We dropped down over Taldyk Pass and the tiny town of Sary Tash lay spread out before us at the base of the mountain. When my pre-arranged taxi ride from Osh, Kyrgyzstan to Murghab, Tajikistan fell through (the driver decided he didn’t feel like driving on a holiday after all), I had a few minutes of panic. My Tajik visa was date specific, my permitted time in the GBAO area a measly five days. If I didn’t cross into Tajikistan on October 4th, it would make things very complicated for me. After researching flights, alternate routes, etc. I came to the conclusion that I had to attempt the border crossing by myself. I went to the local bazaar and negotiated a ride to Sary Tash, the town closest to the border.
Finding a guesthouse was easy, there were only two in town (that I saw) and they were both situated along the M41. Mine, the Hotel Aida, was tiny, colorful, and empty. It was perfect. The ancient proprietor led me around back, turning on a small space heater and showing me the location of the toilet. The price for dinner, breakfast, and a bed was 500 som (about $10).
Walking around town in the short amount of time before dinner, I couldn’t help staring at the mountains in either direction.
Isolated by the mountains and situated on a high-altitude, dusty plain, Sary Tash would be nondescript were it not for its strategic location on the crossroads between both routes into Tajikistan and a key route into China.
The next day, I caught a ride to the border with a friend of the hotel owner. The border seemed conspicuously closed, something I noticed only after my ride left. After shouting to announce my presence, I opened the gate and let myself in, heading to the most official building. I went inside and heard music coming from one of the doors. A knock brought the border guard out; he stamped my passport after giving it a quick lookover. Handing it back to me, his gaze fell on the ukulele protruding from my backpack.
“Gun?” he asked, miming shooting an assault rifle.
I snorted, shook my head, and mimed rocking out on a ukulele. He laughed and waved me on.
I walked past the second gate and looked back. There weren’t any cars on the horizon, but it was still relatively early. I had food, water, sunscreen, a tent, and a sleeping bag. It was just over 15 kilometers to the Tajik border post. Hitching a ride shouldn’t be a problem, but, if things didn’t pan out, I was confident I could trek the distance.
I should have known better. But, confident, I turned my back on Kyrgyzstan and started walking.
- Hiking to Refugio Frey and Beyond - January 20, 2020
- Christmas Letter 2019 - December 18, 2019
- My Walk Out of the Woods - June 30, 2019
Awww come on man! Why you gotta do that?!? Did you make it? Was there also a gun in your ukelele case? Did you have to camp solo? Did you get eaten by a yak? Tell me more!
Hahaha, sorry! It was a long story, I had to break it up into pieces! Two more to go… 😉
“I should have known better. But, confident, I turned my back on Kyrgyzstan and started walking.” Such a cool, cold ending to a pretty excellent story. Kinda cruel though, like Brandon says. Give us more!
Thanks! It’s a pretty long story, that made for a nice interlude point
EEK! Seriously… Can’t wait for the next installment.
Evan and Rachel
What?!? Haha THIS is the post after I haven’t read your blog in months? I’ve missed your storytelling, that’s for sure. Can’t wait to read what happens next! 🙂
Yay, you’re back! Sorry you came back on a cliffhanger–this one is part of a three part series. Luckily you came in on the first one 😉
I love your posts! Such courage to find your way out in such a strange land. The place you visit is like a geography lesson for me. I have to look up the countries and see where in the world you are. Keep up the great posts.
Thank you! I didn’t know where a couple of these places were before I started planning to go, so no worries 🙂 Actually, a lot of those countries are younger than me; so I don’t feel too bad.
Lindsay @ The Neverending Wanderlust
Thanks for sharing ‘part’ of your story haha! I’ll definitely be reading the other posts to find out all the details. It’s nice to read about your adventures…it’s like I know even if I took the same steps, my story would be different than yours. I appreciate the uniqueness and intimacy of your posts! Oh yeah—- I LOVE you picture of The Pamir Mountains–absolutely beautiful!
Thank you so much! 🙂 This was an awesome/ challenging trip for me, so it’s fun to hear what people think about it
Brandon Fralic (@bsfralic)
Ah come on man, don’t leave us hanging like that!
Three more days… 😉 hahaha