Tajikistan 2016

Lyon. Arrived in Paris by bus, took the first metro then another 1.5 hours by bus to Beauvais, then a flight to Bratislava, then another flight to Moscow and then onwards to Dushanbe. Finally. Or so I hoped.

It wouldn’t be a trip if it hadn’t started off with with some complications.

The evening flight to Dushanbe was cancelled and we had to wait for the next flight at 7.00 a.m. I had no choice as to stay at the airport, while all Tajiks were placed into a hotel. I had no transit visa. So I had to stay at the airport for 12 hours. One kind Tajik decided to keep me company, so I had a soul to whisper to. After a sleepless night, finally we were going to board our flight at gate 19. Two hours before our flight, we were informed that the flight was leaving one hour later, from the same gate. All Tajiks jumped, took their bags, suitcases, packs, boxes and quickly ran to take a row. When I saw them running chaotically, I wanted to do so too. I felt like I had missed something. I checked my watch – we still had 2 hours till our flight. Tajiks are always in a hurry to be first.

Time was moving slowly. Tajiks kept standing like an army. Some felt tired and finally decided to sit down. Then some more information; that the gate was changed from 19 to 20. Tajiks again took their bags, suitcases, packs, boxes and ran like crazy, jumping over the benches in order to form a new row at gate 20. Until I realised what happened, all Tajiks were already standing still at gate 20. We still had more than one hour left until the flight. I kindly allowed all stressed out Tajiks to get to the airplane first. I was sure that the airplane would wait for me. At the airplane they set up a real street market. Packs, bags and Tajiks were everywhere, some wanted to keep their stuff with themselves, some couldn’t find place where to place them, some decided to open their things to find something, some lost their luggage…stewardesses tried to calm down the crowd.

– Mister, sit down please, our flight is taking off.

– Mister, don’t go to the toilet, that’s not allowed yet.

– Ma’am, please bring back your kid and keep him by your knees.

– Mister, leave your bags in place, nobody will take it…

I felt that I was still missing something… soon after the stewardesses gave out candies to everybody, anxious travellers calmed down immediately. All Tajiks were busy sucking on candy. Silence. The airplane took off. Tajiks again left their places. They started going to the bathroom, checked to see if bags were not lost, others seemed to be looking for something, others would be talking… then lunch time came and a few minutes after, all Tajiks were having their siesta period. It was calm like in a cemetery and it stayed that way until our arrival. I hardly can imagine what would be at a flight full of Tajiks where candies and food wouldn’t be included.


At the passport checkpoint, all Tajiks pushed me to go first. In their culture, women have priority and men never let them wait. I was impressed. Men refused to check their passports until I got to do that first. So sweet of them. My Tajik friends came to pick me up. In order not to waste any precious time, on that same day with one Tajik companion we went to see Iskandarkul Lake. At the market place we found a taxi. Drivers seeing me (tourist) would immediately ask 150 dollars ONE way! We finally found a driver who was ok to take us for 250 Somoni (28 dollars) for two passengers and a 4 hour drive. Another Tajik friend who stayed back in Dushanbe told us that when we left in a taxi, the first taxi driver (the most expensive one) started a fight with that one who had asked for 100 dollars. He accused him of stealing the clients. They were both super expensive anyway. And while they were fighting, we calmly relaxed in our car enjoying nice new views for only 14 dollars (125 somoni) each!

Drivers are naughty in Tajikistan. Never trust them. Always check prices before getting into a car and ask n times to be sure that it’s exactly what you are going to pay ! Even if you need to go just few kilometres, they will ask first how much you’ll pay. It’s possible to negotiate, always negotiate! Hitchhiking is possible too but really hard specially on complicated roads and on the trajectories on which they  earn good money like Dushanbe-Khorog, Khorog-Murghab, Kurghab-Khargush (there are no even cars on this way as it’s a very bad road and nobody wants to damage their cars, so if you find a car, it will be super expensive. Usual price is 0.75 dollar per 1km (I talk about official trips with tourist organisation cars) but they often ask more. Drivers usually work just for themselves covering under the name of tourism organisation (that have nothing to do here), so need to negotiate for a smaller price and don’t believe their stories. Negotiate hard. They don’t give up easily! Always have cash on you, since you never know what can happen and to find possibility to take money out your card can hardly come.

