Bilderverkauf aller 50 km / Pictures on Sale every 50 km

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Leaving Tajikistan

11th of October:


We start in the direction of Khojand. In the beginning we have asphalt, but then we have to stop. Street under construction! Everybody has to wait, 2-3 hours nobody knows how long. Again the street is build by Chinese company, 300 million USD for 600 km the truck drivers tell us. Most of them transport vegetables from the North to Dushanbe. All of the trucks are Kamaz since every other truck would not survive this mountain passes.


Until some tunnel which unfortunately can not be used we have a nice street. After that we have to use an old pass which is not maintained at all. Because of our suspension we are as slow as a turtle. After that horrible street over the pass, it is hard to enjoy the landscape in the dust of the cars in front of us. Anyway finally we have asphalt and of course there is police. Again they want 20 USD for the black windows and the right handle. I just say Net, he wants Someni, I say net. I just sit on his desk and say I have time. He laughs and we can go, but at the same time he always takes money from the local drivers. Vitali explained us 3 Soemeni for an empty truck and 6 for a full truck. It is a known standard "fee" for the corrupt police in Tajikistan.


(N 39.7856 °, E 68.86714 °)


12th of October:


Kochan is still ill but we want to go on to Kohjand. The landscape almost changes suddenly from mountains to the flat area. We get to see our first cotton fields. I visit a huge market in Istaravshan. Actually I just want to have tomatoes. I get almost lost. An area 50 m by 50 m just onions, the second just sugar in all kinds, just plastic stuff..... just water melon.......and so on. I need almost one hour to find the tomatos. We are driving through Kojand and get stopped by police. Same game as usual! Behind Kohjand we want to make our camp at the sand beach of a lake. There we almost stuck. Alek a friendly Russian guy and his friend advise us to go to another place and invite us for next days breakfast. There I cook Japanese soul food, and Kotomi gets better (:).


(N 40.29759°, E 69.88814 °) 


Visa Marathon in Dushanbe

7 th of October and third day in Dushanbe:


In the morning we go to the Kazakh embassy and it is fortunately ery easy. We just need to wait until Friday. Again for Kotomi it is free and I have to pay 44 USD. Also the Uzbek Visa cost for Kotomi just 18 and for me 62 USD. I am happy that I married a Japanese girl (:)! After all that we drive out of the town to have silence and peace to write Blog at a nice camp at a river. Buuuuuuuuut after some while thousands of kids are coming and screaming. Always the same and only word they can remember from their Russian lessons, mamuschka, papuschka, or maybe just words from Russian TV. Under thousands of eyes I repair once more one tire at the river. The hole was really small but enough to loose the air over two or tree days.


(N 38.66076°, E 68.69555 °)


8th of October:


Still one day to wait but since the place is not really silent we decide to go back to the town and to sleep in a guesthouse. Before, we want to say good Bye to Gulia. Saying bye bye finally ends there in cooking and chatting together. Today we make pumpkin mantus, while talking about her life and the situation in her new family. Again we stay there over night.


(N 38.52584°, E 68.74968 °)


9th of October:


We are picking up the Kazakh Visa, buying diesel and food, go north over a mountain pass.  After 50 km the road starts to be horrible again. The shock absorbers of the car seem to be totally broken now. The car is swinging over the road and it is real pain to drive. Although the landscape is beautiful I am just concentrated on driving. We make a camp in a narrow valley. Since Kotomi got flew from Gulias kid and does not feel so well we decide to stay here one more day. The place is noisy because of the close by road. But still it is a beautiful place. I am cooking and making Sanddorn juice, which is good supply for Vitamin C. It takes a long time and finally you just get a little juice, but it is worth to do. The tea gets really delicious with it. Actually Sanddorn comes from Central Asia and the Caucasus. We can find it at the Baltic Sea and also around our lakes a lot, but the origin is here. (Thanks to Hartmut we know this now.)


