View from the top of Old Man of Coniston hike in Lake District National Park, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Preston, Lancashire, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Wyke, West Yorkshire, England on May 29th!

Sunday, November 5, 2023

If we careened over the edge, seatbelts were not going to help!

Woke up to another beautiful clear blue sky in the Fann Mountains at Iskanderkul.

The plan for the day was to make our way to the capital city of Dushanbe (pop 1,200,000). The only question was "how are we going to do this??"

Our caretaker friend Hamid came by and brought us some more bread and boiled eggs, and we think he said that all we can do is try to flag down a passing car. 

We gave him 150 TJS ($13.70 USD, $18.70 CAD) for helping us out. I don't know if he was expecting anything or not, but he seemed pretty happy about that.

The caretaker cabin was located right beside the road, so we packed up and put our two carry on bags out by the road, then waited inside for a passing vehicle. When we heard something coming, we could run outside and flag it down and be ready to go in less than a minute!

Over a period of about 45 minutes, two vehicles went by. Neither stopped for us.

However the third vehicle did. A clapped out old 4x4 with four guys in it. We didn't think there was room, but they insisted! They gave up the front seat for Ruth, and me and the three other passengers squeezed into the back. 

I was squeezed right up against the right rear door, behind Ruth. The door would only open from the outside. The grab handle was broken. And about ten minutes into the drive, my window fell half way down and I couldn't get it to go back up. The other guys didn't seem fizzed by any of this. Of course no seatbelts, but then why would we need them? If we careened over the edge, seatbelts were not going to help!

The only photo I took on the way down.

No English at all. They asked if we were going to Dushanbe, or the other way. We said "Dushanbe", and at the bottom they dropped us at a taxi stand. This guy obviously was some kind of taxi himself because the other guys all paid him, and he wrote the price for us into the dust on the vehicle. 

It cost 70 TJS each, and I gave him 150 TJS.

We asked him how much it should cost for the two hour ride to Dushanbe, and he said it was 60 TJS ($5.50 USD, $7.50 CAD) each. 

A guy came running up to us saying "Dushanbe? Dushanbe?" and we said yes. He grabbed our bags and put them in the back of his car. I typed "60 each" into google translate, and he shook his head, typing "100 each" into his own phone. I went to grab our bags out of the back of the taxi and he quickly agreed to what we had offered. 

We think that because we were tourists, he was going to take us on our own, without any other passengers. But then we think he asked us if we would mind if there were other passengers, and we didn't mind at all. So a woman and child squeezed in the back with us, and another fellow into the front. And off we went to Dushanbe!

By the way, there are tours available for this sort of thing. When I was doing some research on how we were going to get to Iskanderkul, I had contacted one operator and asked. It was going to cost $450 USD just for the drive from the border. But, the guys says, "it's very comfortable in my land rover". Yes, well... we didn't need that much comfort!

A spectacular highway with fantastic mountain views. Really tough to take photos though.

If you click to make the photo full size, then click again to zoom in, you can see some small communities down in the valley below.

Part of the route included a 5 km (3 mile) long tunnel. The Anzob Tunnel is located at 2,730 meters (9000') altitude. It's pretty dark in there, despite the fact there is supposed to be lighting, but we didn't see any. Also very wet and dusty.

I did some reading, and this tunnel opened temporarily in 2006 despite being unfinished. The tunnel saves a 4 hour detour! It was totally finished in 2015, and officially inaugurated in 2017. However it seems the ventilation was definitely not working yesterday, and whatever lights they had were extremely dim.

Then followed a very long downhill section. Eventually, we pulled into a village and our driver wanted to wash his car. So we all got out and stretched our legs while the car got cleaned up.

Our car getting washed.

I had booked us an apartment in Dushanbe. Despite the fact that our friend Ali had offered a stay at his sister's house, and we had been in contact with the sister. We just figured it was better to have our own space. Besides which, I came across a new listing on a nice looking place that was heavily discounted.

Our driver dropped us off walking distance from the apartment building. We are on the 7th floor.

The living room.

That looks a little more comfortable than the caretakers cabin!



Second bedroom.

View from the living room.

View from the kitchen.

Even comes with a washing machine!

All of this, for $26 USD ($35 CAD) per night. We are here for four nights.

Dushanbe is a modern European style city. Our first impressions are very positive.

We found a modern grocery store, the first one we've been in since Ashgabat!

Too funny!
Only 15.90 TJS ($1.45 USD, $2.00 CAD) per can!

Ruth, doing some grocery shopping.

It takes a long time to do some shopping. Not much English, and mostly Cyrillic alphabet.

The vodka aisle!

We picked up a bottle of this for $3!

Walking back, we saw this odd garden.

Most of what we bought was for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. We will still eat dinner out. we just don't have all the spices and everything necessary to cook decent full meals.

We ended up at restaurant called "Salsa"... many of the reviews called it a Mexican restaurant, however the menu says it is a "latin American fusion" restaurant, whatever that means. 

We had the worst waiter ever. First, he had no enthusiasm or personality. It was like he didn't want to be there. But, he spoke decent English. I ordered the beef fajitas, and Ruth ordered the chicken fajitas. Then, he brought us a plate of beef nachos. We said we didn't order them, and he says "oh, they must be for someone else". Yep, must be.

Then, he brought our fajitas, and he brought us each a mixed plate of chicken and beef together. Not a big deal, but this option was higher priced. We told him that was fine, we would keep what we got.

Then, when we were finished, the plates never got cleaned away. And it's not like the place was very busy. Maybe four other tables.

Tipping isn't standard practice here in Tajikistan anyhow, but if it was, this guy would not have gotten a tip!

Anyhow, the food was not bad and our stomachs were full.

Today... lots of exploring around Dushanbe. Clear blue sky (although with a haze of smog), and expected high of 24C (75F).


And in Canada...


  1. Thanks for posting this great trip with excellent photos. You are intrepid. I want a bottle of that vodka!

    1. We are so glad that you are enjoying following along with us and our crazy adventures.

      Lol, wish we could send it to you,. We ended up buying it and it was a nice vodka.


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