and China won’t let me in.
Tajikistan started and ended on bad notes (waiting for permits in Dushanbe… almost getting into a fight with the militsia in Murgab and projectile vomiting at 3,800 meters), but everything in-between was completely amazing.
I flew on a tiny 17-seater plane with no computers on board. We soared through mountain passes and followed a gorge marking the Tajik–Afghan border. Two days later, after my homestay owner, Gulnara, cornered me and dyed my eyebrows, we left with our Pamiri driver in an old army green Russian UAZ jeep for Ishkashim. Because the weather was perfect we drove the route through the Wakhan Corridor to Murgab in three days instead of our planned four.
Along the way we stayed with our driver’s friends and ate more cabbage soup than I felt comfortable with. I blame the cabbage soup and lack of actual Coca-Cola for my demise into projectile vomiting our second day in Murgab. By then we kind of had electricity in the form of a generator, were all more than ready for some “civilization.” It’s pretty bad when Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan looks like civilization.
Along the way we heard from one of the few others travelers we met that the Chinese border had been closed for it’s national holiday. We refused to believe that they would close the border for ten days—just think of all of the scrap metal they’re missing out on importing! Unfortunately, it turned out to be true although the re-oppening date has still not been confirmed. This morning I called the U.S. embassy in Bishkek who told me they have no information on the Chinese border and suggested I call the Chinese embassy. When I called the Chinese embassy and asked if they spoke English I was immediately hung up on.
Besides wasting my time (and money) as Tibet gets colder, this border closing is a major visa problem for me. I bought a Kyrgyz transit visa in Dushanbe that is only valid from October 2nd through the 6th—during which the border is closed. I have head rumors that the border will open on the 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th, so my visa will be invalid well before I can cross to China.
I went by a travel agent today to ask about flights to Urumqi. The agent started with “There are two airlines flying to China. One of them has just been arrested so your options are limited.” After a lot of searching it turned out that there were no seats on any of the flights until late October, let alone by this Friday so I can not leave Kyrgyzstan by air. I’ve thought about going through Kazakstan, but by the time I get to Bishkek, apply for a Kazak visa and take the train from Almaty to Urumqi I would be better off sitting in Osh and waiting for the border to open.
So, here I am in Osh… again. I’ve heard there’s a resturaunt that serves pizza. I just don’t know if I can stomach any more shashlick, plov, lagman or gulash after two months of the stuff. I’m certainly staying away from any cabbage soup. I don’t know when China became a promised land for me but I’m dying for some KFC.