October 2007 Archives

A tale of two trucks

Penjikent, Zerafshan, Tajikistan -- 11 October 2007 | Permalink

"Mr Engels. Mr Engels. It's time to get up." said a voice from the door. I groaned and rolled over.

The night before my host had suggested that I might like to hitch a ride up to Artush with two of his drivers who were going to pick up some trekkers. At the time, after several teacups-full of vodka, it had seemed like a good idea. Because really, with a ten-hour drive ahead of me later in the day, why wouldn't I want to get up at five o'clock and spend another five hours sitting in a truck watching the mountains go by?

Continue reading 'A tale of two trucks'


Strange days indeed

Anzob Pass, Zerafshan, Tajikistan -- 11 October 2007 | Permalink
1 picture

I am riding in a jeep at night through a partially-completed road tunnel underneath a mountain in Central Asia. There are tens of thousands of tons of rock overhead, and fifteen centimetres of water on the floor. More water is raining down from the roof above, while at one point a positive torrent of white water pours out from a crack in the wall of the tunnel. When we slow to a stop, a bow wave washes out and surges against the wheels of the concrete mixer we are following. All around us, pieces of heavy construction equipment — gantries, concrete sprayers, bucket loaders and mixers — loom like dinosaurs in the dim light of the tunnel. The men working on the tunnel — probably Iranians — ignore us as we inch forward in the wake of the mixer, pretending we aren't there (which we shouldn't be; I rather suspect that we bribed a cop to get in). The walls are ragged with raw concrete and wet with moisture and the tunnel is a horseshoe of orange light that seems to stretch ahead endlessly. And a man who I believe to be an ethics professor is shouting “Floor it, floor it” in Russian to the driver.

And a little voice in my head says “OK, this is weird.”



Dushanbe, Tajikistan -- 08 October 2007 | Permalink
6 pictures

A small collection of photographs taken in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.


The Gray Plague

Dushanbe, Tajikistan -- 08 October 2007 | Permalink

I have been in Dushanbe less than twenty-four hours, and already I have had far too many encounters with the police.

Continue reading 'The Gray Plague'


The road back

Tajikistan -- 07 October 2007 | Permalink
5 pictures

A small collection of photographs taken on the Tavildara Road from Khorog to Dushanbe.


Pamir Highway

Gorno-Badakshan, Tajikistan -- 05 October 2007 | Permalink
3 pictures

A small collection of photographs taken on the Pamir Highway east of Khorog, Gorno-Badakshan.


The view from Bulunkul

Bulunkul, Gorno-Badakshan, Tajikistan -- 05 October 2007 | Permalink
3 pictures

Little more than a hamlet in the desert, home to just thirty-four families, Bulunkul began life as an artificial settlement created by the Soviet Union. A few of the people who live there are still employed to maintain the Soviet-era weather station. Others catch fish in the nearby lake, or tend to livestock - a few cows and sheep that share sparse grazing with a herd of yaks.

Continue reading 'The view from Bulunkul'


In the Pamirs

Gorno-Badakshan, Tajikistan -- 04 October 2007 | Permalink
3 pictures

From the Wakhan Valley, we followed a steep dirt road that climbs up to the Khargush Pass. On our right, the Pamir River ran down, invisible in the bottom of its deep valley; on the far side of the valley, the mountains of Afghanistan rise dry and brown, the taller peaks capped with snow and fringed by cloud. At one point, a huge golden eagle flew close overhead, balancing on the mountain wind.

Beyond the pass, we entered high-altitude desert with low hills rising from sandy soil. From time to time we passed shallow lakes fringed with a border of white salt. The lakes seemed mostly lifeless, but as we passed by one of them I was surprised to see a small flock of russet-colored waders paddling in the shallows. The birds took flight as I got out of the car, gliding over the ruffled waters of the lake to settle on the far side, too far away to be identifiable.



Gorno-Badakshan, Tajikistan -- 04 October 2007 | Permalink

The outpost consisted of a few low white-washed buildings, huddled in a shallow dip that offered little protection from the wind. The desert around was a uniform reddish-gray, loose rubble and grit only relieved by a narrow stripe of khaki-colored grass that followed the slender line of a stream downhill. Behind us, the valley of the Pamir sloped down towards Afghanistan.

”Here they check our papers,“ W. said.

Continue reading 'Checkpoint'


Wakhan Valley

Wakhan Valley, Gorno-Badakshan, Tajikistan -- 03 October 2007 | Permalink
6 pictures

Some pictures taken in the Wakhan Valley, Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Tajikistan.


Bibi Fatima

Vichkut, Gorno-Badakshan, Tajikistan -- 03 October 2007 | Permalink

Behind the door, a flight of stone steps led down into an unlit changing area, from which a further flight of steps descended to a steamy cavern where the stream rushed and gurgled.

Continue reading 'Bibi Fatima'


Howo Kush

Kalai Khumb, Karategin, Tajikistan -- 02 October 2007 | Permalink
2 pictures

A little beyond Kalai Khumb, we found ourselves at the scene of one of those complicated road accidents that mountainous terrain seems to produce. A shiny yellow bulldozer lay morosely at the bottom of a waterfall, still attached by cables to a winch dangling from the flatbed of the lowloader from which it had fallen. The lowloader itself was half over the edge, leaning at a precarious angle. The tractor that had been pulling it, a new white Chinese Howo, was still upright and, for the moment at least, on safe ground.

Continue reading 'Howo Kush'


Tavildara Road

Karategin, Tajikistan -- 01 October 2007 | Permalink
2 pictures

A couple of hours out of Dushanbe, the good road runs out. From that point on, the road to Khorog alternates between broken asphalt and packed dirt. For most of its length, it's nominally a two-lane highway, although 'two lanes' sometimes translates to 'not quite enough space for two trucks to squeeze past each other'. The road is narrowest at the worst spots, where less than a metre of loose dirt separates the road from a precipice or a steep scree slope that drops hundreds of metres to the river below.

Continue reading 'Tavildara Road'