On our way to Iskandarkul, we passed by lots of restaurants, hotels and other facilities located along the road. It’s a super famous direction where Tajiks like to come to along with families on the weekends. It is rather nice there, very green and lush, and not so far from the capital.

After a few hours driving we arrived.  It was the first week of July and it was surprisingly cold there. Locals told me that the region is usually like that. While in Dushanbe was 43°C, and over here it was a cool 15°C, and it was windy and rainy. I wasn’t ready for such a surprise. Rain was unexpected. It was worth it still, as later we saw 3 rainbows just over the lake. Beautiful.

At this lake there is a presidential villa. The president has lots of villas and not enough time to enjoy each one of them often, so he comes here just only once every 1.5 – 2 years.

If you follow a short trek along a river, you will arrive at a beautiful waterfall. One day is enough time to see these beauties or few more days if the weather is sunny, so you could explore more.

Ask several times just to be sure about how much you will be paying for your hotel room! I failed at that, so that’s why I mention it. With a local friend, we asked the price for one room with 2 beds. They told us a price, but the next day when I had to pay for it, they asked to pay double price as we were two persons. They change prices every minute and sometimes if you don’t fight right at the start, later it will be too late. One hundred meters before the hotel, some locals placed a boom barrier and asked to pay for letting our car continue the trip! It was just too much and my Tajik friend managed to pass by without paying. We argued. They have no right to place a boom barrier on a public road just because the said road passes by their house.


Back to Dushanbe (Dushanbe means ‘Sunday’ in Tajik). I arrived here on the last day of Ramadan. The city was full of people buying food, cakes. Well dressed kids were going from door to door asking for sweets or money. It looked very similar to Halloween, just without costumes.

Tajiks don’t look very emotional or they just manage to hide it very well, but if you need help, they won’t waste any time. In a few blinks of the eye, everything will be organized.

The capital is still full of Soviet ‘elements’ such as vintage telephone boxes, vending machines with drinks, old busses…and people keep dressing in a traditional way in order to protect their heritage. Distances here are rather vast, so it is always better to take a shared taxi.

In Dushanbe it can be hard to find a bus station. There are always some people standing at a road waiting for something. If you see them, that usually means that you have just found a bus station. If you are two people waiting for a bus or shared taxis, then extend your hand and with your fingers show a number ‘two’. If the taxi is full, it will pass you by without stopping, but if there are free places, then it will stop. These shared taxis are usually adapted for 9 passengers and charge 1.50 Somoni for a ride. Cars for 4 people will ask twice as much.

It is possible to eat well in Dushanbe for 26 Somoni. In almost all restaurants it is possible to find fried eggs with sausages and Plov (rice with carrots and meat).


THE ROAD TO KHOROG WITH VIEWS OF AFGHANISTAN

Then came the day when I could finally go to Pamir. The bus from Dushanbe to Khorog leaves at 8.00a.m. (350 Somoni each way). Front seats always cost 20-30 Somoni more. It takes around 16 hours to arrive at our destination. All passengers usually know each other and the driver will bring everyone to their front door, especially when it’s late at night.

On our way we stopped twice in order to have a meal, twice to repair a car, and we passed by 3 check points. One Chinese guy had an expired visa, but after offering cash to a police guy, he went by without complications and time wasted (it is required to have a visa and a special permit to visit Pamir). It seems easy to arrange solutions for any complications in this country, as long as you have enough money.

