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Chapter 6. GOING HOME


Although returning home from Gorno-Badakhshan passed along the same way that our trip there, it was connected with great losses of nerves and money. And by the end of the trip I started to be very cautious and suspicious of the people who offered to help us for some compensation.

On making farewells to our friend Turat who sheltered us in his house on our way back again, in the bazaar we found a car that was leaving for Osh soon. And at about the noon we were shaking in small UAZ going along the Pamirs highway near lake Karakul. The road had been greatly damaged by rain, snow, mountain torrents and landslips for a few weeks that had passed since our arrival, and there were a lot of huge washed-out places then.

Kyrgyz landscape
Having passed frontier cordons we descended down the Alay Valley. And after Sarytash we started to ascend the pass Taldyk, which did not seem to me as unpleasant as last year anymore (that is quite natural, because now we were ascending the pass in the sunny weather and at daytime but not in the snow-storm at night). I did not stop turning my head and peering into Kamaz drivers faces, hoping to see uncle Zhenya, who helped us last year. He drove me and my friend out of frontier Irkeshtam and was probably holding his steering wheel not far from us at that moment.

Because of money shortage Lena and I were planning to spend a night in the tent somewhere in the outskirts of Osh . But when we shared this idea with our driver he told that we could stay at a cheap hotel that the two of our fellow travelers were going to. To tell the truth, this news calmed me greatly, and for the rest of our way to Osh I was not in pain anymore to think where and how we would pitch our tent in the darkness.

Alternative to the Sulayman Mountain
Osh beer
We spent a night in a hotel attached to Alaybaza for literally ridiculous money (less than 1 dollar for a person), and early in the morning we set off for the centre of the city to see one of the most important sights in Osh (if not the most important) the biggest bazaar in the Middle Asia (if you believe rumors). The Sulayman Mountain (which is indeed the most important site of Osh) remained not conquered again for the third time due to our eating and drinking in a cafe next to the bazaar. Osh is certainly a city very pleasant for transit, but I hope that sometime I will be able to stay there for a longer time.

The beer that we drank in the cafe in Osh was the last positive impression of Kyrgyzstan. What was going on further cannot be recollected without anger.

I will not concentrate on criticizing Kyrgyz militia who has long ago surpassed their notorious Uzbek counterparts in its corruption and love for bribes. This time everything was just the same as it had been the year before. Almost legal exactions on the road wait for any automobile car going along Kyrgyz roads, and 20 soms as a present to a militia-man have become an irrefutable rule there. I only had some interesting ideas that if you drive a lorry with watermelons through the whole country it will cost just the same as if you were driving the lorry full of Kalashnikov guns. Because these damned 20 soms are a steady guarantee for a driver that his car and the load will not be examined by a militia-man. My hatred to Kyrgyz militia was supported by a recent event in Bishkek, when a sum of money mysteriously disappeared from my wallet during the militia examination. As I was told in Murghab, this became such a usual practice there that no one is going to be surprised, treating such disappearances as a natural form of loss. However, law enforcers over CIS are seldom decent people, and we could get accustomed to it long ago, but to face the truckers who steal was rather new to us.

I ought to have been alerted immediately, when in Osh we were offered to go to Bishkek for money in the cab of a truck. Indeed, a normal trucker will never take money from traveler; quite the opposite, these are the heartiest people in the world who would help a traveler even if he does not ask for it. But we agreed to go for a little bit less money than it was offered everywhere. There was only one term: one of us would have to lie inside the back of the cab, until militia posts are over. At these posts one of the drivers went out of the truck at times, in order to give a supposed bribe. Frankly speaking, I am utterly nervous to go anywhere if I do not see where I am driven. I got used to knowing the direction of my route over the globe and consider it very important. That is why I was very angry at knowing that there would be four people in the cab instead of three as it had been promised before. But it was too late to quarrel with them and get out of the car. Now, when we were at a considerable distance from Osh, it would be much more difficult to find an empty car going to Bishkek. Our teeth gritting, we decided not to get into passion, because it was more important for us to get home faster than to hold on our principle. We stopped in a roadside cafe overnight. The money we had in our pockets was not enough to pay, so Lena went to fetch it some more from our bag in the truck. The foul drivers were inside and saw clearly where she had taken our hard-earned money from. They hurried to Bishkek very much and therefore hurried us, too. Lena ran to the cafe, the bag remaining in the car. It was obviously at that moment that these two bustards took out from our bag 400 soms, which were rather a big sum for us then. But we found out this loss only in Kazakhstan . The more irritating was the fact that we could not revenge these jerks in a proper way

As a matter of fact, there was nothing to be surprised at. The Kyrgyz living in Kyrgyzstan (I understood that they and the Kyrgyz from the Pamirs are two almost absolutely different nations) one more time proved their shitlike nature (I tried to choose another word for a long time, but could not find an intelligent word expressing so fully my attitude to these people, that is why I left the first variant).

So, it turned out that one of the most important conclusions of our journey was reluctance to get to Bishkek and even Kyrgyzstan once again. I do not want to blame everyone at once without any evidence, but the tendency we discovered during our trip makes me think that if we go to Bishkek one more time, we will go there only in the tank. When our trip was over, I read about the further wanderings of the Norway cyclist Herman whom we met in Almaty. I was not even surprised to know that his camera had been stolen in Kyrgyzstan and he had had numerous problems with the militia there.

At the same time, I have a strong desire to continue my investigating this knot of contradictions in the very heart of Asia. And I hope that in future I will succeed in getting to the Afghan part of the Wakhan Valley, crossing the pass Barogil and getting to the legendary Chitral in Pakistan. And, of course, I will always remember Gorno-Badakhshan and its people with great thankfulness, hoping to be their guest one more time.

Having arrived in Almaty and come to the station, we faced a crowd of helpers who offered to buy tickets to Karaganda for the price which was as least twice higher than the par. Obviously, there were no tickets in the booking-offices. And, it was more obvious that it had happened due to organized illegal activity of cashiers, their administration, helpers and other people including top-ranking officials of the railway who try trouble you out of the blue and then help you for your own money. I was overflowed with hatred and told to one of the assistants everything I thought about their activity in coarse expressions. Fortunately, bus transportations are not subject to such kind of jobbery, and we were able to leave for Karaganda that very evening.

I also understood that hitchhiking (both chargeable and free) as a means of transport is not for me. And in future I plan to use either regular routes charged with definite sums of money, or free transport of my friends. But most of all I will like (as I did like before) independent moving around the world thanks to my muscles, either on foot or by bike. For the most important in the journey is the feeling of unlimited freedom. And in order to feel free I will go on my wandering throughout the globe.

Vitaliy Shuptar, 2007
Translation from Russian Olesya Pokhlebina, 2008
Photo Vitaliy Shuptar, Yelena Kim, Alexandr Yermolyonok, 2007

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