Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan



Day 9

Qalai Khumb

to Dushanbe


24 August 2018

The hotel in Qalai Khumb was a gem.  I only wish I could have had more time in that wonderful bed; six hours was not enough, but if I hadn’t got out of the bed I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my first hot shower for several days.

There was one strange occurrence though.  I was about to get into bed at a little before midnight, having just finished yesterday’s diary entry, when I received a phone call from reception.  They wanted to confirm that there were two beds in my room, but only one person (me).  I confirmed that this was so, and very apologetically told me that someone would come to my room soon to take away the other bed as it was needed elsewhere.

Sure enough, a team of three people came and took away my bed.  Then, as I would about to go to breakfast at 7:00am this morning, there was a gentle knock on my door, and very apologetically a couple of men told me they had come to return the bed – which they did.  I’m not sure why they chose my room to take the bed – no-one had a similar experience – but it didn’t really bother me as it was not as though I had any luggage to lay out on the second bed.

It wasn’t the original plan to drive all the way to Dushanbe (about 400 kilometres) today.  The original itinerary had shown us staying in a middle-sized town called Kulob tonight.  However, a security alert advised not staying in Kulob, adding that visiting during the day would be fine.  And so, without any further detail than that, we made the long drive through to Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital city, via Kulob.

The long drive meant that some of the planned activities had to be culled, and we therefore had another day that was largely getting from one place to another. The first section of the drive continued along the Panj River, providing some great views of nearby Afghanistan, especially farming settlements near the river.  A key theme for me today was mass movement, including avalanches, rockfalls and soil creep, together with the various ways in which humans have sought to minimise the risks from the associated hazard events.

The city that was to have been our overnight stay – Kulob – became instead our lunch stop, but not before we had visited the surprisingly small statue of Lenin in a public park, toured the city’s museum, and stopped to admire an impressive mosaic of Lenin adorning a four-storey Soviet-era housing block.

A little beyond Kulob we stopped at Khulbuk, a fortress built on the Silk Road city of Khatlon in the 9th to 11th centuries that also served as the Governor’s palace.  The fortress has been shortlisted at UNESCO as a place of “outstanding universal value to the world”.  About five years ago, the Tajik Government re-built the fortress in a somewhat imaginary, Disneyland-style, but the new walls housed a wonderful archaeological site that we spent about half an hour exploring, accompanied by the Chief Archaeologist. 

Our next stop served to honour more recent history.  About three and a half weeks ago, four young cyclists who were tourists from various countries were deliberately run over in what has become recognised as an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack on the main highways a little north of Dangara.  Impressively, a memorial has already been built on the site of the attack (in forgivably less than perfect English), and we stopped to pay homage to the young lives lost.

Our final stop on the way into Dushanbe was at a high point to overlook the reservoir of the huge Norak Basin.  The reservoir was created in 1961 when the 300 metre high Nurek Dam was constructed by the Soviet government. An engineering marvel, the dam is currently the second highest in the world, and the highest rock-filled dam in the world. Unfortunately, we could not drive to see the dam wall because we were fitting so much distance into the day’s drive, but we could just see part of its structure at the far end of a section of the lake from a distance of several kilometres.

We arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Vatan (where I had stayed on my previous visit to Dushanbe in March 2017) at about 7:00pm.  Like last night, the rooms are very comfortable, although the internet is abysmally slow.  We went to a nearby restaurant for dinner at 8:20pm, and when we returned to the hotel at about 10:00pm, Jamshed very kindly drove me to Dushanbe Airport in the hope of retrieving my lost luggage.  Sadly, it was not there – it appears to have been irretrievably lost, so my coming travels in Central Asia seem destined to be less comfortable than planned as I continue to wash and re-wash the clothes each night that will fit into the backpack I’m using for hand luggage.