Monday, July 28, 2008

The Tunnel of Doom

I eventually picked up my Tajikistan visa in Tashkent and headed straight for the border the following day, arriving at the border I was told that it was closed to foriegners and I had to ride 50 k's to the East to the next crossing, when I arrived there I received the same news, shit I was getting frustrated, now my only option was to go back west the 50 k's I had just come and then another 200k's around to the border I knew was open to foreigners. Pissed of and exhausted I made it accross into Tajikistan by 3 in the arvo which should have been more like 11 am!!

Arriving into Tajik saw me leave behind the long hot flat plains and start to climb into the mountains, the futher I ventures the more snow was on the peaks of the high mountains, it was a welcome change, especially the cooler temperature. The road deteriated into a gravel track and determined to make up a little lost time skirting thg the border looking for an entry point I pushed on late into the afternoon, only to be stopped ny a huge row of banked up cars and trucks at a bridge. I soon learnt the bridge was closed til 7pm, so I decided to have dinner there by the roadside in a small cafe, wait for the bridge to open and then ride a bit before finding a camp. Whilst I ate another Africa Twin pulled up next to mine, the first motor bike traveller I had met in a long time, Dirk from Belgium, also headed to Australia, so once the bridge opened we raced off in the mad rush that was between all the other waiting motorist.

The cars waitibg at the closed bidge.

Now up until this point I have yet to come across any challenging adventure besides the peper work problems, which is more of a headache than anything until the next morning, with what I called The Tunnel of Doom. Now I had a Canadian mate come through this area a few months back and he emailed me some points about the road and the area, one point in particular was always in the back of my mind, his advice was this quote "mind the fucking tunnel!" Now to me that was some warning.

It was 630 am and here we sat facing the opening of the tunnel, we had missed the pass about 20 k's back to take the pass over the top of the mountain and could not go back due to lack of fuel. It was cold the sky was bleak and the tunnel looked like something out of a typical horor movie, a huge black hole with water spewing from its mouth. There was a Lada stood at the entrance engadging its 4WD so we thought this is our chance lets follow it and then we can gauge the depth of the water. The Lada lurched forward into the massive pool of water at the entrance, Dirk followed and I went also but not noticing Dirk hit qa rock beneath the surface causing him to stop dead in the water, I had to brake suddenly and put my foot down, instanly my boot filled with freezing cold water, not a good start. Gaining our composer we crawled into the darkness, it was cold, not a light inside only our own. We followed and watched the Lada dip and bounce its way along, the water at times 3 foot deep, what the hell was I doing I thought!!

The Tunnel of Doom!
Now both legs were soaked and the bow wake formed of the front of the bike was causing water to spill over the windscreen, occassionally the front end would dip after hitting a rock that was completely a supprise. At one stage I saw from what light my headlight offered a reo rode sticking out just above the murkiy surface, I swerved but it scrapped along the sides of the wheels, dont fall over in here was my only thought. 1 kilometer then 2 down the Lada negoiating its way through with our bikes rumbling behind it, the mothership seemed in its element up to its tank in the icy water. At times water spilled from the roof from cracks, we passed old broken down trucks and cars, probably destained never to come out, also passing trucks coming the other way splashing water all over us, I was soaked. My eyes burnt and my lungs screamed for some fresh air, to escape the thick cloud of deisel fumes. Just after the 4 kilometer mark the water became shallower and then in the distance the light at the end of the tunnel. 5 k's long it was as we entered the world again, we had made it out, almost felt like an amazing acheivment just to get out unscathed, what a rush of adrenaline that was. Now I understodd what my mate ment by "avoid the fucking tunnel!"
Out the other end, releif!

The cold wet mountains after the tunnel.