In August I returned from my paragliding expedition to Tajikistan and I think I’ve finally recovered enough to write a short trip report!
It was a long 30+ hours of planes and waiting in airports to get from Melbourne to the capital, Dushabe. After the usual haggling with the taxi mafia we were on our way north towards the mountains. The drive itself was quite exciting being crammed in with 8 others in a beat up old four-wheel drive. We passed through the infamous Anzob “tunnel of death”; 6 kms of unventilated, half-flooded and unlit tunnel, feeling a little light-headed from all the diesel fumes.
We spent the next day hiking high into the mountains hoping for a long flight. When we took off we were a bit nervous about altitude sickness but quickly rocketed up to over 5000m! It was absolutely stunning being surrounded by snowy peaks in all directions and only the odd vulture or eagle for company. We landed after 125km, severely dehydrated but with big smiles!
The next week was much of the same with big flights and the occasional landing in small villages where we would be warmly welcomed with fresh yoghurt, honey and endless tea. The people went out of their way to help us with offers of food, fuel for our stove and comfy beds which were all greatly appreciated.
Unfortunately the good luck couldn’t last forever and we were stopped by a military checkpoint where we didn’t have the official stamp required to continue on. What followed was five days of the hardest walking and scrambling I think I’ll ever do. Part of the problem was our reliance on soviet military maps from the 1950’s and these were often horribly inaccurate. We would spend hours bashing through head high scrub or climb loose cliffs only to bump into a shepherd who would tell us there was a perfectly good track on the other side of the valley! After destroying our feet with endless scree walking and dangerous river crossings we finally cleared our final high pass.
After one last night under the stars we had a pleasant final flight down to the valley below. We were quickly invited in for soup under the apricot trees which was typical of Tajik hospitality and a lovely way to end the adventure.
The trip pushed me right to the edge of my physical limits but was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. I’ve decided to temporarily retire from adventuring for a while and just potter around the garden in Porepunkah. Once the body is properly rested I’ll start dreaming of the next big trip.