After three weeks and half of roaming in Iran, we finally took a flight to Dushanbe. For bad or good (I suppose we will never know) the Turkmenistan transit visa never materialized.
Going through Afghanistan was out of the question, and heading back to Arzebaijan to catch a ferry across the Caspian sea would have been too time consuming. So there we were, at the airport, with our bikes bubble wrapped the best way we could and some cheap Chinese-style bags fully loaded with our panniers, hoping that the tape would not give up on life too early.
Trying to speed learning the prestigious art of not-queuing, we made our way to the check-in area where we met Antoine, a French cyclist going the same direction as we were.
Once we dropped the bags and paid $4 for every extra kg of baggage allowed, we could finally relax. The three of us started dreaming about the first sip of beer we would have once landed in Dushanbe – although, personally, i was dreaming more about finally getting the rid of the hijab and the long trousers.
We impatiently waited for the TajikAir plane that would lead us towards freedom, hangover and emancipation. Not even the couple of hours delay, the gate confusion and the annoying bus from the gate to the plane could kill the mood.
The flight was good, the passports checks were lengthy, and the part when we load the bikes on a taxi was painful as always.
A short 3km ride to the Green House Hostel and we were in Paradise. Good working Wifi, no Internet restrictions, a few beers, munches, pizzas, the breeze between my hair, and the company never felt so good. We decided to assemble the bike in the morning and just enjoy the night. The vibe was electric, and the place was filled with young travellers and Mongol rally cars.
Most of them going towards the same direction: the Pamir Mountains. As much as we were looking forward to getting started with the most epic part of our journey, we had to do something else first. We didn’t want to miss the chance to visit Uzbekistan, so the day after we would start a couple of weeks loop around Bukhara and Samarkand.
In the morning, Ross put the bikes together while I unloaded the winter gear off the panniers. We had an unhealthy glorious cheese burger, we bid farewell to Antoine and off we were.
Getting back on the bike felt really good. In addition, we were riding on the notorious M41 – the same road that, done backword, would take us on the Tajik mountains at the beginning of September.
The ride was smooth and liberating, and eventually the Sun started setting. This time in front of us rather than on our back. For once, Rolling East was actually going West.