Strange days indeed

Anzob Pass, Tajikistan

Anzob Tunnel

Flood water in the Anzob Tunnel

Zerafshan, Tajikistan

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 — who are 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 the little voice in my head says “OK, this is weird.”