Tajikistan border

It isn't until the Tajik border that I realize: I'm actually getting sick, once more. At least crossing the tiny border is simple enough (though I have to wait for a few minutes for the Uzbekistan guards to finish their dinner, first).

Continuing in Tajikistan a bit later, the landscape changes rapidly and I'm glad to see green valleys and mountains again!

As my condition is only worsening and the area I'm cycling in is densely populated I decide to seek out a hostel to recover. I will end up staying there for 6 nights altogether -- just to be on the safe side!

Lot's of hikers and cycle tourists passing through. Unsurprisingly, I don't take many photos during these days, so here's one of a supermarket receipt

Company again

It's been a while that I've ridden together with others for a longer time. All the more happy I am when, while stopping at a small market, I meet another cyclist who is heading my way: Yoshi from Japan. This truly senior cyclist has been on the road for 10 years, 7 of which on a tandem. Which he rides solo, hoping for a fellow long distance traveler to join in or sometimes casually offering locals a ride to school, the market etc.

This is great not only because I can learn a lot from an experienced traveler like this, but also I now have someone to take photos of me again while I'm riding 😁. As it turned out over the past couple of months I'm often much too lazy myself to stop, set up the camera and stage a photo.

Tunnel of death

Aside from an average cumulative elevation gain of 1.100 m per day which is demanding enough, the way to Dushanbe presents one major obstacle: the Anzob tunnel, favorably also called the "tunnel of death".

The 5 km long tunnel, which had been "completed" in 2006, is notoriously infamous for its poor condition. While I've read some reports that major improvements had been done of the the past couple of years, the fact that it is Iranian built doesn't exactly spike my confidence.

When we finally reach the top we have decided to hitch a ride with a local truck, something most cyclists do.

Rightfully so!

After a few minutes wait, an old Soviet trucks picks us up. The windshield consists mostly of cracks. The cargo area has plenty of holes in it. And, as we find out when entering the tunnel, the head lights don't work either and the driver uses a shitty LED (his phone?) from inside the car to illuminate the dim path. Needless to say the oncoming traffic (yes, the tunnel has 1 lane for each direction) is not too happy about that and the cars frequently flash their high beams at us.

Tension increases a bit when, a third or so through the tunnel, the tunnel's dim lights are suddenly gone: there is no illumination at all now. Of course, that and (the many pot holes) doesn't stop other cars from passing us.

Still, at this moment I couldn't be more happy not having to cycle through this utter mess.

As usual, the photos just don't do it justice.

Anzob tunnel

The smaller tunnels on the descent we master with relative ease: they're not lit, but at least my bike has descent lights. Only keeping on my sun glasses is NOGO, as I realize quickly.

When we reach Dushanbe the next day it's time for some maintenance. There are not many reputable bicycle shops in town (more exactly only one), but I've opted to make use of the "Green house hostel" bike mechanic. My bicycle gets treated to a new chain and the inner bearings are lubed. Not too bad, after more than 13.000 kilometers in total. Other than that, the bike is in good condition.

What is not in good condition however is my stomach, once more. This is now the third time since Beyneu that I'm falling sick. I'm slightly annoyed and decide to wait this one out. But after 7 nights in Dushanbe it's enough. Gladly in this part of the world one can just go to the pharmacy and buy most medications such as antibiotics without prescription. It promptly cures me of my illness and I take on to the road again to chase after Yoshi, who had left 2 days before...

More photos