On The World’s Rooftops

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7 September 2015 by Justine


Cycling in Tajikistan – June 2013

Since getting money and paying by credit card would be an issue all along central Asia, we left home with a serious amount of money in our pockets. Bills of twenty, fifty and hundred American dollars, carefully rolled in my Nalgene water bottle, totaling nothing less than four thousand dollars. Still, we never were scared of carrying such amount of money, even in the Wakhan valley, a 500km stretch one hundred meters away from Afghanistan. Our government alarms us to be careful with the Uzbek, Uzbek dislike the Tajik, Tajik distrust Kirghiz, Kirghiz are scared of Afghans, and Afghans despise our government. Amen! All of this is just politics […] We wonder if our bicycles, our head and our legs will make it to destination… No time for suspense, we did make it. But no one believes us. Cycling through the Pamirs in Tajikistan and the Wakhan on those clown bicycles? With only eight gears on hers and with four iron screws in his hip, five months away from a serious cycling accident in Colombia? Impossible! All of this was just a dream. And what a dream…

Every single kilometer is a fight. At every turn, a new discovery. The road is made of sand and rocks, and the wind is blowing hard. Whatever the size of the wheels, whatever the kind of bicycle or the motivation level, pushing is the only way to move forward in here. We are loaded like donkeys and, with our head down, we move as fast as a sheep herd. There is not much around. Not even a swallow to keep us company. An infinite wire fence follows the eastern side of the road to testify the Chinese paranoia. Since last night, Afghanistan is no longer on our right. The Qatarkohi Sarikol Karakoram mountains stand as the Tajik-Chinese border. The road seems endless. JP is in front. To face the wind and save little energy, he bends over his bicycle. No need to convince ourselves how ridiculously shitty all of this is. At this point, it just makes us laugh.

The landscape looks like nothing we have seen so fare. White peaks are behind, crystal clear water streams too. The ground in solid rock, the air is blowing, the sun is covered by gigantic grey and scary clouds. Heads down, we have no choice but to push our bicycle even though the ground in flat. The road is covered with rocks, sand and little clay waves that make cycling as hard as pedaling in pure butter. A sign pops out of nowhere and welcomes us in an area protected by some European geologic association. The beauty of huge green and purple cliffs are our only joy in this hostile territory where no living being but crazy tourists on a bike can be found. We are on our way to Aghbaha Aqbaytas, the highest point of our journey, a 4655 meter high pass. Our average speed is ridiculous, time goes by, and we need to be on the other side of those mountains today since we couldn’t get more water yesterday. Clouds are getting bigger, wind is getting stronger. One step at a time…

Next stop : Kirghistan !


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