Rally Day 21 – 25
The last of the three silk road cities in Uzbekistan is Samarkand, which is 275 km to the south Bukhara. We drove the entire afternoon to get there, as usual the heat was intense and the roads mostly bad. We found a hotel in the middle of the Jewish quarter, which took our car down a few very small alleys not really made for cars to be honest.
Later we saw Samarkand and got up into a minaret tower by bribing a guard 3 dollars per person – awesome! Technically that was our first bribe while on the road. As often before we ended the day with a few cold beers.
We had no internet on the hotel we were staying at in Samarkand but desperately needed to see some emails and get updates on the forth coming Pamir Highway. We tried walking around asking for WiFi, which usually works, but that didn’t work out. Instead we decided to go get fuel since we were running low in both Team No Khan Do and Team Ravenshoe. Getting fuel proved to be just as hard as WiFi, we basically had to queue for an hour to fill our half-empty tanks.
Long way to the border
In the evening we rearranged the fan behind our radiator on the car since we had some engine overheating issues earlier in the day. We figured that putting it more in the center would help the cooling situation. The hotel itself was pretty worn down and the breakfast was the worst we have had on the trip so far. We were still a few hundred kilometers from the Tajikistan border but figured we could drive the distance easily the next day.
Loving the bureaucracy
We drove the last 150 km to the Uzbekistan – Tajikistan border. We had to use the most southern crossing since the central one was and probably still is closed until further notice, very annoying. The border crossing itself was another nightmare as it took us 4 hours on the Uzbek side. They had to search the car again meaning we had to empty it. It went smoother on the Tajikistan side with the officials smiling and joking.
Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan and that is where we were headed. It was built by the Soviets and it shows, but to make matters worse many of the buildings are in desperate need of repair. The city itself is only 65 km from our border crossing point, but the traffic is much like what we had seen in Iran. Horns are being honked and people drive like maniacs. After a while we managed to find a hotel with room for us at a reasonable price. However, the building might have been pretty 30 years ago but our room had cracks in the wall, dirty bathtub, broken doors and all.
Team Ravenshoe and Christian outside our “lovely” Hotel.
Auto parts market
Both our car and Team Ravenashoe’s was in need of various spare parts. We talked with some locals and managed to get directions to a market place that was selling auto parts. We didn’t have much hope of finding parts for our clutch since we haven’t seen any Nissan Micra’s since leaving Europe. After arriving we realized the market was big but disorganized and we didn’t have much luck the first half hour. To our surprise we found a good dealer and he actually found clutch parts for us. Yes, that’s right! We are not entirely sure it fits but it seemed legit, in any case it was cheap. We also bought various other stuff.
Later in the afternoon we drove out of Dushanbe and down south. The first bits of Pamir Highway was under reconstruction so we had to drive around that part. Once again we checked into a crappy hotel in the city of Kulob and got some sleep. Christian shared his room with a total stranger but it was okay. Actually the stranger took pictures of Christian while he slept – creepy haha!
We started to drive east out of Kulob and soon we were driving along the Afghan border. There is a huge river that divides Tajikistan and Afghanistan but you can easily see across. There are also a few bridges acting as border crossings, with the Tajik flag on one side and Afghan on the other. It was a quite interesting experience to be so close to the war-torn country. The roads were pretty bad and out sump guard took a fair amount of beating. One of the hits bent the guard plate a bit resulting in the loss of 4th and reverse gears – ups.
After a long days drive we checked into a local guest house where other Mongol Rally teams were staying. We slept in big rooms on sleeping mats and ate together with the others, we even managed to find a few beers in the local shop.
– Team No Khan Do