(N 39.18418°, E 68.76577 °)


Friday, November 13, 2009

Klaus San and Joelle

We went at 9 am to the Uzbek embassy and after waiting until 1 pm we have our Visa. At the embassy we met Klaus and Joelle. They are coming from France and were also waiting for their Visa. But even so they paid express fee they had to wait more than 4 days. The Letter of Invitation from David in Almaty costs the same as express and we got it the same day. That is perfect for us and we can go the next day to Kazakh embassy. We are sleeping at a secured car parking place. It is the same where the nice French couple has their camping car. Actually Klaus is from Germany but they are living already quite a long time in France. We are sitting long until the night while chatting about the different life styles. We curious listen how they travelled and get to know each other.  Klaus was travelling by car to India and Joelle was hitchhiking. I think it was in the 70ties, if I remember correctly. After their kids are old enough now they decided to retire and to travel again. Both of them really remind me at my parents. I wish my parents that they can do the same when they retire.


(N 38.56845°, E 68.7887  °)


Monday, November 9, 2009

The Neverending Story of the BLACK Car Window and Gulias Home

5th of October:


The last kilometres to Dushanbe we have a very good road. Of course the road is again built by Chinese company and workers. Until we reach Dushanbe we are stopped by the Police at least 8 times. Every time they are complaining about our black back windows which is not allowed in Tajikistan and only the president can have it. We always explain this is a foreign car and not Tajik and it is original. Often they just give up and let us drive. But one of them is really "funny". First he complains about the 3 people while we have only two seats. Then he forgets this and is complaining about the black windows. Finally he tries to tell us that our car is too dirty which is exceptionally not true. Anyway in the same time he stops another car and tells the driver he was to fast. They are also fighting with him and finally he releases us. Another police guy is complaining about our right handle. They try to find any reason so that we feel guilty and pay some money to them. But we just discussed and never paid and they got bored and we were released.  It is better than in Kyrgyzstan, no chance also with long discussion.


We find the Uzbek embassy in Dushanbe and say Bye to Vitali, who is lucky and do not need any Visa since he is from Bela Russia. There are a lot of people at the embassy waiting for their processed passports. Unfortunately for today it is too late to apply for the Visa and we have to go their next day again. We check out the Kazakh embassy but it is also closed that day.


In the Wakhan valley we got invited from Gulia to visit her in Dushanbe. Kotomi was really looking forward to see her again. Somehow she had the feeling, which you normally have for a sister. After one hour we found her place, I am ringing and she opens the door. She is just cutting hairs of a friend. It is like telepathic she said, because she was just talking with her friend about us. Somehow she wondered why we do not come and if we just left the country. That means she was really happy to see us again.  We stay over night in Gulias house, cooking together a typical Tajik dish and chatting a lot. 


(N 38.57504°, E 68.78649 °)



4th of October:


In the morning Abduloh wakes us up or better the conversation of him with Vitali, who already stood up. He invites us for tea and breakfast in his house. We just pack our tents and go to his house. Abduloh is 75 and living together with the wife of his son, who is working in Dushanbe. We are sitting on his terrace having the breakfast and view over the valley. He looks like wise old king while sitting in front of us in his long and probably warm blue coat. A Muslim cap on his head and long grey beard he has. By the way these caps are different in every valley we visited. He is very interested in our journey and we are talking about it. We get self-made honey, bread, sweets and Shirschai. Shirschai is black tea with milk, salt, butter and Nan. In Soviet times he made his military service in the Ukraine and told us that the people there were very nice. He has 12 kids and some of them working in Russia, as in most families we meet in Tajikistan. After breakfast he joins us and we walk back to our car. On the way he tells us that some of his neighbours just in the stage of some apathie. They have no money to pay the tax for the land but they also do not want to find a work in Dushanbe. That is what he told us. Some sell their cows to pay the tax. We say Goodbye and want to reach Dushanbe tonight.


