We woke up really early for a few reasons. For one, it was cold as hell. Mostly though none of us slept that well. The altitude has definitely gotten to us, some more than others. I for one have never had a problem with it before, but since the middle of the night had a splitting headache. So yeah queasiness, headache, no bueno all around. Before we left our little site we decided to leave a gift for the next person who found that spot. 10 bottles of terrible Tajikistan wine. It takes a lot to throw away alcohol but after 2 trips to the store getting 6 bottles each time, we were all willing to cut our losses.
The first 80k of the road weren’t terrible. The potholes were gone but the road was a little wavy. In a normal car that wouldn’t be a big deal but since our suspension was almost entirely shot the car felt like it was bouncing all over the place. Getting jostled around really helps with the altitude sickness. Eventually the took one too many bounces and the spring that Mitch had fitted into the rear suspension popped out. That was a warning of what was to come as the roads took a turn for the worse. For the next hour we were driving on a washboard road, which is where the gravel and dirt is corrugated somehow and somehow just stays like that. The result basically makes you feel like you’re inside a paint can shaker as your car is slowly rattled apart. After that we had to wind up and down more mountains which was a beating.
Once it flattened out a little everyone was getting a little hungry and fearing a long border wait we tried to find something before we got there. Of course we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere, but we did drive through a tiny village that had a sign pointing out a restaurant. The sign was pointing at a tent, but whatever we decided to check it out. When we stepped inside we were surprised to find our Romanian motorcycle friends enjoying some tea. They told us you can order breakfast – breakfast being 2 eggs and some bread. And candy. Cool. Everything was pretty tasty, and it only costs everyone $1 a piece, and that was with a tip!
The Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan border is a total joke, at least on the Tajiki side. Ryan was driving when we pulled, so he hopped out to bring the guards our passports and car registration. A few minutes later Ryan came back asking for a very specific piece of paper that didn’t sound familiar at all. I’ve been pretty good at keeping all the paperwork from each country organized, and that one didn’t ring a bell. Ryan said it was gonna be around a $30 fine if we couldn’t find it. I got out to go talk to the guard, so I followed Ryan into this dingy shack and looked like something you’d find in Aleppo. I asked what paper he was wanting, and he showed us something completely unfamiliar as it had a map on it with a route. It also appeared to not be for passenger cars so we told him we never got it at the border. That’s when shit hit the fan. He pulled out his badge and started yelling at us about being border police and said if we didn’t pay we would have to go back to Murghab to get one. Uhhhh no, that wasn’t fucking happening. We tried again explaining again – nicely – that we were never given that paper and it was ridiculous to go back and get one, especially considering it was probably bullshit anyway. We were out of their money so Ryan pulled out 2 $10s which the guy looked at and eventually said ok. Then shit hit the fan again because he found out Ryan wasn’t the owner of the car. That should have been obvious since his name wasn’t on the registration, and the registration was tucked into my passport when it was handed over. Now the guy was super confused and irritated, so he took our passports back and started looking at them and then back at us carefully. At a certain point he kind of accused me of not being me, continually asking my name and details. While my passport is 9 years old, it’s still obviously me. Eventually he settled down and let us go. Those guys didn’t have guns, and there was nothing we were given that proved we were clear the border. Again, a fucking joke. Good riddance.
“No man’s land” between the borders ended up being something like 15 miles long, which is an insane distance between 2 borders. We also had to wind all the way down from the mountains we were driving in on a super sketchy road that was muddy, steep and full of holes. It doesn’t really belong to anyone so no one maintains it. I also understand why Kyrgyzstan wanted their border so far away from Tajikistan, because as soon as it leveled out it got a lot greener and a lot prettier. The border process to get in was super easy, but very slow. One of the guards spoke fantastic English and he said that pretty much no one goes through that border, so when 10 rally cars show up all at once it’s the hardest they’ve had to work in a good while. Cool guys though.
The goal now was to get to Osh, which was about 3 and a half hours away. The roads were supposed to be great though, and outside of the first 20km from the border they were. We made pretty good time into Osh, getting there around 7ish. The only annoying part of the drive is that you’re still in a mountainous area, so you have to climb up which can be painfully slow in 1st gear, and then barrel back down without overheating your brakes. We made it into town and found a cheap hotel. Ryan had found a “Mexican” restaurant not too far from our hotel. It was…interesting. Mitch did his best to confuse the waitress trying to explain how to make tortilla chips even though she barely spoke English. And their salsa was weird. Mostly because it wasn’t really salsa, more like some kind of sweet and sour dipping sauce.
We were absolutely dreading the next day. We needed to get to as close to the Kazakhstan border as possible, which was over 550km and would mean driving at night.