25 May – Tajikistan – ~144 miles
A quick trip to Dushanbe, across the Zarafshan Range, in the rain… some spectacular roads and scenery, including a quick(-ish) 5km trip through… the “Tunnel of DEATH!!!”.
1 minute after my too-smart-for-its-own-good bike gave me a warning that the air temperature was low enough that surface-ice might be possible… 5km of poorly lit, poorly (if at all) ventilated, tunnel – with standard Central Asia road conditions (ie… expect vehicle-debilitating potholes at any time)… although apparently it’s much better than it used to be. Popular rumour seems to be that cyclists aren’t allowed through it, as they have in the past died of carbon-monoxide poisoning… but cursory research doesn’t support that. It does seem that for quite some time, one had to sign a waiver before using the tunnel. From what I read just now, they officially finished all the “bells and whistles” on the tunnel in August 2017 (eg: sealing leaks, concreting the base, putting some lights in). But less than two years later – I can affirm that of the two parallel tunnels which seem to exist – only one is open (therefore, a single carriageway, with oncoming traffic rather difficult to identify with very little lighting and much dust), and there is certainly still some leakage, and the lighting leaves a lot to be desired. Still – I’m guessing it’s a hell of a lot better than it was 10 years ago. All in all – good times (as I hope any video footage I got didn’t capture my whispered cursing and imploring for the “light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel”).
Got to Dushanbe safe and sound… where we’ve got a day off. This is to make sure there’s enough time for all the bikes to be serviced, oil changed, and tyres changed.
Apparently my tyres were changed an hour or two ago…
There’s been a few points on this trip which have been sort of “watershed” moments…
– The Turkey border/Istanbul – in that it was supposedly crossing from Europe to Asia
– The Caspian Sea – for a lot of people, this was a landmark which seperated the “known” from the “here-be-dragons”
– And for, me, at least – the latest is Dushanbe. Only in respect to the trip… when we leave Dushanbe, we’ll all be on off-road tyres (knobblies) – and expecting that they’ll be necessary. Coming up, we have the Pamir Highway, and the Wukhan Valley… and by all accounts – some roads of variable condition through some spectacular scenery.