The driver was a funny guy. We were obliged to listen to very loud Tajik music all the way along. This helped our driver to not fall asleep. Roads are in very bad shape. It takes time, a good car and a competent driver in order to take passengers over to the other side of this country. The Chinese are building a motorway, so we hope that soon the ride will take much less time, and it will be safe and save passengers a bit of money too, as the road will be adapted to every type of vehicle. Nowadays it’s possible to drive on these roads with a simple passenger car as well (though I hardly saw any locals risking it), but it would take much longer (if it rains, you will be stuck). While driving, you need to be very concentrated, especially when driving along a river. It happens that cars may fall off a slope.

Our road was now going along River Panj. This river is called “the river of 5 rivers” and is a local pride. On the other side of it is Afghanistan. It was a hugely exotic experience for me to see two countries at the same time.

The Tajik road would soon be covered by asphalt, while on the Afghan side villages are connected just by modest, sandy roads along the river. In some places that road was covered by rock debris that fell off the mountain sides, thus isolating the locals from any outside contact. It was the last day of Ramadan. Lots of Afghans were walking kilometres to see their friends and families in other villages, but it was not going to be a nice day for everyone. In one place a part of the road was cut off by water running down a mountain. A group of locals was isolated by that. It was sad to observe these poor villages. Some of them, just recently got electricity. Tajiks told me that the Aga Khan organisation helped Afghans to get electricity, but unfortunately some radical assholes would blow up an electricity pole and the villagers again were obliged to live without any light and to be completely isolated from the outside world. One of Afghans everyday activity is to observe the Tajik side of the border. It is strictly forbidden to cross the river. Those who tried were shot down immediately.

Afghan life in comparison with the life on the other side of river looked super hard, poor and isolated. Even Tajiks sometimes felt sad looking at their Afghan neighbours, but what could they do?

The real hero in Pamir is Aga Khan and his non-profit organisation (this organisation exists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and other places). They build bridges, roads, channels and other infrastructure. The poor receive lots of help now, but Pamir had always had a tough life, especially after the Soviet Union was dissolved.

A war between brothers (in the Western part of Tajikistan), touched Pamir too but in a different way. The territory was completely isolated from the outside world and suffered a lot from such isolation. All roads to Pamir were closed, no local production of any kind took place, including food. Then Aga Khan came to help. He organised the import of the food from Osh (Kyrghystan) to feed hungry Pamirians. Lots of Tajiks escaped to Afghanistan between 1991-1992 and Aga Khan helped them too. So the 11th July is celebrated as the day when Aga Khan became the leader of all Ismailis (a Shia sect) of the world. Pamirians adore him. In every house there is his picture hanging on a wall. The picture of a true hero.


PAMIR

I stayed for a few days at a village named Roshtkala, living with my local ‘family’. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Khorog. It’s a small, cute village where there is a school, a bank and a stadium.

The air and water in Pamir are pure. Pamiri water is special. It flows from glaciers or from natural springs in the mountains. Each spring had different minerals with health benefits. I never had such soft and glittering hair in my entire life as I had in Pamir. The Aga Khan organisation is present in many villages where they built pipes to bring water to every house. Inhabitants of the villages just pay for electricity.

Roshtkala, like all other villages, has lots of old, traditionally-built houses. These houses have a specific structure that protects them during earthquakes. If the earthquake is strong, the walls could fall down while the roof would stay still. This past year they already had around 200 small earthquakes. Earthquakes happen so often that the locals have stopped paying attention.

The interesting connection between people and the landscape is reflected in one of the oldest traditional elements of a ‘chid’ (traditional Pamiri house), which is a skylight, or ‘roetz’. Constructed as part of the roof, it is a window placed on top of a small dome made of four spiralling concentric wooden squares. These squares represent the sacred Zoroastrian elements that form the foundation of all aspects of life, and underlie people’s relations with the land and their food: the air they breath, the water they drink, the earth to grow crops, and fire to prepare food.

