From Samarkand I followed a quick half-day of cycling to the border of Tajikistan. There, snowcapped mountains began to frame the picturesque, green valleys I at first cycled through, leading me up to the Pamir Mountains. The latter is in fact a plateau at between 3,600 and 4,600 meters of altitude, with a much more moon-like, desolate landscape than the vegetated one down in the valleys, which rivers the plateau feeds.
It was one of the odd experiences of this trip, having cycled through numerous deserts, when temperatures now dropped below zero at night and often peaked at only about 10 degree Celsius at daytime. I had no clothing for that kind of weather – especially considering that this winter and spring had been the longest and wettest in 20 years for Tajikistan. But I waited out the rainy days, and invested in some made-in-China clothes at the bazaar in Dushanbe. It was just enough to make it through. And it was definitely worth it – absolutely breathtaking scenery, and great hospitality. I could finally conclude that hospitality wasn’t only in the desert – it’s simply so that the fewer the people, the more friendly they are.
After a week in those highlands, I slowly rolled down to Kashgar in China at 1,500 meters via a two-day trip through Kyrgyzstan. Kashgar is - with 250 kilometers to Kyrgyzstan, 400 kilometers to Tajikistan, less than 1,000 kilometers to Pakistan and 4,500 kilometers to Beijing – not very Chinese at all. Rather it is a main city for the Uighur people – one of the country’s many ethnic minorities – and spiced up by each of it’s close-by country neighbors. It’s also at great contrast with cities across Central Asia, with a great bustle instead of the previous’ tidy order. Anyway, I’ll write more about China – or it’s different parts – as I travel along. It will take between two and three months to reach Beijing – first heading northeast towards Urumqi, then straight east along the ‘northern Silk Road’ (in fact a highway) – in total some 2,000 or so kilometers of desert.
Last but not least, it’s fitting with a poem by modern Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri, without any comments:
“We should go under the rain.
We should wash our eyes,
And we should see the world in a different way.”