Road stories #28 – Groundhog Day and hitchhiking to the Pamir Mountains

Hitchhiking to the Pamirs - header

Hitchhiking to the Pamir Mountains

The next day after our first failed attempt to reach the Pamir Mountains, during which we had been stopped at the police check point to find out that the road had been closed, we were again ready to try, using a different route.

It was like a Groundhog Day, though. We again woke up early, had breakfast, packed our bags and said goodbye to our lovely hosts. Then we got to the edge of the city, had exactly the same snack as the day before and met the same bunch of taxi drivers, who unfortunately didn’t remember that we do not want a taxi. Not yesterday, not ever!

Our first lift was a young guy who owned a double-glazing window company and dreamt of moving to Mecca or Medina. He realised, however, that his business wouldn’t do very well there, so he was a bit bitter about the prospect of staying in Tajikistan for the rest of his life. He dropped us off in Wahdat, which we had visited the day before, but this time, richer for the experience, we chose the road towards Kulob, not the damn road to Darband!

We were in the middle of town and thought it would take us a while to hitch out but we didn’t have to wait long before a car stopped. I was prepared for another annoying conversation with a taxi driver but he turned out to be a nice guy who decided to take us to the edge of town for no money.

Hitchhiking to the PamirsOur next driver took us a long way, to the town of Gulistan and was a lovely chap! We were talking for a long time in Russian about living in Europe and Tajikistan. He told us he led a double life with two wives who lived in two different houses and had given him four and two children each. Then he invited us to his house (one of his houses, to be precise) and even offered to give us some land so we could build our own house in Tajikistan. Even if it was an example of taarof, it was nice, nonetheless.

Then we hitched with a guy who told us he hated the USA and criticised the UK for invading Iraq. He was dressed like a conservative Muslim guy, but what surprised me was the fact that he was of the, rather liberal, opinion that there should be no borders at all and that people are the same everywhere.

Hiking near Khorog, Pamir Mountains, TajikistanHe dropped us off in Shurobad where the problems with traffic started. Until then it had been going really smoothly but somehow in this town everybody was a taxi driver and nobody wanted to take us for free or wasn’t going where we were heading. We spoke to a young guy and his uncle who eventually took us to the edge of town and gave us their number, so that we could call them and stay at their house in case we were able to get no further that day. Indeed, the traffic was scarce and we thought we would have to call them eventually. The high mountains were just round the corner and nobody was going there.

But that wasn’t the end of our hitchhiking day as we were soon picked up by a guy in a 4×4 who was driving his grandmother to a village in the mountains. Together we reached the first police checkpoint before the Pamirs and the road there was in a horrible state, bumpy and unpaved with deep tracks where even driving in a 4×4 was a nightmare. No wonder we soon saw an overturned truck which was still being emptied by some people. The windscreen was broken and all the driver’s possessions were scattered across the ground. The man left us in a village of mud-made houses where we thought we would have to call it quits for the day.

Then we saw two trucks slowly appearing behind one of the hills. They turned out to be Chinese drivers and one of them stopped to pick us up. He didn’t speak any Russian or English so we couldn’t communicate with him at all, but we understood ‘Khorog’, the capital city of the Gorno-Badakhshan, where we were heading eventually, anyway. So we jumped in, happy that we got such a long lift. We didn’t know then that it would probably be one of our worst hitchhiking experiences ever…

Crossing the Pamirs in a Chinese truck, Tajikistan

written by: Ania


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