Amazing Hospitality in Tajikistan
What should I say about Tajikistan? Tajikistan is one of the countries with the most hospitable people I ever met. You can knock on any door and ask “Chai? Plov?” and they will be like “Sure, come in. Drink my tea, eat my plov and sleep in my house.”. And then they will never just give you a simple meal, they will serve you all they have and stack plates of food, sweets and fruits over each other making sure there is no empty space left on the table / floor.
Still Tajikistan is definitely the poorest of all Central Asian countries with more than 50% of the gross national product being people working abroad sending money back home. It is interesting how much the people glorify the time of the Soviet Union when everyone had enough food, electricity and jobs.
While I waited for my permit for the Pamirs, I decided to go hiking for a few days in the Fan Mountains North of Dushanbe. In Dushanbe I stayed a few days with a CouchSurfer who also hosted Ben, a British guy. He decided to have a break from cycling and join me to the mountains.
Hitchhiking to the Fan Mountains was interesting. We had to let a few cars go because the driver was a “There’s bread in the back”-Guy. He had bread on the back seat which he didn’t want to move for making place for us.
When you go hiking in the mountains usually you take plenty of food with you. You don’t need to in Tajikistan. We got invited all the time by nice families and even young kids in the villages. We hiked up to one pass which was not able to cross because it had too much snow. And then we camped one night just below the pass and where kinda happy to finally also be able to eat some of our food.
When we came back to Sarytag village, we helped some workers on a field to harvest potatoes. When we told them we’ve been to the pass, they asked us “What you did not see the bear?”. We stayed the night with them and finally got to see the bear when it came near the village at night.
The next day we got invited to a wedding in Sarytag. We got served so much Plov on that day. We had Plov for breakfast, then again Plov ten minutes after breakfast at another house, then Plov before lunch and then again Plov for lunch. We were already like “Please, no more Plov!”.
After the wedding we hitched back to the road and in the evening we managed to get a ride from towards Dushanbe – on the back of a coal truck. We were excited driving on the back of a coal truck through a tunnel which is called the death tunnel because it’s such a bad road, most of the time only one lane, no light and no ventilation for 7km. It was fun until there was an accident in the tunnel and we got stuck there for three hours breathing nothing but carbonmonoxid. We were trying not to breath too much and hoping not to fall asleep without waking up again.
A bit after we finally left the tunnel the truck stopped at a cafe and we followed the driver into it. When we entered the cafe the people stared at us and our black faces like “What the fuck!?” and asked us “You need some food?”. So looking like hobos we got free food and the truck left us late at night in Dushanbe. Since we couldn’t find a place to sleep in the middle of the night, we just put out our sleeping bags on a green area of the water purification system. In the morning we got woke up by a worker who was shocked and frightened by our appearance and told us that we have to leave. We were like “What, this is not a big campsite with giant swimming pools?”
Back in Dushanbe Ben and I decided to cycle the Pamir Highway together on his Tandem across some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. We just had to find a car to take us to Khorog where it starts. And the first car we found was a “There’s bread in the back”-Guy.