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A Taste of War

When travelling through the ‘stans you have to expect the unexpected. This fact of life has never been as apparent as it was this week.

After a tough week of cycling through snow, hail, dust and mountains everyone was relieved to reach the city of Khorog for a well-deserved rest day. Roaming the streets and the markets on Monday was as relaxing as most rest days and the usual routine of getting the laundry done before we head off the next day took up most of our time on the precious day off.

Waking up on Tuesday though it was apparent that we were not going anywhere. Gunfire had started at about 3am in the city of Khorog and surrounds and we were stuck in a city under siege. How long this would last none of us knew and as communications in the city were cut off we were all effectively cut off from the outside world. As luck would have it the staff was staying in a different guest house than riders on this particular rest day and we were also unable to communicate with each other.

For most of us there were nothing to do but wait for three days while those with the means to communicate with satellite equipment worked tirelessly to organise a way for us to leave the city. After three days of waiting and wondering things had calmed down enough so we could travel through the city and the group could be reunited again. One day later we were all headed to Dushanbe with a convoy of six EU embassy vehicles. Some were a bit more shaken than others but everyone was safe – the most important thing.

Driving from Khorog to Dushanbe took two days and as we bumped along in our 4x4s through one of the most beautiful valleys on the trip the overwhelming feeling was one of jealousy because we weren’t able to ride this amazing road on our bicycles. The road followed hugged the border with Afghanistan and with high mountains towering above us on both sides and a beautiful river rushing along next to us we were mostly left dumbfounded.

However, no matter how jealous we were, the feeling of thankfulness was much greater and we know we can head off on the rest of our journey unscathed and well-rested. We all know the Silk Road has never been an easy journey to finish and this detour will not deter us. Everyone’s Iran visas have been approved and in eight weeks we will arrive in Istanbul with some amazing stories.

  — Catharina Robbertze


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