Earth is so scarce in Pamir that houses were once built only on top of rocks (to be closer to God) or other places that were impossible to cultivate. The houses usually don’t have any furniture, just carpets and mattresses for sleeping. Through the year, the family usually sleeps in the same room. For guests they always provide a separate room. During the winter, life here is very tough. It’s super cold and the whole family lives in just one room where there is a chimney while other rooms remain unheated.

There are less traditional families too who try to live the European way, having a separate room for each member of the family; plus having tables, chairs, shelves… Usually they draw examples from Russian architecture. Russians like this country and lots Tajiks go to Russia for work and study. Tajikistan as a country is a close friend of Turkmenistan as well so people from these two countries can visit each other, work or study without needing a visa or any other complications.

In Pamir women have more freedom than in the rest of Tajikistan. In Pamir women and men share housework, and partners are equal, while in the west in the country women do all the housework by themselves. Before doing anything, Tajik women have to have their husbands’ permission first. Men decide. They don’t even have the right to talk to other men, aside from relatives. It’s a kind of tradition as they say. In Pamir it is not a problem if a daughter wants to study in another town or another country, or if she wants to travel or go abroad to work; while Tajiks (in the western part of Tajikistan) try to keep their wives on a tight leash. “My wife going abroad!????” shouted one Tajik “She is my wife, she has to be home!”. He couldn’t even imagine how it is possible to let her go anywhere. They are jealous in general. Pamirians seem much more open-minded and easygoing than Tajiks.

People are poor (a teacher’s salary is around 50 dollars per month) but they are noble at heart: friendly, helpful and really glad to host a traveller. Some even organize your stay at their place without informing you and it’s super hard to refuse their kindness. Even while being in a local market, I was lucky to receive some propositions from people willing to host me for free. They really love to share, to hear stories, to learn. They are talkative but unfortunately, usually they don’t speak English, so it’s best if you speak Russian.

There is an old tradition in which women would be responsible for keeping the keys for the mill, the storage room and bedrooms. Nowadays, women are also responsible for the household upkeep, the budget, and of course, the keys. Cleanliness in the kitchen is a must. That is how they show respect for the food. The whole house is usually kept clean as well, as neighbours can come by whenever they want and spread rumours if it’s dirty.

In Pamir they grow the same vegetables as those found in Northern Europe – tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, beans. Imported produce is almost not found here as the local inhabitants are poor.

Boch – traditional Pamir food. It takes 5 hours to prepare. Before cooking it, inhabitants collect money and buy together the food and cook it. This food is prepared only for special big days, like marriage, a national holiday or a funeral. And everybody from the village comes around to eat it. Every family has a huge 100-litre “dish” to cook this meal with.

Bread is highly revered in Pamir. They never throw it out. Tea with milk and fresh or old bread provides a simple but nutritional meal. Flour soups are very popular too. Osh soup is one of the most famous and it is very delicious.

They respect animals. I never saw any hungry, disabled, or aggressive stray dog. Dogs usually are big and super kind, real cuties. They always ask for food but if you don’t have it, you can just share some time with them and they will give you back much more love.

As there are lots of poor people living in these villages, they usually walk long distances by foot. They may try to stop a car along the way. At the end of a car ride, a passenger will always leave some money for the driver even if he is very poor. Some drivers don’t take any money for the help, surprising the passenger by such kindness. I never did any hitchhiking here, but seeing how the drivers behave, it makes me think that it has to be a bit tough to travel here this way. Even poor locals pay for a ride, so why would a traveller get to ride for free? For sure, it is possible to meet kind, helpful drivers, but it’s hard. Most people expect to be paid for helping. The best is to hitchhike with trucks as there is a chance that they may have free space and will take you, but it will take much longer to travel this way than by riding in a passenger car.