But the road is still really bad, for the next 100 km sometimes I can just drive 10 km/h and the car is still jumping. However I have the feeling that our shock absorbers in the backside got damaged since the car never stops to swing. We listen to the tapes we got from Ismail in Murgab and Vitali  is not happy with the old style Tajik music. But one of the tapes there is a song from ... Iglesia .... It is one of his favourite music and we hear the one song several times while jumping with the car over the "street".  We are talking about god and the world. There is always an interesting topic and we really enjoy the time. In the afternoon we stop at a wedding ceremony which is held close to street. Vitali is forced to dance by some woman, who seems to be some kind of animator. It is getting dark and we decide to find a sleeping place along the street and still 80 km away from Dushanbe


(N 38.6697 °, E 69.57805 °)


3rd  of October:


We still drive through a corridor which is free of mines. But all the way until Kalaikhum we often see the signs mines along the way. It was just a civil war between clans and families of different valleys but still has such an effect on the present. At checkpoint after Kalaikhum before the mountain street to Dushanbe starts we pick up a guy from White Russia. He (Vitalie) was hitchhiking from Belarus to here. For us he is very interesting to see once more how different can be travelling. Since his Russian skills are perfect and he is somehow citizen of the former Soviet Union most Locals treat him as a brother. With this he has even much more opportunities to experience the culture of the different countries of the former Soviet Union. A year before he was just hitch hiking until Jordan and Egypt from Moskau. Almost no money is needed for his travel since most people on this way treated him with great hospitality. And he is wondering why some Italian guy pays almost 6000 USD just to go along the Pamir Highway.  He made some money in Mobil phone business and got a little bit crazy about money. Then he went to India and his life totally changed. He understood that money is not the only thing and started to make his dream from his childhood true. There was always the interest for different countries and cultures, reading about the faraway places and seeing pictures of world’s nature always fascinated him. He even studied Geography teacher. And now he make is dream true and preparing for a trip around the world just by hitch hiking. We really enjoyed the conversation with him because he really has a wide and living knowledge about history and geography. After a cold mountain pass we make a camp together with Japanese food. And we help him to build up his tent, which he used the first time that day.


(N 38.69032°, E 70.70831 °)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Paradise and the Kalif of the "German" village (:)

30th of September - 2nd of October:


Before we leave Khorog we try to fix our Internet since we bought a Tajik SIM card some days ago. But it seems impossible to solve the problem. We just go to the Internet café and I am happy that we got the invitation for our Uzbekistan visa, which means we do not need to wait for it 10 days in Dushanbe. We also got the invitation for Azerbaijan which is the visa we need to pick up some days later in Tashkent. I am happy that this will be probably the last visa we need to get. It is always a hazel. We do not like so much to wait 2, 3 or more days in the big towns where you normally have all the embassies and consulates.


(N 37.70609°, E 71.54768 °)


When we are leaving it is already afternoon. We just drive out of Khorog. The next day we leave to the Bartang valley to spend some time there. We are thinking if we go now to Dushanbe it will be weekend and than we have to wait there 2 days. So we decide to stay in this nice warm valley. We find a place just 1km before Yemtis. Here the river makes a curve which gives us a nice view. We make our camp bellow some really old walnut trees where close to us a small river comes down the rocks of the valley. First time for Kotomi to see walnuts at the tree and to taste it just there. It is like paradise, I put my hammock between the car and the tree. A warm wind blows through the valley and the big leaves of the walnut tree give me a shadow. In this peaceful atmosphere I finally have some time or better I get in the mood to write a blog for you. Latter some boys from the village come and ask if we need anything. They bring us walnuts and when they see I collect a wood they start to take my saw to provide us with more. A man comes back from the mountains and also he is really friendly, brings us tons of walnuts and also fire wood. He invites us to his home. But the place is so nice that I do not want to leave today. He understands.


(N 37.98573°, E 71.65212 °)


Next day we run out of butter so we try to get some in Yemtis. We find the English teacher of the village and he tries to find butter for us. He explains us that other villages call the people from Yemtis Germans (Nemez in Russian language sounds almost like Yemtis in pamir language). We find no butter but we get invited to a tea by the Caliph of the village. The Caliph is a very respected and educated person of the village. Every important decision for the village and also in the families will be discussed with him. We have a very interesting discussion about religion and that it finally does not matter which one you have. But he is also worried about the change of the world or his village. How to preserve traditions if they still exist? I mean here they still have some traditions and the villages still seem to work as a community. They keep up there tradition since they live the life which is given them by this nature. I often ask myself what are our German traditions? What is German culture? Is it only food? or some habits we Germans have?


