Road Stories #31: Crossing the Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan border into such Kyrgyz hospitality
Escaping the Pamir Mountains
Sat in the back of an extremely bumpy 4×4 taxi, banging our heads against the roof, we were finally leaving behind the intimidating Pamirs and the lovely Tajikistan.
After much agonising about how we would escape the harsh mountain surroundings, pitting our hitchhiking principals against the idea of being stuck on a cold, empty mountain road for weeks, we took the safety first approach and paid for a 4×4.
The journey was a bone-shaking experience, deserted of any traffic through the coarse brown mountain plains. The border crossing was relatively simple, bored teenagers with guns, isolated outpost, passports taken to one room, then to another and finally we were through.
The most astonishing part of the journey was when we finally broke out of the Pamir mountains onto a green valley in Kyrgyzstan. Staring out the back window, an impenetrable wall of white rose up from the fields. The mountains seem to grow up to the clouds from the very roots of the grass. The contrast was mind-bending and unnatural, yet it was nature in all its glory and brought to my mind images of ‘The Wall’ in A Game of Thrones.
Watch our video showing this spectacular view! (starting at 4:18)
Our first taste of Kyrgyz hospitality
We had discussed before the journey that we didn’t want to take the ride all the way to Osh as it would mean missing out on the whole southern side of Kyrgyzstan. Our driver was quite surprised when we asked him to stop in a small village on the way, but seeing as he already had our money, it was all the same to him. Our intention was to find somewhere to pitch our tent and with this aim in mind we began asking every villager we saw if they could recommend somewhere.
Ania went into the shop and came out smiling.
‘I think the shopkeeper just invited us to her house.’
The house itself was strange, seemingly very big from the outside, it had a downstairs kitchen / eating area and 2 small rooms upstairs where all the family (of 5 people) slept and lived. There was a small field attached and on the land was a type of granny-annex where we would be installed for the night.
The lady shopkeeper set about making food as we tried to communicate in all of our faltering Russian. At first, we were a little sceptical that she would accommodate us just from goodness of her heart and we were fearful that she would turn around a demand money from us. We are so very cynical! The fear dissipated in time, however, and we were just bowled over by the selfless hospitality of the family.
The father returned from work and we learnt that he was a wealthy man who owned livestock and above all horses. He showed us some videos on his phone of his set and he was immensely proud of them. We spent the evening talking, drinking tea, eating plov and thoroughly enjoying our first taste of Kyrgyz hospitality.
written by: Jon