A Travellerspoint blog

Tajikistan

Border hopping the Fergana Valley

Central Asia - Fergana Valley

sunny 19 °C
View Central Asia on kmmk17's travel map.


Part of the reason the trip lasted and travelled as much as it did was due to the complexities of Central Asian political geography. Whilst the whole area was part of the Soviet Union, moving between different republics wasn't particularly difficult. However upon independence, these new countries suddenly had some very complex boundaries.

The divide and rule policies of Moscow meant that many of these boundaries were arbitrary - simply there to make sure no one could survive on their own, intertwining the republics with each other. Whilst Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan contain the energy reserves, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan contain the water reserves. Unfortunately, the countries have not been able to work together and thus one of the consequences for travellers are complex borders they cannot easily cross, and the Fergana Valley sums this up most.

The upper Fergana Valley is controlled by Uzbekistan, whilst Tajikstan controls the lower part. Meanwhile Kyrgyzstan surrounds the entire valley, controlling the mountainous edges. As Uzbekistan has a difficult visa policy, compared to the almost visa free neighbours, not to mention difficult customs, we had to circuit the territory around the Fergana Valley itself to reach the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.

Driving to find....

Driving to find....

Lenin

Lenin

We began our day by having a short tour of Khujand, beginning with the statue of Lenin - who had been replaced on his plinth by Somoni, and moved to a 'park' located off a side road and down a track into a conspicuous looking cemetery-like area for Soviet memorials called Victory Park.

Historical Museum

Historical Museum

After taking a look at the massive statue and the Afghan War Memorial located a few metres away, we then headed to the Historical Museum of Sughd - detailing the ancient empire of the Fergana Valley; before heading to the Panjshanbe Market.

Indoor Market

Indoor Market


Unofficially entering Kyrgyzstan

Unofficially entering Kyrgyzstan

Making our way towards the Kyrgyz border, we had already skirted and unofficially entered several times through the republic's villages and past some of it's enclaves. On arrival we had a relatively relaxed and easy process leaving the Tajik side, and on entry to Kyrgyzstan our border guard was even having a joke with us - what a change it was to actually be welcomed in!

We continued in our new minibus, having obtained some local notes and still skirting the border, stopping for lunch on the border town of Kyrgyz-Kyshtak, where all local traders provided shoppers with old-logo branded Morrison's bags.

Uzbek Border Fence

Uzbek Border Fence

Our final travels today took us past the Uzbek border fence, and then de jure into Uzbekistan itself before reentering Kyrgyzstan and making it to our bed for the night - Osh.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged statues borders centralasia Comments (0)

Through the Tunnel of Death

Central Asia - Sugd

sunny 21 °C
View Central Asia on kmmk17's travel map.


After many days in the flat desert of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, we were now entering the Tian Shan covering Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Today consisted of a drive through the mountains from the capital to Khujand, the second city, located in the Fergana Valley.

Disabled Donkey

Disabled Donkey

We began the day by tucking into breakfast in the Sheraton - which priced at $45 meant it worked out at $15 a yoghurt! before we headed to the Museum of Antiquities. The museum wasn't the best in the world, but did have a fair amount to see, including a disabled looking donkey's head and a large Buddha located on the first floor.

Buddha

Buddha

After having another drive through the city, missing out on the souvenir shop which was closed, we then left the Monday city mid on Monday morning, and headed north through some beautiful mountains.

Entering the Tian Shan

Entering the Tian Shan


Outside the Tunnel

Outside the Tunnel

The further we got, the more beautiful they were and eventually we reached the day's unique attraction - the Tunnel of Death. Stopping outside the tunnel for views over the scenic snow capped mountains, we found a local film crew. Before we knew it, our tour guide James was being interviewed, and we were invited to be filmed!

Film Crew

Film Crew


Entering the Tunnel

Entering the Tunnel

After an interesting experience we then made our way through the Anzob Tunnel. It was originally built as a strategic link between Tajikistan's two biggest cities, that had previously meant in the long winter months the only land route was via Uzbekistan, adding hours to the journey. However the Iranians only bored the tunnel itself leaving the cash strapped Tajiks to furnish it. Due to the importance of the tunnel, it was used without furnishing until 2014 - which despite being 5km included no ventilation or lighting.