The Caliph starts to play a traditional instrument, the Rubab. It is like a guitar but the body looks totally different. This region actually has a lot of different kinds of such instruments. I guess it would be really interesting for my friend Andy.


We are sitting in an old Pamir style house. You have no windows just in the middle in the roof you have one. Around the centre of the room you have like terraces covered with colourful carpets. Each level is used for different purpose, kitchen, sleeping place for different members of the family. The roof window consists of 4 stacked wooden squares. Each of the squares is rotated about 45 degree and the squares getting smaller until the last with the window and hole for the winter oven in it. I saw this already in other houses. The Caliph explains that this is a 3000 year old tradition but most people do not know the meaning. The 4 squares symbolise 4 angels of an ancient religion which are protecting the people of the house against everything bad from outside.


And one more thing I saw in a lot of houses and that is a picture of a holy man. It is the IMAM Agha Khan IV of the believers of the Ishmaelite. His ancestor is Ali the brother of the Prophet Mohamed. I never studied about Islam but also there as in all religions you have different streams and slightly different believes. One stream votes the IMAM, another stream selects the next IMAM only from grandgrandgran.... sons of Mohamed or Ali and another one just believe in the 14th IMAM after Mohammed. Well we learned a lot this day and it was very interesting to stay in his house for the tea. Before we leave we get bread, tons of walnut and apples from other villagers and go in the direction of Dushanbe.


This time it is really hard to find a place to make a camp. Everywhere there are still signs or it is just written on a stone mines. These are left over from the civil war in the nineties. We are happy that we find later on a place which is cleaned up already by a German mine group.


(N 38.25168°, E 71.37569 °)


"Hitler kaput" and All problems are solved

28th-29th of September:


Just a few hundred meters after we  started we get stopped by the police. We are 4 people in the car but have just two seats. He looks quite angry on us. Again he want to have my driving license and sent it back to Germany, so I think please not the same game again. I tell him all Tajik buses are full like this. It does not help. So I explain him that I am just married and we are on the way to Germany. He gets friendlier when I started to speak Russian. Finally he asks if I am fascist. I just say "HITLER kaput" as this everybody knows from the Old Russian movies. He laughs gives me back my driving licence and says we just can go on with two people. We think we have no choice since we do not want to make him angry again. We start to take out the backpacks but he laughs waves with the hand and makes us understand that we should hurry and just drive away all four of us. He is the only policeman here he says, so do not worry.


We bring Nakamura family to the Afghan consulate and go on to the market to fill up our stocks of vegetable. We drive outside Khorog and find some place at the river where we wash our clothing. Unfortunately Kotomi feels not so well next day and we stay there one more night. It seems she eat something which was not good anymore. Well we thought maybe some bad tomato.


(N 37.52208°, E 71.59731 °)

Hot Spring and an NGO to Grow mushrooms (:)

27th of September:


We decide to visit together with Jaskun and Kaori the Hot Springs in the mountains. This hot spring has a lot of calcium and other minerals and builds up something like a big white pudding. Behind that is a big pool filled with hot milk (:). It looks like milk but of course it just because of all the calcium. Sitting in there and enjoying the view in the valley. After the hot spring we try to find a spring of sparkling mineral water that is also in this valley. It gets stonier and we ask a guy for the way. He just points down, hey its there. He is from Great Britain and just enjoys here the weekend with his wife and two kids. He also can speak a little Japanese. He invites us to have some coffee and some really delicious homemade cookies. I ask him what he is working in Tajikistan and he tells me that he works for the NGO Mercy. They help local people in the Wahkan valley to build up small business. In his case they try to build up mushroom farms. I wonder why mushrooms?! The landscape and the area are not made for it. They have to build special rooms which have to be warm and wet. Therefore they need a lot of electricity. So I really wonder; why is it a good idea? It is not based on the natural resources they have there. So they will be dependent on electricity that is sometimes not available in the valley. Anyway he thinks it is a great idea to grow mushrooms in Wakhan.