Once we were driving towards Barchid village – the road covered by beautiful landscapes. One man who worked in Aga Khan organisation found some free time to bring me, to visit 3 places where women were working on making Kashmir threads. I had even chance to try to make some threads by myself but this work need lots of hands dexterity. Bought threads and Kashmir socks were the best gift I could bring to my parents from this country. Kashmir threads production is supported by Aga Khan organisation and rich Switzerland organisations which prefer to support others than paying bigger taxes.


A shared car trip from Khorog to Murghab will cost 15 dollars each way and it takes about 6 hours to cross the distance. At the bus station in Khorog there are lots of cars. Their departure time depends on how fast they will find enough passengers to fill the car. But if you pay more, the car can leave earlier.

There is a nice road from Khorog to Murghab via Ishkashim. Shared cars rarely go that way. Regular taxis go to Khorog-Ishkashim but a further trip is more complicated. It’s possible to find a shared car at the last village situated by the river side but no further. To find another car to pass through the mountains to Murghab is nearly impossible. You need to rent a car for that in a nearby town, as in these poor villages you can be stuck for good. To make your trip easier I would advise to drive from Khorog to Murghab by shared car, and on the way back to Khorog, drive via Ishkashim with a rented car or vice versa. Lots of travellers cooperate in order to save money, because from Murghab to Korog via Ishkashim will cost at least 300 dollars. Be ready to negotiate! Don’t give up!


In Murghab. 80% of its inhabitants are Kyrgyz. They have even Tajik and Kyrgyz schools placed close to each other. Most of local products arrive here from Osh, Kyrgyzstan as it’s much closer than Dushanbe (about a 2 day ride by car). It’s really hard to live here. There is no green nature. To find fruit or vegetables is almost impossible, as they don’t grow here and imported produce is very expensive. Usually the locals eat meat (cow, sheep), conserves, cookies, candies, noodles. Watermelon was the only fruit I managed to find here.

When they invite you for a cup of tea, they always put on a table cookies, candies, nuts and for sure, it happens that they will serve you beforehand some meat and soup. They drink lots of tea and they like to add some milk to it. Tea is imported from Dushanbe. South of the capital there are the main agricultural fields, which provide the country with different natural produce and tea as well. In the west of Pamir (closer to Khorog), the locals have their own vegetables and fruits too, but just in August, which is much later than in the western part of the country where the climate is warmer. In some places in Pamir they eat fish too which they obtain from local rivers.

Some people put out yurts (tents) to live in during the summer and during the winter period, they go back to living inside the houses. If you wish to see the traditional lifestyle and ride a camel, then you need to drive at least 70km towards the Chinese border.

People are super hospitable and try to do the best for their guests. They will feed you, give you a place to sleep and will never ask for money, but I think it would be respectful for a guest to pay around 70 Somoni (8 Euros) for a night with a meal for 2 persons. In the end  it’s not that much.

Driving back to Roshtkala via Ishkashim (I was lucky to negotiate the car price down). Finally I saw why the drivers are not motivated at all to drive this way and will ask lots of money for it. The road going via Yangidavan Pass to the Afghan border is really super bad. It crosses the mountains, rocky road and there is no chance that someone will improve the road any time soon. On our way I saw some travellers on bikes. They were suffering.

We arrived at the first village at the border. There is a small hotel where they ask 80 Somoni per night per person, food included. I still prefer to stay with the locals. In this village people usually ask to pay for hosting a guest. They are so poor that I can understand them. They ask half of what the hotels charge, but they will try to help you as much as they can. They can teach you things, show you how they live and retell a hundred stories. When I arrived here, I just asked the group of people (my knowledge of Russian language was super useful) I met if they knew someone who could host me and my driver, and immediately they found a place for me. It’s useless to take a sleeping bag for the trip unless you plan to stay in your own tent. Locals will provide you with all needed items. For this trip, it is better to take with yourself some vaseline for your lips and sunblock as the weather here is rather dry, and sunny and it is impossible to find such products here.

Pish – which means ‘kitten’ in a local dialect. A four-year-old girl took the initiative to be my teacher. She and her three kittens were my main company during this short stay. Her mother showed me how to make bread.

