In The Middle Of Bloody Nowhere

Let’s cut to the chase: this is real yak blood left to rot in the middle of the street, and an actual yak hoof left to rot in the dumpster. Both nothing short of boring details in the life of Murghab. A town sitting in the middle of bloody nowhere.

Last night, when we rolled into this ¬†place we thought it sucked ass. It was cold, we were wet and we had been riding for two hours behind a pack of uber-charged Kamaz trucks. But rest assured:even if the camels have been replaced by the 4-wheelers and the silk by the heroin, the Silk Road has remained as relevant as ever. So have the towns scattered along this famous network of roads. Murghab is one of them. We have raced up to here hoping for a hot shower and a cheap bed, as other travelers promised, yet we found little more than a pricey hotel where the watchman can’t be bothered to heat us a bucket of water. Oh, well… Maybe should’ve stayed behind with our cyclists friends, but frankly sleeping another night at altitude in a dripping wet tent sounded nightmarish.

The good thing is that in the morning we are awaken by brilliant sun and clear sky. So everything looks good. On closer inspection, the market is plentiful and there are many cafes zooming with hungry workingmen. We enjoy a nice cuppa and a steaming plate of yak dumplings with.

The bazaar is a cluster of metal containers arranged on three rows. We restock on canned fish, dried fruits and nuts, fresh vegetables, condensed milk and crackers… you know, a traveler’s staple. Ana locates a small dairy shop selling exclusively yak products: butter, kurut (curd cheese), milk, yoghurt.

The market is a riot. But as Murghab is a kyrgyz enclave, the tajik brick houses have been replaced by the yurts of the nomads. People with high cheekbones burnt by the sun, slanted eyes, the kind of features that seem to appear indigenously in Asia, right alongside the Pamir mountains and the yaks. All women cover theirs faces in colorful scarves to protect their skin from the merciless wind; men wear quirky embroidered hats that were said to have been introduced to the nation by a kyrgyz king who wanted to hide his donkey ears under. But this is a story for another time.

Just hours after our arrival at our second attempt at a cheap home-stay in Murghab, down reveals the stunning contours of mountains against a rosy sky. 93% of Tajikistan territory is mountainous and its glaciers feed the crops of many of its Central Asian neighbors. Yet, as the night-time blackout kicks in, it reminds us that much of the population has electricity only 2 hours per day. So I feel ashamed to complain that  our Apple charger bought in Tbilisi was roasted during the blackout. People here have much bigger problems to cope with than updating travel blogs.

After registering the minor disaster, we hit the sack. We sleep like rocks. We grab a morning bite. We pack fast. The sky is spotless. An eerie light melts the horizon. Time to rev up them bikes and explore.

 

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