Garm was a nice place to visit for a couple of days, but it turned out not to be a stop on the way to Kyrgyzstan. At one of Anna’s meetings there, with a UNDP official, it was discovered that the border crossing with Kyrgyzstan is in fact closed to foreigners. So, we spent a relaxing two nights in Garm before catching a taxi back the way we came to Dushanbe.
Having been foiled by two Kyrgyz border crossings so far (the Badakhshan region being closed and this) and with recent shootings reported at the sole remaining one (at Batken near Khujand) not to mention a long way to get there (including the “Tunnel of Death” and more scary driving) through more of Tajikistan than I had been planning on, I’m thinking - though it’s not final – of flying instead, to Almaty, Kazakhstan. I could go to Bishkek and/or more of Kyrgystan from there if I get bored. Anyway, it’s the Kyrgyz side’s fault that this border was closed, so if they don’t want me there…. (Just kidding. Closed borders are all part of the adventure, but at present there’s a limit to the miles of shared taxis over mountains that I want to stomach.)
You’d never guess the people you meet in places like Tajikistan. I talked (in both of our broken Russian) to an Egyptian marshrutka driver, me about where I was from and him about the beaches in Egypt and how Tajiks are stupid; he was surprised I didn’t speak Arabic based on my looks. (The taxi driver from Garm, meanwhile, like most people, had a hard time believing that I wasn’t Jewish, having brought it up out of nowhere.) Through one of my recently made expat friends, I met a 17-year-old extreme upper echelon Tajik guy, but the nature of his family’s enterprise can’t really be mentioned here… And then there’s the American military contingent, who are doing something along the lines of training the Tajiks to stop weapons- and people-smuggling into Afghanistan.
And lest I feel like my adventure is very grand, I just met a couple in my hostel who have more or less biked all the way here from Vietnam. I told them that was amazing. The modest response? “Lots of people are doing it.”
Posted from Dushanbe, Districts of Republican Subordination, Tajikistan.