Travel Through Tajikistan on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter Forwood

Tajikistan on a Harley (23/8/05 - 30/8/05)
Distance 528 km (436765 km to 437293 km)

This is part of the eleventh section of my around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from Afghanistan or read our previous visit to Tajikistan

23/8/05 I waited almost an hour on the Tajik side for the officials to get around to processing my documents, otherwise no difficulty. Deciding to stop again at a restaurant about half way to Dushanbe had me welcomed as a long lost relative. They were particularly pleased to see my return from Afghanistan safely. Neighbouring countries always having the worst impressions of each other. Fed and watered they refused payment giving me a mat on the floor in the restaurants prayer room for the night where people came and went during the evening amongst much praying and bumping of the floor when moving to kneeling and rising.

24/8/05 An early start after the sunrise praying in my room, had me in Dushanbe for breakfast, at the Turkmenistan Embassy at 9 am with a 12 noon appointment to collect the 5 day transit visa. Unfortunately the cheap apartment I had on my last visit here was rented out, and with hotels at $US 25.00 and no real reason to stay I headed north towards Iskander Kul, a mountain lake.Dushanbe Hotel openly displaying different prices for foreigners and locals The main road between Tajikistan's largest two cities crosses two mountain passes over 3300 metres high. Busy with trucks it has been destroyed due to lack of maintenance and overloaded axles. Averaging less than 30 km/hr in light drizzle and snow on the higher peaks it was a cold crossing of the first pass. The asphalt now almost totally gone from the mountain and only patchy on the flats. Luckily there is plenty of rock between the mud otherwise the wet crossing would have been more slippery. Although the scenery is spectacular I was unable to appreciate it fully in the miserable conditions. It was almost 6 pm when I arrived after the 160 km to Iskander Kul. At 2200 metres it is cool and with my Uzbekistan visa not starting for another six days I plan to rest up here for most of that time. The old Soviet era sanatorium at the lake is run down but serviceable. My room, almost lakeside, at just $US 2.00  a night comfortable. The restaurant cooks basic meals, entirely meat based, and the farmhouse nearby provides a Russian style banya. A cross between a sauna and bath house with the wood fired heater inside the bathing room, great after a long days ride and arriving cold.

25/8/05 The lake would only hold the average traveller for an afternoon or perhaps a day but there is also a Japanese couple here, also waiting out time, for their Iranian visa application, taking 14 days in Dushanbe.The run down ex-Russian sanitorium at Iskander Kul, but comfortable The kid from the small farm next door took me through his orchards, berries, apricots and apples in season, stocking up, trying to avoid the restaurants fatty meat diet I boiled up the apricots with some pasta for a meal. 

26/8/05 I hadn't realized how physically and mentally tired I was after Afghanistan, doing nothing and still feeling weary here. Read a book, caught up on those little jobs that get shelved when the right facilities or time don't coincide. Walked along the river in beautiful sunshine before the afternoon cloud cooled. 

27/8/05 Five minute jobs when you are busy can easily take an hour when time is plentiful. I think I have reached that age or situation where time is spent as much in reflection as in doing. Where time to myself is not loneliness but peacefulness. Where responsibility is mine alone. Spent most of the day thinking and planning the next trip to the African countries the bike has not yet visited, mainly concerned with the weather at the time of the year I will likely be there. Using the parts list I carry in the computer I drew up a long shopping list of bike parts that should be replaced, plus general maintenance items that will be used up along the way. These will be purchased when back in Australia in two months time.Iskander Kul and its outflowing river at 2200m This I allowed to take me almost all day.

28/8/05 Still in the mountains. Each day seems noticeably cooler as winter approaches here early. Washed the bike and did some maintenance otherwise another minimal activity day.

29/8/05 Finally left this morning heading along the scenic but again broken up asphalt to rocky dirt road through the mountains to Penjikent. I have been travelling in the beautiful mountains is this region of the world for so long I almost don't see their beauty any more. Having entered them in Kyrgyzstan and now about to leave them, they have kept me cool for most of the hottest part of the year. The Fergana, Pamir, Hindu Kush and now the Fan Mountains, each different but similar in that they all are desert, treeless and snow capped on the higher peaks. The small settlements utilizing the snow melt to irrigate crops on the small marginal flatlands alongside rivers. Herders with yaks, horses and donkeys graze the highlands in summer and migrate to lower altitudes in winter. Dozens of turquoise lakes dot the valleys, none more beautiful than the Band-e Amir Lakes in Afghanistan. Heading into Penjikent the land flattens and more normal irrigation over vast acreage's of sunflowers, fruit trees and cotton replaces the smaller subsistence farms I have been seeing. Stayed in a dollar a bed hotel opposite the bus station and changed money in the local bazaar in a friendly town where nothing happens unless a Harley-Davidson rides into town and then all the children come out to stare at the bike and its owner sitting quietly in the street, until the police seeing the crowd finally disperse the children.

30/8/05 The border to Uzbekistan, not far out of town, was open when I arrived before 8 am. The customs officer insisted a payment of $US 10.00 was necessary for foreign registered motorcycles to leave the country. He had numbered receipts and a book showing previous payments from foreign registered vehicles. I don't recall ever paying for the motorcycle to leave a country, and certainly didn't pay to leave Tajikistan when going to Afghanistan nor on my return, and so politely refused. He insisted for ten minutes but finally relented and let me pass without paying. Whether a payment is necessary at all, to enter or leave remains a mystery. Immigration was quick and easy.    

Move with me to Uzbekistan .


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