Today we finally crossed the border to Tajikistan after an unwanted detour of 260 km and followed the Uzbek border down another 40 km, this time on the Tajik side. Today’s goal was to get as close to the Fann Mountains as possible so we can start the first day of the ascent to the Shahriston pass (3378 m) tomorrow.
When we read online about border crossing out of Uzbekistan, we expected the worst, as there have been plenty of reports that travelers had to unpack all their bags and had problems with medications that were brought along. But these worries were unfounded. Both the Uzbek and the Tajik borders were very efficient, and we were able to fulfill all the customs formalities in around one hour.
First impressions of Tajikistan
Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia which is due to its Civil War a few years back as well as its mountainous topography and lack of natural resources compared to its neighbors. I was told that in some areas the unemployment is around 60% and many young people have to leave the country in order to find work.
The first impression of Tajikistan however was not much different from rural Uzbekistan. People were farming with simple means, waving their hands when we passed and are very open to meet strangers. The only difference between Uzbekistan that I noticed immediately: We spotted many used Mercedes and Opel cars on the road and also a delivery car with German text on the back of it. These cars date for sure from before year 2000, so here is where our cars go after 20+ years.
When refilling our gasoline bottles of our camping cookers at a gas station, a guy wanted to know how much my bicycle cost. I told him $1000, which is a high amount for Central Asia. He then started to laugh and told me that his Mercedes cost only $1000, so why would he buy a bicycle. Well, he makes a good point.
Hospitality in Tajikistan
When we arrived at Istaravshan towards the evening, we were looking again for a family to stay with or at least put up our tents in their garden. I was very much for staying at some people’s places because I haven’t been able to take a proper shower for the last 4 days.
Just like in Iran, we started talking to some older people in the streets, and it took 1 minute until an older man invited us to stay at his house. We had a wonderful evening there and were offered dinner and everything else that we needed. The hospitality of the Tajik people is not any different from the neighboring countries in Central Asia.
Luckily the old man’s 18 years old grandson and one of his school mates spoke good English so we could actually communicate. They told us a lot about the perspective of the youth in Tajikistan and that in the recent years many young people started to learn English to have a perspective in life in the sense of being admitted to universities abroad and maybe also find work. The grandson told me that he would apply for a green card in the US, and also wanted to know if it were possible to work in Switzerland or other European countries. It is really touching to see that the young people are very motivated to study and work and at the same time sad to see that it is so hard for them to do so due to political and financial obstacles.
Tomorrow we will go see the city of Istaravshan in the morning and then start with the Sharishton pass. We most likely will not climb the 2400 m in one day, so we will camp somewhere in the middle.
Max elevation: 894 m
Min elevation: 291 m
Total climbing: 971 m
Total descent: -382 m
Total time: 09:47:22