we disappear together with our BMW as a whole in case we drive inside.
No one would ever hear from us again. If the mother of the Turkmen potholes saw this, she would go to her kitchen crying and never come out again.
I have no idea how far we have to drive through the mountains, but the alternative is to pitch a tent here because now the evening is approaching. After an estimated hour – it is still light – we see in front of us a vast plain through which a river flows.
Twenty more suicidal turns on gravel, and we’re down the mountain. Finally asphalt again, there it goes faster, we cheer.
Too soon, the asphalt is only in fragments otherwise gravel and stones, as usual. At least back villages, but nowhere to stay.
The next police check comes like the Amen in prayer, and I take the opportunity to show the official body of my Tajik now perfected: Index finger to me and You Song, head tilted in the open palm and said “Chrrr, Chrrr,” a circular forefinger and a shrug.
It works. The official organ answers twice with clapping hands, a barrage of Tajik and an indistinct interpreter forward. That can mean everything, but we translate it with “In two kilometers in the next village on the left.” There must be some optimism.
The nearest village – Parchar – is, in fact, more significant and has something like the main square.
Again, just inquired and already a young Tajik cyclist before us lead us to a stately home, which I would have identified as the administrative building of the local consolomts or as a state wedding palace.
It is a hotel.
Our desire for a room, however, causes helplessness. On the terrace sits a worthy Tajik, apparently the boss who asks me many Tajik questions.
I answer with what I can think of and hope that there is something suitable.
We are joined by another Tajik in uniform, whether policeman, gendarme or postman I can not say, and also asks me many things. Kindly he offers us from his dinner, which we refuse thankfully.
We sit on the terrace and wait. “
Probably the staff tends to make our room,” I think, as suddenly a young man in civilian addresses us in English. Next to him is another, who makes a face like seven days of rainy weather. “KGB,” he says kindly, “Next to him is another, who makes a face like seven days of rainy weather. “We have some questions.”
“No problem,” I answer, but I already see myself sitting in a damp cell. It turns out that we are moving in a part of Tajikistan where we should not be because of the near border with Afghanistan. But nobody told us that. I offer all my charm to explain why we are here and not on the tourist route and it works.
They take it from us that we are harmless and admonish tomorrow if possible directly to Kulob and continue to drive to Chorough, which we intend anyway. Kindly, the younger then also gives us his phone number, if we should get in trouble again on the way. After all, the face of the elder changes to six days of rainy weather plus one day of light drizzle before saying goodbye to us in Russian. Why is it trickling down my spine?