Lots of people in this region look very charismatic and sympathetic. Their dark red hair, blue eyes give them a unique charm.

I advise to take some anti-pain medications with yourself. My stomach didn’t agree to living a few days without vegetables, fruits and had a huge revolution during the trip in eastern Pamir. Watermelon was the only rescue that my stomach could accept.

Then an early Sunday morning drive to Ishkashim – 100km. I’m surprised. All inhabitants seem to be already woken up. It’s 7.00am and everybody seems to be going somewhere. Most people don’t have a car so each day they walk many kilometres.

Iskashim is very poor. People work just the fields here. There is no police, no local administration workers. On our way I saw a few places with healing water where lots of locals come for treatment. The best place is called ‘Bibi Fatima‘. To get there, you need to drive 8km up from the main road. The ruins of the Yamchun Fortress are located on the way there.

From time to time I saw shepherds in the mountains. From the beginning of May until September, shepherds graze the villagers’ sheep. They spend four months up high in the mountains and when the cold comes, they come down close to the villages.

“Do you have a husband?” police in the checkpoints each time felt the obligation to ask this most important question. Tajiks are a very curious people. The question about my husband and my tattoo were the most frequent. The one thing that surprised me a lot – a lot locals didn’t know what being ‘gay’ meant and nobody had ever heard of having anyone like that in the country. Incredible.

Every Saturday, close to Ishkashim at the border with Afghanistan there’s a big open market. On that day almost all types of exchange take place between traders from as far as northern Tajikistan and southern Afghanistan. Most of my Tajik acquaintances told me that they try to avoid buying food from Afghans as they are dirty and their food can have different types of microbes. That opinion comes from Tajiks’ observation of their extremely poor Wakhan neighbours’ lifestyle because Afghans from northern Afghanistan hardly have any access to water and live in poor conditions. But other types of Afghan products are very welcomed by Tajiks.


GOING BACK TO DUSHANBE

After a few more days spent with my Pamirian family, there came the time to leave back to Dushanbe. A 4×4 vehicle arrived early in the morning. I won’t lie, Tajiks drive like crazy, specially the drivers on the route from Dushanbe to Khorog. The trip is long and they are very much in a hurry to arrive home as fast as possible.

After some minutes driving, my driver caused an accident. That was the very first time in my life I had been in a car crash. I hurt my head. The front of the car was smashed. The driver tried to keep positive and thought first to call people in order to arrange a new car for the travellers. We arrived at Khorog by minibus where another car was waiting to take us to the capital. Finally, in a new comfortable car. We had on board a partridge – that bird was being carried by another traveler. Sadly the future of those birds is not funny, as they would be trained for fighting.

Impossible, another accident! It was just 3 hours since the first one. There are hardly any cars going this distance without having an accident, but it was not my day. We were stuck, but lucky that our car didn’t fall down the river. We were in a zone with no telephone signal, it was super hot and I was thirsty as the water was gone. The only ones to whom our problem was an attraction, the inhabitants of an Afghan village. They were sitting comfortably in the shade observing us while we suffered in the hot sun without any shade around. It was hard to find any other car going to Dushanbe, as it was late (almost midday). Usually everybody who goes to the capital start their trip very early in the morning. Luckily, one car took a few travellers and after another 30 minutes a minibus was passing by and took me and 2 more guys.

I was in bad shape. My head still hurt, I was thirsty, hungry, felt sick and it was super uncomfortable to sit in that car. I had no choice. I didn’t expect a good ride anyway. After a few hours we had to replace a tire. It’s a usual procedure on such bad roads. The driver didn’t accept any money. As I had already paid the first driver, it was his responsibility to transfer the money to the next drivers. All drivers know each other here so nobody is afraid of being cheated.

We saw an old man begging along the way. Our bus stopped and everybody gave him some money. What kindness.

