Today was a very eventful day. When starting to cycle I discovered that my rear tire was out of air so I had to start a repair session which took longer than expected. After 15 km I had to take a rest for 2 h because my back pain did not allow me to continue, and then I decided to still continue over Anzob Pass towards Dushanbe in partially heavy rain.
We stayed at a local family again last night and had a nice evening with them. However, they had the feeling that everybody should get up at 6:00, so we were woken up by the mother of the family. After a short breakfast we were ready to cycle shortly after 7:00. But unfortunately, my bicycle was not ready, my rear tire lost all its air during the night. So I took out the tube and fixed in total 3 punctures which probably got accumulated over the past few days. Once I put in the tube in the tire again and pumped it up however it exploded. One hour of work for nothing. The tube of course was beyond repair (see picture), so I took a replacement tube I was carrying with me. With more than one hour delay we started cycling down to the main road that leads to Dushanbe.
The bike fixing and the bumpy road down to the main road did not really help my back pain to get better – more the opposite. So when we reached the main road, I told Anne and Lucie to go ahead towards Dushanbe, which they did. So I was left in a restaurant along the road in basically the middle of nowhere. I ate a soup and took some strong pain killers and stayed there for at least two hours. So I was basically left with three options: Either hitchhike by loading my bike on one of the countless trucks that are going to Dushanbe anyway, or stay the night in the middle of nowhere, or being unreasonable and still climb 1000 m to Anzob Tunnel and descend on the other side to Dushanbe, a total length of 120 km. People who know me can guess which option I chose…
Anzob Pass vs. Tunnel
There is an old road leading over the Anzob Pass on 3370 m. In beautiful weather conditions the view from that pass should be exciting, but the road to there is long, unpaved and very remote. Except from my personal ego everything spoke against taking the old road, such as the bad weather, the amount of snow still left in the mountains, and me biking alone today. So this time I was reasonable and chose the tunnel, which meant I would have to climb 1000 m up to the tunnel, pass it and then descent almost 1900 m towards Dushanbe.
One word about the tunnel: There are many reports that the tunnel is very dangerous for bicycles due to mud, water, ice and huge potholes on or in the road surface and due to being quite narrow. This used to be the case, however in recent years the whole tunnel was renovated so passing it with the bicycle was no problem, and because it was a Saturday, there was also not too much traffic, so passing it was no problem at all.
Descent to Dushanbe
After the climb and the tunnel followed the pleasant part. After a quick lunch at 16:00 right after the tunnel on 2700 m, I put on my rain gear. Accompanied by heavy rain at times I descended in three hours from the pass to Dushanbe and because the road was constantly going down and I even had tail wind, the ride was very pleasant. Also it was very exciting to see the changing landscape, reaching from Alpine climate with snow reaching up to the road down to green, warm and humid Dushanbe climate. During all the excitement, the back pain was only secondary, but it caught up with me once I arrived in Dushanbe and my muscles were getting cold.
Dinner in Dushanbe: The other side of Tajikistan
What we have seen so far in Tajikistan were people living in very poor conditions. For example last night in the small village, there was no running water, no shower, no real toilet, and the son of the family told me that the day before he took care of the sheep of the family instead of focusing on his studies. By far not everyone owns a car, there are small carts with donkeys on the road or no transport at all.
On the other hand, what we have seen tonight in Dushanbe was completely controversial. Fancy cars (Mercedes, Lexus, BMW, and so on) were parked in front of the quite fancy restaurant which was close to our hostel. Inside, there was live music with belly dancers, fancy food, and people walking around in expensive dresses. Anne, Lucie and I were really underdressed there in our trekking clothes. In was really a huge contrast, and this all within 12 hours. Anyway, I enjoyed a decent dinner after the exhausting day and a few cold beers and went to sleep happily – but still with back pain. I will have to rest a bit the next days in Dushanbe in order to be in good shape again before aiming for the Pamirs.
Max elevation: 2688 m
Min elevation: 847 m
Total climbing: 1486 m
Total descent: -2517 m
Total time: 10:30:06