Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 169 (Tajikistan): Ayni - Veshab (it’s well worth it)

daily distance: 47km
total distance: 10,199km
riding time: just under 4h 

Today was the day. I would be heading to Veshab after all, the town that the charity ride is for. I was anxious to go there, but because there was yet another independence day coming up tomorrow, there is another holiday today, so the center of town was closed and we couldn’t go together. Interesting celebration for sure … everyone could say something, the Chinese construction worker crew representative, all the town’s important people, someone from Iran stressing the good ties and common heritage and many loud musicians.

After all was said and done we were able to set out. The packs were put into the car that was going up before me (didn’t really see the need to make the ride more difficult) and after the initial photos being taken I was on my own until just before Veshab. The area is beautiful … though I am sure the winters make for a rough environment. The mountains are high and forbidding, the valley narrow. There are only few patches to grow anything and all of those areas are being used it seems. The remaining areas are occupied by the villages. It never seizes to amaze me where people live and that they don’t move elsewhere - but family ties here are strong and so people stay. 

The road to Veshab was rough and it took me a good while to get there. It also climbs over a great many cliffs and at the end of the day, I clocked almost 1000m in altitude over a distance of just under 50km on mostly rocky roads. 

The valley seemed to be lasting forever and the further I went the more stretched out the road seemed to be. It was a lot of fun though and with each passing village I knew I was getting closer. And then I saw something: a group of cyclists who were apparently waiting for me to accompany me the last couple of km into the village.

It was great fun riding together with about a dozen or so people and we were greeted by no less than 100 villagers. Just before getting there I kind of reminisced about the last 5 or 6 months and what was going on and why I was doing this. But soon enough I was torn out of these thoughts. We arrived in the village. Kids were saying rhymes in German (kind of cute), salt, bread … the works. I had to tell stories about the trip and where I was going and why I wanted to come to Veshab.

After the initial hello we were welcomed in one of the villager’s home, had something to eat and eventually I had a look around, many people eyeing me curiously - though well aware of who I was and what was going on. This isn’t a tiny village in terms of numbers, there are almost 2,000 people living here. But there isn’t much space. Take a look for yourself. 

As one person explained to me - it reminds him of a highrise. The houses are so closely built together, many people in too few rooms. To some extent this has to do with rock slides which, though rare, do happen here every year. The village stretches along the bank of a river which was used for everything, including fetching drinking water. It wasn’t until German Agro Action proposed and implemented a seperate pipeline that people had safe drinking water. The number of infections dropped dramatically as I was told the following day - by putting in something that we take entirely for granted. And probably don’t even think about when we turn the tap.

The night was dark. I woke up during the night and knew that the power would be out - another thing that makes life very hard here. But I mean out. No light except one flashlight at 3 am - someone wondering through the village. This may be OK during the summer time that the power is out for a few hours during the night, it is an entirely different matter though that for 6-7 months power is cut entirely in this and other villages. This has partially to do with political issues, but the people who do suffer are not the high and might. But what else is new?

PS: I would love to bring you many more pictures from Veshab, but slow upload speeds even here in Dushanbe make this pretty much impossible. My apologies. My hunch is that this won’t change for a while as I will be heading into more and more remote territory.  There are more pictures of today at the flickr site though.

1 comment

1 Cyrielle { 09.14.08 at 11:16 am }

Dear Marcus,
Do you remember at Reza’s house in the beginning of August ? We visited the Holy Shrine together and you had us taste shermoz for the first time. I had a little trouble following your adventure when I was still on the road, but now that I’m back in Paris, I’m reading your newsletter with a mix of excitation and nostalgy. So much places I haven’t seen yet… Well, anyway, I just wanted to wish good luck for the rest of the trip ! I really admire what you’re doing.
All the best from Paris,

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