A resolution for the year is to write at least an hour a day so I thought that an attempt at completing this travelogue would be a good warm up. Also, apologies for the quality of this post’s photos, since all my camera gear had been submerged in the river and I was still in shock throughout the day. (New visitors, you can scroll down to find “Tajikistan, Part 3 (July 23, 2012)”.
I stand there, wet up to my armpits but drying quickly in the +40C Pamir heat, in shock. Looking at my gear, looking at my bruises and scratches and trying to make sense of it all. I was an idiot. It could of all been prevented by just keeping the Ego on the shore.
When in the work truck with the two local men, we had passed a work station about 50 meters behind wear I am currently standing. Looking ahead, up a a very rocky path to the pass, I can hear them working behind me, sounds similar to any car mechanic shop in the West.
Two men approach me from the building. One a very petite blonde, blue eyed Russian man and a man that may be local but quite dapper and hip for being a Tajik stuck out in the middle of nowhere. The blonde man smiles at me and asks if I’m okay. I can barely make words of anything that makes sense. Nodding and point to my stuff strewn all about. I ask him if they had seen my friend that I had parted ways with the previous day. They had seen him in the morning, or at least that is what I made sense of the conversation. Both men seem friendly enough and the blonde man tells me they will help me because I am “a woman” and they “are men”. I guess chivalry is well and alive.
After walking away, talking to each other, an old white Land Rover pulls up within 15 minutes with the local man driving and the Russian in the passenger seat. We load all my gear onto the top of the truck, but I can barely move so they do most of the work and I handle some of the lighter bags. I had to quickly collect all my gear that had been drying in the sun and most everything had dried, although I saw condensation building up in camera lenses.
The road up to the pass is steep jeep path with large rocks, ranging from fist size to the size of a man’s head. It’s a very rough ride and I’m being thrown from side to side of the back of the truck as the speakers are very loud playing American pop songs. I distinctly remember The Cardigans and Aqua “Barbie Girl” being played at least a half dozen songs during the ride up to the pass. There were only about 6 songs on the tape so it looped a few times between making it to the pass. Of course I’m making small talk with the two gentlemen helping me. The basic questions of marriage, children, home country and the sort. I’ll never forget how blonde the Russian was with the most brilliant blue eyes. The Tajik man with a modern, and hipster, version of a faux hawk. He would of made every young woman in Williamsburg, Brooklyn swoon.
We get out at the top of the pass and they take turns taking photos with me. I regrettably did not take their photos; my mind wasn’t in the best position to be making any sort of decisions or thought processes.
I look down the pass and the road is still rough terrain of at least a half dozen switchbacks. It’s about 3 in the afternoon so I’m hoping to make it to the village at the end of the mountains before nightfall.
They help me load up the bike and they wave me off with smiles and cheers. I begin riding, very slowly, down the pass and every time I make a switch back, the sound of their cheers can be heard from the pass as they can see me. I look over my shoulder to see the sun setting, and the sounds of the cheers become fainter and fainter as I wave to them…only hoping they know how thankful I am for their time and effort. Those cheers and waves from the mountain top was probably morale I really needed to keep me going.
There is another water crossing further down and to not risk anything this time, I unload the entire bike and slowly and carefully carry everything across. I’ve learned a lesson for life.
The road is still pretty rough on the other side and the sun is setting fast. I begin riding down and since it’s beginning to get dark I start shouting “Chris”! every time I see a clearing or somewhere I may see my former riding partner from the last week. Hoping maybe I would of caught up with him and could find someone to cry to.
I finally make it the village at the base of the mountain pass at nightfall. Slowly I walk around with my bike looking for a “Kofe” or a hotel where I can find a safe warm place to sleep for the night. Without finding one I go to the edge of town, cross a bridge, and see a security officer in his little shipping container. Since I’m getting close to the Pamirs where I will need a permit, everyone is being stopped, IDs scrutinized, and asked where we are coming from and where we are going.
The officer invites me into his “office” and home with another security guard there. All daylight has now been lost and I explain where I’m going, where I’ve come from, and that I need to find a place to sleep. I’m hoping he’ll offer some floor space there but it’s not. Describing Chris-Alexandre to him, I ask him if he had seen him. The two guys that helped me over the pass said they had seen him that morning so it’s very possible he could be in the village so I want to make sure he hasn’t continued through. The officer opens his book from that day and I don’t see his name written on the log…I turn the page to the previous day and there is Chris’ name, written down from the previous morning. My heart sinks. There is no way I’ll catch up with him.
Disheartened, I leave the officer to try and find a place to sleep. He said there was an affordable hotel in the village so I go to look. After walking around until after 10pm, without finding one, I go to the covered pavilion that is used for an open air market or bazaar. The town is quiet for the most part and I lay out my sleeping bag on one of the tables used for selling produce. I’m in so much physical pain and absolutely exhausted. I know that I won’t be able to sleep in the next day for the fact I’ll be in plain sight and perhaps the bazaar will even be used in the morning. Hobbling up onto the table, I slide into my sleeping bag with the sound of dogs barking near by.
Letting out a deep breath, I almost didn’t survive the day. Laying out on that table, so uncomfortable in my body, I recount the day over and over and over…regretting every single decision. I also regret not having kept up with this writing as it’s very difficult to recount everything from 4 years ago.
Happy New Year to all of you.
Last week, I finally was able to see a doctor about my back pain. I don’t talk a lot about it but it’s near crippling at times and it disheartens me at times to think how this may prevent me from moving forward into other travel projects that may take a toll on me. The prognosis isn’t good but I knew it wouldn’t be good news. It seems that the car wreck, that I was a passenger in, from my early 20s really messed me up and then an extended 10 years of neglect and more injuries has exacerbated the problems. I refuse to allow this to slow me down and I’ll just have to be more conscious of what I do and to keep weight off my back.
So, here is my first writing exercise for the year and I hope to keep up to the task. Among this blog, I’ll also hopefully be writing the past two stories from my treks out into Eastern Tibet…including the part about my horse running away.