Road stories #25: Hitchhiking to the Fann Mountains and visiting a yurt
Saying goodbye to our celebrity friend
We started our hitchhike very late since we had to swing by a telephone shop as it turned out that the guy who helped us organise a Tajik simcard in the first place decided to screw us over and cancel it, stealing all our internet and phone credit. Khorshed helped us get a new one and then drove us to the road where we started our next Tajik adventure.
We knew it would be difficult to get to the lake as it was set deep into the high Fan Mountains and the tourist season hasn’t properly started yet so the traffic would be scare. We were prepared to risk it and prayed that our stomach problems would end soon.
Rich land owner and a poor shepherd. Visiting a yurt.
The first lift was with two guys (father and son) who offered to drive us to the next town along the road. We jumped in and as the conversation was developing and they heard we were going to the mountains to spend some time in the wild, they decided to veer past their place to show us their land. They must have been very rich as they seemed to own the entire valley, forest and a lot of race horses. The scenery was truly stunning and as we drove past a yurt where we were invited in by the shepherd and his family. It was the first time we were in a lived-in yurt and it was amazing to see with how little people can live. Only a small pile of blankets, a wooden topchan, a kettle and a little heater running on wood. That’s it. That’s what fits in a small round yurt where a family of four would live. We were treated to some sour milk, bread and tea and we were back on the road again.
John Rambo and a nasty taxi driver
The father and son drove us to back to the main road and left us by a small rest stop area. There we were approached by a guy wearing a cowboy hat and riding a horse, who introduced himself as John Rambo. He insisted on helping to carry our bags, mainly by putting them on his horse. Then he walked us to a local shop where we bought some essential supplies (bread, water and cigarettes) and he managed to beat down the price for us to half of what the shopkeeper quoted at the beginning.
We said our goodbyes and were soon picked up by a guy offering to take us as far as the turn to Panjikent. From there we would only have to go for another 40 km and we would reach the road to the Fan Mountains. As we were driving the scenery got more and more dramatic, from red copper mountains, to snow-capped piercing summits and profound green precipices. We’d heard from an old man in Tashkent that this road would be very dangerous to drive on but it wasn’t bad and our driver was skilful. In no time we had to say goodbye and try hitch another lift.
As we were standing by a police check point a taxi driver, who had just come out of a toilet, approached us. We didn’t like the look of him and the way he reacted when we said we were not going to pay him and we were hitchhiking. He said that nobody would take us and then he reached for our mineral water, opened it and stared pouring it all over his hands. After we protested and told him we had limited supplies and were heading to the mountains for two days, he gave us a malicious smile and continued washing his toilet dirty hands with our drinking water. Later he approached the policemen and spoke to them for a while, and we were sure there would be some trouble, but we just walked on for a bit and tried hitching again.
We got in a car with three young guys from Khujand who were going to their friend’s wedding in Dushanbe. Oh, good old Tajik weddings!
They drove us to the turn, we had some awful food in the nearby restaurant which certainly didn’t help our stomach problems and then faced an empty road heading into the snowy peaks of the Fan Mountains. It was two hours before it would get dark and we were nowhere near the lake. Suddenly a 4×4 appeared and they agreed to take us to the lake. As we were going to drag our bags they changed their minds, however, and said there was no space for all our stuff, so we were left on the road waiting again.
After some time an old white car appeared and beeped at us. We approached it and an old man, one of the passengers, offered to take us to his house for the night and drive us to Iskander Kul in the morning. We were in!
written by: Ania