It was impossible to find fruits and vegetables on our way, so if you need them, buy everything in advance, as soon you have the possibility to do so.

I was in Dushanbe at around 3am! It took almost 21 hours to get there! I was dead.

My new Tajik friend (who escorted his sister, with whom I became friends, to a bus station when we were going Dushanbe-khorog) came to pick me up. In the morning he cooked for me and tried to help as much as he could. I was still in bad shape. Tajikistan has super limited access to Facebook and in general they don’t have such good internet links. I had problems connecting with Afghans, my next trip friends.

In the capital it is really hot, no fresh air to breath, as there is too much pollution. After Pamir, it was a very drastic change for me. The main square of Dushanbe is a very important meeting place. There is a lot of greenery and an artificial waterfall where I spent most of my outside time while in the capital.

Each time sellers tried to cheat me out at a market by increasing the prices 2-3 fold. My friend had to negotiate all the time and ask to explain why suddenly stuff became so expensive. I was just too tired and in too poor a shape after my last car trip.

Then finally we headed off to the airport. I had a bad intuition and I was right. My flight was postponed from 8pm to 4am. I came back at 2am. My local friends accompanied me. Again I had a bad intuition. I lost (or someone stole) my immigration paper! That was a huge fuck-up! I had no idea how it was lost, as all my papers were put together in one place. Damn it. “We can’t let you leave our country” someone told me at the reception. Damn it, damn it. I need to get out of here. I went through check-in but that was all I could do, and there were at least five more gates to pass through. Damn it! They escorted me to a special security office as if I was a major criminal. It was just a simple paper that was handwritten with a little information about me and because of that paper scrap I was in so much trouble. It was the night from Friday to Saturday. Saturday was the last day of validity for my visa and Tajiks decided to keep me there until the next week and take me to court! Damn it. I was running out of money and no more visa, the flight to Kabul was available only once a week! I wish I had some useful local contacts from a immigration and human rights organizations but Facebook didn’t work and I didn’t manage to find their phone numbers and call them in order to arrange a solution. I was completely alone in deeper shit that my imagination could conceptualise.

Finally they agreed to let me board my flight if I paid 1000 Somoni (around 120 Euros) and I had just 100 Euros. The last money I had in my pocket. They accepted that, as they were not motivated to keep me without any use here. They told me to keep silence because if I didn’t I wouldn’t fly anywhere. I was scared enough. Those assholes were just looking for the chance to rob a traveller and maybe they exaggerated their threats in order to get more money. They had full freedom to do whatever they wanted with me. Finally with escorting me through security I passed all the required gates smoothly and wait for my flight. I was so stressed out that because of my huge stomach pain I couldn’t move from a toilet floor for 30 minutes.  I was laying on the ground like dead.  It was the biggest stress I ever had in my life. When finally I arrived at Kabul, I was so happy that Afghans couldn’t understand what was going on with me, as usually locals are happy when they leave this country, more so than when arriving.

But I was too naive thinking that I had left behind my Tajik problems. Nope, they came back next day but in different shape. I will talk about that in my Afghan adventures next.

Crazy, from my three country trip – Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, my friends were wrong; they were the least afraid for me in the first part of the trip. I had to bet with them 1000 Somoni on that!

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Diana Vaneta

In my stories you won't find lots of descriptions of visited and seen beauties. Usually such information is easy to find on the internet. For me, the most important is how visiting places and meeting people made me feel. The real beauty of a country can hardly be described by words. In order to preserve privacy, all the names of persons in my stories are changed. And unfortunately my destinations are not intended for lazy, comfort-searching tourists. My priority is to explore countries which are considered ‘dangerous', complicated or out of the average lists of tourist destinations and mainly involve places, which there is little or no information about. You would ask, why? My answer is, because usually in those countries people tend to be the most incredibly welcoming, friendly, respectful, helpful. Every time I leave them, I leave a piece of me with my newfound family.

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