We go further and just stop 13 km before Khorog where Jaskun and Kaori want to get there Afghanistan Visa next morning. We make a camp at a location above the river being at a really narrow point in the valley. Far above us in Afghanistan we can see some light from some houses which are build in the rocks of the valley.



(N 37.41544°, E 71.49658 °)


Afghan Market and A Japanese Couple

26th of September:


We are starting early in the morning to the afghan market. On the way to there, we give a ride to a young lady, Gulia, her mother, 20 kg of apples, and two 10 l pots of tomatoes. The Afghan market is in the "Nowhere". Both sides pass the checkpoint of there country and in between there is the market. We have to leave the passport at the check point at the bridge which leads to "nowhere". One side of the market is filled with Tajik and the other with Afghans. The difference is really obvious. One side especially the man wears Addidas and .... and the other side traditional Afghan clothing, which fits much more in this landscape (:). But I have to say that most of the women at the Tajik side also wear their nice traditional clothing from the Wakhan valley.


We get some tomatoes from Gulias mother and buy some other stuff eggs, carrots, ..... Some stone to paint the eyes, Gulia suggest we also have to buy. She speaks good Englich and invites us to visit her in Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan.


We leave the market and the border check point wants to give Kotomi a wrong Japanese passport. Nakamura San? It seems to be a married couple from Japan on the market. We decide to wait for them. After some while they come. I suggest lets make camp together and have some Japanese food. We get there backpacks from the guesthouse and go on in the direction of Khorog. We find a nice place and make our camp. Nice time for all of us and especially for Kaori and Pom Jaskun. For them it is the first time to sleep in a tent. He travelled a lot. Before they left Japan they also just married and he finished a one year study about wood construction for temples. That reminds me on my cousin since he always wanted to have some special tool which I could not find. But Jaskun promised to visit Germany and then I can bring them together. He can organise the tool he said (:).


(N 36.70291°, E 71.64819 °)

The fear for Taliban (:)

25th of September:


In the guide book we found that there is a Buddhist Stupa in the valley. It is in Vrang. A small girl shows us the way to the Stupa and the mineral water spring. In the valley you have wheat fields and in the rocks of the valley small caves and on top is a hill of stones, which is the stupa from the guide book. On the way down we visit the girls Pamiri style house and she gives us some apricots. Finally she wants some money. Anyway she was nice and we give a little at least for the apricots.


We go on and a military post stops us. He wants to see everything and can not speak Russian. The weapon of him scares Kotomi. However this is normal close to the border in every country I say. Nevertheless she wants to stay the night close to a village. I ask a guy if we can put the tent close to the house. Finally he invites us to stay in his house. We get Schorpo, home made bread and jam and have a good sleep. His brother is there for a visit and he is also working in Russia but as policeman. It really seems that a lot of families in Tajikistan survive since some family members work in Russia. We always wonder about the high prices compared to the average income. In the village most have good live and no need for anything. They produce all their self and do not need to buy something. But if they live in the city they are often supported from outside.


(N 36.84995°, E 72.07559 °)


Great Views to the Hindu Kush and 2 Free Energy Saving Lamps from the President

24th of September:


