M41 claims yet another victim

Trip Start Aug 07, 2009
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Tajikistan  ,
Wednesday, September 30, 2009



I have a discussion with the bike to try and sort out the front brake. I prevail but in a fit of pique she blows a bulb. That I can live with together with the usual sidestand switch fault and gearl level indicator fault. That's just normal for BMWs isn't it? Miss Direction also goes out in sympathy by failing to work!

My departure is slightly delayed finding the precious 80 octane petrol and by a policeman who insists I register. The start of the day is a great offroad climb up to Khaburabot Pass (3252m). I stop to take a few photos them I'm joined by two young cowherds. More photographs. Then a passing family stops. More handshakes, more photographs and then departures. There are two other checks on the climb but their all friendly and want to talk about the bike and where I've come from. There are often trucks on the piste but the only hazard they create are the clouds of dust they through up. The descent is equally exhilirating. The scenery is definitely changing. The hills are becoming lower with the snow clad peaks barely visible in the far distance.

I occasionally wonder why Sam said this was worse. Perhaps it is from the point of view of travelling in a car but from a biking point of view it is great.

All goes well for about 50 miles and then I realise why Sam forecast gloom and doom. The piste turns into sections of disintegrating tarmac mixed with piste mixed with gravel. I am only glad the weather is still glorious and that I'm not riding it in the wet. The mud would be a nightmare. Not only are there rockslides but there are also mudslides and the road has been carved through them. It's really only possible to approach it like riding offroad but it has neither the fun nor the excitement. I'm too busy looking for the next bone jarring pothole straddling the road.

It goes on an on and on. I stop for a break and keel over. I can't understand it. I've just negotiated 60 miles of offroad and I fall off while gently gliding to a halt. The reason soon becomes apparent. The other two bolts of the topbox frame have sheared and it and the spare tyres have been hanging to one side. At least a little pride is salvaged. Everything off. Bike up and careful thought to repacking and I'm away again. Strangely with the repacking, I and the bike feel more secure so I attack the rest of the day with a vengeance. Well, sort of. Let's not get too carried away.

Another check point and I'm told it's another 100k to Dushanbe. Oh yeh! Another 60 miles or so of the same except there are more vehicles on the road so there are more blinding dust trails to negotiate. It makes overtaking interesting. I get to Obigarm and find it is 90k to Dushanbe and the light is beginning to fade. BUT. But there is this dream road with smooth tarmac curving its way through the hills to Dushanbe. The hills are much lower now and riding this road is another sort of thrill.

Not that I've ever got anywhere close to it but I casually wonder what the speed limit is and how well the road is policed as I bomb along at 100kph. Pretty well from the number of oncoming cars flashing their headlights. Finally just after Fayzabad I am waved over by Tajikstan's finest. It is now dark and he just wants a chat and a glance at my pass. The momentum is broken and I decide to see if there is anywhere to stay locally. He directs me across the road. Motel he tells me. A row of white flagpoles stand gleaming outside. It looks promising. I don't care what it costs. I park the bike and enter a truckers' diner.

"Bed" I enquire.

"You want to eat?" a lady asks.

"Yes please but do you have a bed?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

I am pointed upstairs to an open balcony with a bed and lots of bedding at the far end. Maybe there is something on the next floor I think and start up a flight of stairs to some promising balconies. A helpful diner draws me back and points to the bed on the balcony.

"Washing?" I enquire. He points to the spigot in the yard.

"Toilet?" He points to a hut across a field.

Am I going to climb back on the bike and carry on in the dark? Oh sure!

The three ladies who run the place look after me well and I pay $4 for the meal and the bed.

As I drift off to sleep with the smell of onions cooking in my nostrils and the roar of the night traffic on the road to Dushanbe in my ears and think that the only casualty today was the topbox frame I promise to drink a toast the first chance I get to my heroes. The truck drivers of Tajikstan. They negotiate the most unbelievably bad roads, repair tyres and engines and keep the economy going. Your president owes you a great deal. He might start with improving the roads rather than issuing edicts about the length of beards of teachers over 50 (those under must be cleanshaven!). This a snippet from a friend.
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