We woke up early in the morning as the sun was shining bright and our tent was getting warm inside. Our new Ukranian friends were also awake already. We started packing our gear together and had a small breakfast. I knew there was a nice waterfall of about 22 meters high near the lake. The plan was to ride the bike as close as possible and then walk further.
The waterfall was at the other side of the lake where the little shop was. So we said goodbye to the cyclists and rode around the lake. Again, but now with daylight. It is a very beautiful lake. The mountains were reflecting in the water. Swimming was very hard as the temperature of the water is only about 5 degrees celsius.
We arrived at the shop and asked two local guys if we could our bike here. It was not a problem and we asked for directions for the vodapad (waterfall in russian). Larisa and I started walked along a nice walking trail and took some pictures. Ten minutes later one of the two guys joined us and guided us. After 30 mins or so we reached the very nice waterfall. There is a hangover bridge to watch the water splashing down. We returned to the shop and under the way we met two of three cyclists. One of the guys was ahead alone.
When arriving at the shop we asked for something to drink and were directed to the back. There were Tajik men having breakfast and they invited us. They had a lot of food and we just a bottle of fanta, so we gladly accepted and sat by their table. We had a look in the kitchen as well. It was a Sunday today and typically men come from Dushanbe to relax at Iskander Kul. We ate together and talked. Some muslim men were getting a bit too much interested in Larisa so we decided to move on 🙂
The ride from the lake to the main road was easier as there was more light and it was mostly downhill now. We met the cyclists again for the last down. They were pretty fast at some points and reached speeds of around 50kph. I felt like a Tour The France bike journalist riding next to them while Larisa was filming them on the back.
We arrived at the main road at headed towards Anzob. The tunnel was waiting for us… It was a nice scenic road and we got higher and higher until we saw this tunnel.
I have made some comments about the Anzob Tunnel or Tunnel of Death called by the locals. The tunnel is about 5.5km long, almost totally black, has a lot of water, a lot of very deep potholes, steel rods sticking out. There is almost no ventilation as well. Oh there is only one tunnel active, so both directions go in one tunnel. When you get stuck in the middle of it, because of car trouble for example, you have to get out as soon as possible. People have died in there some time ago, hence its lugubrious nickname.
We stopped before the tunnel. We both put our buffs over our mouth and nose. I changed my sunglasses for orange glasses which normally give me very clear vision. I turned on my helmet camera (the link to the movie will be posted later) and took a deep breath. We rode inside the tunnel. Immediately I noticed the orange glasses were too dark for me inside the tunnel. So I gave them Larisa. The road seemed really good, and after a few seconds we saw already light at the end. This was not the Anzob tunnel yet, but just a small, good tunnel before it.
After a few minutes however we arrived at the real stuff. We entered the tunnel and there were cows sitting at the beginning of this gate to hell. After seconds it got dark and some time later we noticed the water. The good thing is that you can ride behind cars and watch how deep they sink in the potholes. So I watched closely and followed some cars. A few times I hit the concrete with the bottom of my bike. Luckily no damage. Another time a car stopped in front of me hard so I had to stop in the pool of water. I had wet boots but could move on. Some cars were really scratching their bottoms in that tunnel. You had to ride all over the place, but the locals knew the best way, so I just followed them.
Eventually after 20 minutes or so there was light again. What a feeling! We exited the tunnel and I stopped 100m further to check the bike and ourselves. No major damage, so all OK!
The mountains behind are really nice and I was looking if I could see the pass somewhere which was also open at the time. The 3 cyclists would take the pass. After standing there for a while we started coughing because of the exhaust fumes which come out of that tunnel! So we moved on, it was a nice downhill ride to Dushanbe now!
After some kilometers we noticed a road coming from the left. This was the M34 mountain pass. We drove it for a km or so and then turned around. Maybe another time 🙂
We rode on towards the capital and noticed it got warmer and warmer again as we were descending from the mountains. We arrived in the afternoon in the city, it was around 40 degrees again. We stopped at a small shop to buy water. Our plan was to go to the adventure inn hostel which was now 5km further. Larisa went to get the water and I waited by the bike. After 5 and 10 minutes still no sign of Larisa. I was getting a bit stressed, normally she is back in 2 minutes or so. Was she kidnapped?
I went in the first shop but no sign of her. Then I jumped on my bike and rode to a second shop. There she was, talking to a man, who appeared to be the shop owner. They both came out of the little shop, and the man asked if I wanted a cold beer. Next to the shop was a small cafe which he also owned. It was 40 degrees and I had my suit on sitting on the bike. What, a cold beer now!? I still have to ride a few kilometers 🙂 I accepted gladly, and it got even better. He seemed really interested in us, and offered us his home to stay over. What a nice surprise! The beer was very nice as well! I think I drank the half liter in one minute. Hydrating 🙂
The name of our host is Mirali, and he appeared to be a great cook as well. In the evening he started cooking diner for us. It was really tasty and we washed it away with some Tajikistan vodka. As it was so warm we could sleep outside on the open place. I was thinking back about the tunnel and really happy we went through it without major incidents. We fell in sleep watching the stars…