The day before I was thinking what is so special with this Wahhan valley, just stony not green at all. Only thing we met were some Camels from Afghanistan which "illegally" crossed the border. Ok for them it is just a river (:). But going on I understand; we were just on the top/entrance of the valley and now we go into it. The street close to rocks goes down in serpentines, below us the river or the border to Afghanistan. Sometimes we have to drive in a side valley the street on the other side just 100 m away.  A deep canyon in between impossible to cross. At the Afghanistan side there are also side valleys which go south. They open the view for us to the 7000m high mountains of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan. This views are great, hard to describe and also hard to keep on a picture. To make the picture perfect we can see the Afghan caravans on the other side, which let us feel like looking back in time. We go down and it gets warmer. Shepards and boys with their sheep herds coming down or up from the steep madows to walk back to the their village. It is already afternoon when we arrive in the first village of the valley. We try to get some bread in the magazine. But they do not have. Everybody is doing his own bread. But in one magazine the guy tells us just to wait he will get some from his home. During that time a lot of people coming to pick up two energy saving lamps. I ask why and they tell me that the President of Tajikistan gave this as a present. Every family gets two lamps for free. It is funny to see how the kids try to cheat. Everybody comes with other family names. The owner almost gets crazy but finally he is laughing and takes it easy. Anyway he knows his people in the village; 200 families and 400 lamps.


Meanwhile a police guy waits for us at the car and wants to see all documents. He looks angry and starts to complain about our black back windows. I start to laugh and ask him what he wants. He says it is not allowed in Tajikistan. I tell him there were no problems at the border, it is original and I just bought the car like this. What should I do?! Häää ????? He gives up.


We go on and find a nice place at the river to camp. In the late afternoon a guy comes with his son. The usual; where you come from and ..... He wears a old cap and his glasses look like the one from Candi just 1 cm thick. He seems to be a little bit of a drinker, but still nice person. His son looks quite cute in his traditional clothing. Finally his father tries to explain me that this wide deserted place is his territory. The place we stay is almost in the river since now it has low water. He looks at the car and at me and asks so how much would I pay. I do not know and actually I do not think it is his place. Anyway he says he will come back next morning, but we did not see him again. Maybe he forgot after a vodka that it was/is (:) his territory. In contrast to before we feel the presence of former tourist which travelled through here and changed already the minds of the people in the valley.



(N 37.00353°, E 72.54684 °)


200 years ago on the "Other SIDE"

23th of September:


We had a warm night in the Jurt but just because the alarm clock was ringing at 3 a clock in the morning to put again a 10 litre pot of dried Jak shit. Outside it was snowing small ice crystals and the landscape was covered with a thin white layer. The water in our tanks on top of the car was frozen. The mother is sitting outside in a thick layer of clothing and getting the milk of the Jaks. One after another stands up and does his job. They get their donkeys and one goes South with the goats and the others East and West with the Jaks. Anyway this will be there last week in this silent cold, but nice place.


We go on into the direction of the Wakhan valley. The "way" is sometimes hard to find. It seems cars go up here very seldom and if they always choose a different way. We just try to follow the way in the Russian maps and try not to cross the border to Afghanistan which is left from us. The car is jumping over the stones mostly we are not faster than walking speed. Grass, stones and mud but a beautiful landscape around us just for us. We are going to Zor kul first and from there along the border river to the Wakhan valley. After Zor kul we actually have no permission to go since a additional permission from Dushanbe is required. Between us and Afghanistan is just the river. Until Wakhan valley we just drive a dirt road along this river and there is no other way since the valley is to narrow on our side. Arriving in Wakhan valley we have to pass a military check point. This time I pretend not to speek any russian. The post sends us back to the military camp which is close to the check point. I still pretend I do not understand. I just give Visa and our other permits, just always asking for the way, but just in English. They are actually very friendly and it seems they even do not know about the other permit. Or we just had a good day with nice guys. They fill up our bottles with warm tea and we go on.  Yessssssss (:).


We just drive some more kilometres into the valley which is stony and more like a desert here. But we are almost 1500 m lower than last night and it is comfortable warm. At the other side in Afganistan we see people coming with their horses, donkeys and sheep. It really looks like another world, like 200 years ago. Guys with their sheeps and traders with their goods on the donkey. Arabic clothing and turbans. They stop on something which look like a small mosque or grave for us and make their camp there. An old man and young guy making a horse race just for fun or to show which horse is the best. Others making a fire and cooking. It seems they are coming from the mountains behind the valley which is already Pakistan and close to the Hindu Kush.


(N 37.30502°, E 73.01373 °)