Inside the Tunnel

Inside the Tunnel

Even today, the tunnel is still not up to Western standards - with the road being dusty, dark, bumpy and full of stopped cars and others trying to overtake. What with this being a single carriageway road, with just enough space for once car each way, this was a pretty terrifying experience!

Making it to the other side alive, we then started to descend the mountains and stopped off just outside Takfon for lunch in a stilt built restaurant on the riverside at the bottom of a valley.

Valley

Valley

After refreshing ourselves, we then continued northwards and eventually made it into Khujand just after sunset. Our hotel here was located just outside of the city centre, but consisted of just enough rooms for the 16 of us on the trip, each with its own kitchen, lounge as well as a massage shower.

Living Room Luxury

Living Room Luxury

After dinner we then settled down for the night and our last in Tajikistan.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountain valley tunnel centralasia Comments (0)

Delightful Dushanbe

Central Asia - Dushanbe

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Central Asia on kmmk17's travel map.


Waking up on Sunday morning - we had our last breakfast in Uzbekistan, before boarding our coach to take us to the Tajik border.

Whilst the exit from Turkmenistan and entry into Uzbekistan had been bad enough - with checks for carpets and drugs, it was the exit from Uzbekistan that would be the worst border experience on the trip.

Upon arrival we were given customs forms in which we were told to simplify our currency exports to just USD and EUR. However what they were really after was anything they could fine you for - pornography, photos of the border, drugs etc.

Quickly deleting anything that may cause a problem, I then had to pass over my phone and camera whilst the officials inspected all photos, whilst I put my bags through a scanner. Luckily I did not have a laptop with me - as those who did were subjected to an even longer experience, having "sex" and "porn" searched through their files.

I was then quizzed on what the contents of my baggage was, before having to show them all my drugs. Going back to the desk I still had to wait whilst my photos were inspected. I was then told to have another temperature test before being able to wait in a painfully slow queue to hand in my passport for the immigration check.

Eventually I was able to leave Uzbekistan and walk towards Tajikistan - or so I thought, as right at the final exit point I was required to hand over my phone again for the border guard to check my photos, on which he proceeded to quiz me over this year's holiday snaps, whilst looking for photos of naked women.

3D Tajik Map

3D Tajik Map

Upon arrival into Tajikistan, the process was far simpler, although there was little signage and many empty buildings, I did eventually find the right way, where they quickly stamped my passport, jotted down my name and details and let me through. Of the two hour process, perhaps 5% of it was actually spent on the Tajik side....leaving a rather sour taste in the mouth for what had been an enjoyable trip to Uzbekistan. According to our guide, it was worse treatment than you receive leaving North Korea!

Wedding in Hisor

Wedding in Hisor

Nevertheless we continued our travel and en route to the Tajik capital, we stopped off at Hisor to view the castle, as well as gain an insight into the make-up of the country, as well as witnessing local wedding celebrations.

Dushanbe

Dushanbe

We then finally headed to the beautiful Dushanbe, the city surrounded by mountains, and covered in photos of the president.

One of the many presidential posters

One of the many presidential posters


Parliament

Parliament

We began opposite the parliament building, before entering the Rudaki Park, viewing the surrounding monuments and buildings like the Independence monument, Palace of the Nation and Flag Pole.

Rudaki Park

Rudaki Park

We then went to our hotel - the 5* Dushanbe Sheraton, treating ourselves to a bit of luxury after the stressful morning.

5*

5*

After a quick swim at the hotel pool, some of us then headed out to the restaurant, where we had our own private room - complete with, you guessed it, kebab meat, bread and soup.

Private Meal

Private Meal

After the busy stressful day, we then headed back to the hotel for a well earned rest in our luxurious rooms before tomorrow's long drive to the Fergana Valley.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged mountains wedding city parliament border centralasia Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]