14degrees off the beaten track
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September 29th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Tajikistan

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Distance / 距離: 45km
Time / 時間: 4h 54m
Average speed / 平均速度: 9.4km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3166.5km

I have ascended and then descended on rough gravel roads into a moon-like landscape – absolutely barren at a present altitude of 4000 metres.

Moonscape on the Pamir Highway, just after border / タジキスタン国境付近

The day began with cold but fair weather, but just as I was about to pack my tent away, wet snow began to fall. I dithered for too long as to whether I should wait for the snow to stop, or just continue packing my things away and get going. In the end I decided to go for it, and by the time I had donned my wet weather gear and packed away a now very wet and slushy tent, the snow had stopped.

Fearing that it might snow again, I kept all my warm clothing on as I started to pedal. Of course in no time I was overheating, so the morning consisted of frustrating stops and starts as I tried to figure out a good balance of layering for warmth while pedalling. The dodgy weather lasted all day, with dark clouds always only a few kilometers away.

At around 1pm I arrived at the Kyrgyzstan customs and immigration post, this still being about 15km from the actual border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (seeing that the actual border is at 4280m, you can understand why).

The Kyrgyzstan customs and immigration people are in a word, corrupt. After he had a quick look through my bags, the customs guy said in good English with gold front teeth glistening, “So, Robert. Do you have a present for me? If present, immigration is very easy. Open gates for you!”

“No, no present, I’m afraid” I replied.

He let me go, but warned me that immigration might be tough. I said I would risk it.

I wheeled my bike over to the immigration building, and instantly had six or seven border guards jostling to have a go on it while I went inside with the immigration officer, a large man with thick glasses and of course the compulsory gold front teeth.

Immigration was easy. The officer took my passport and wrote down my details in the register. Then in Russian, “OK, Robert, $5 please.”

I don’t speak Russian, but I made clear that I wanted to know what the $5 was for. The officer indicated it was for the registry entry. I thought that this was very odd, considering I had never been asked for money at any other immigration post before.

I tried to inidicate that I wanted to see the official written rule that tourists must pay $5 for registry entry. Either he didn’t understand, or chose not to, but he just insisted that the $5 must be paid. Still not convinced, I gave him a $5 note anyway. As I was walking out the door, I saw him put it into his pocket.

Um, that is not where money paid to a goverment instituion usually goes, buddy. “Niet good, niet good” I said.

We walked back into the registry office, and the officer asked what the problem was. I asked why the money was going into his pocket, and that I would like the money back. Perhaps he thought I was going to snark on him, because he gave me the money back, and said “Durug, yes?” Head tilted back to see through the glasses that had slid down his nose. I think durug means friend.

He wasn’t giving up though. He explained that if I give him the $5, then he could call the Tajikistan immigration and ask that I am let through without any hassles.

I said I would risk it.

No man's land between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan / キルギスでもない、タジキスタンでもない。そういうところにある道はこのようになるものです。

Tajikistan at last / 念願のタジキスタン

Tajikistan immigration was a no-brainer. The immigration officer was more interested in whether I had any New Zealand coins on me. He is a coin collector you see. He has coins from 119 countries. Africa is the most difficult to get coins from, apparently.

So here I am, well and truely in Tajikistan on the Pamir Plateau. The silence is what amazes me. So silent.

Campsite at 4100m, Pamir Highway, Tajikistan / 標高4100mの野宿(タジキスタン、パミール高原)

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    Permanent Link     Comments (6)

Comment by Murdo — October 28, 2006 @ 4:21 am | post a comment

Hey Rob,

I think that really took guts for you to challenge that guy on his corrupt antics. Good for you, but just be aware they could make life very difficult for you if they feel like it. Just a friendly word of advice which I am sure you are aware of.

That said the $5 is better in your pocket than in his!

Keep it up!!!

Comment by Cousin Tim — October 28, 2006 @ 4:28 pm | post a comment

thats funny that the guy wanted NZ coins not $US. Although it could've been his last chance to get an NZ 5c

Comment by Aunty Les — October 28, 2006 @ 4:39 pm | post a comment

It looks very cold here, and very inhospitable!

Comment by Aunty Les — October 28, 2006 @ 4:44 pm | post a comment

Glad you got your $5 back.

Comment by Rob Thomson — October 29, 2006 @ 7:39 am | post a comment

Murdo, I figured that the worst that they could do is keep my passport and not let me out of the country. If they did that, then I'd just say "fine, I have no schedule. Keep me here as long as you want!"

[...] English Summary: Had another run in with border guards today (the last time was when leaving Kyrgyzstan). The Tajikistan customs official wanted US$10 for registry entry. I told him that I had not been charged for such a thing in the last five border crossings so why now? Upon hearing this he changed his story, and pointed to official charges for exporting vehicles. He stabbed a fat finger at the motorcycle entry. I almost laughed at him. I gently explained that it was a bicycle, and that he should have realised that as he watched me arrive. So once again no money for the border guard. By the way, my visa for Uzbekistan starts tomorrow (10th of Nov). The Uzbekistan immigration officials were too caught up in the novelty of my bicycle to notice however, so I am now in Uzbekistan a day earlier than my visa officially allows. Staying at Nazar’s place. Random guy I met along the road. [...]

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