Words & photographs by Christopher Perez
Contrary to the initial plan of starting my journey from Tashkent and then moving through the Ferghana Valley, I flew in from Osh, Kyrgyzstan, central Asia, as it was a cheaper option and made more sense timewise. As visible in the prosperity of the currency exchange booths by the bazaar, the city serves as an international transit hub for the neighbouring regions.
After driving on the desert highway and spending a couple of more days in two satellite villages, Saritash and Nura respectively, I entered Kashgar, Xinjiang through the notorious Irkeshtam Port. Long story short, it cost me 14 hours and 7 inspections, including but not limited to surrendering my phone along with the PIN, and individual scrutiny of the CDs I bought (because some contained Islamic preaching).
Even though it was supposed to be the highlight of my journey, Xiniiang turned out to be a godawful Orwellian dystopia I would never recommend visiting, and I don’t know how much of it was affected by my bias held against the totalitarian government with their blatant agenda of cultural genocide. Thus no word can describe the sense of comfort I felt when I crossed the Kulma Pass at the elevation of 4,363 meters on a hitchhiked truck and entered the Republic of Tajikistan, where police officers invite you for a meal and possibly vodka in their dorms, all bribe-free.
After spending a day in the smokey desert town of Murghab, my antagonising car journey towards Dushanbe truly began. The city of Khorog seemed to have used up their budget and logistical luck on their exquisite Jama’at Khana built specifically for the reception of Aga Khan, and here my dream of taking a propeller plane across the Pamir Mountains was crushed due to the fuel shortage. After the 15-hour ride alongside the Panj River with Afghanistan on my left side, I arrived in the grimy capital of Dushanbe, where my trip ended before I knew.