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Archive for August, 2009

  • парвоз [parvoz] n. flight

As in, I am taking a парвоз to Istanbul on Thursday.

I hope to do a blog post or two in addition to this one before I leave, and then hopefully, I’ll give you guys something from the Golden Horn too.  But in the likely event that I am enjoying myself sightseeing, or in a hammam, or buying carpets, or something, I’ll post pix when I get back to the Dush next week.

And yes, this is a vacation.

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Back to the Iskanderkul trip, which I should really finish blogging about since it will be two weeks ago that I went up there later tonight.  First off, I posted lots of photos on Facebook of the trip up to the lake and the surrounding area.  I’ll share some more here, but if you want to see the whole kit and kaboodle, that’s where to go.

Now back to the story; after we poked around the lake and saw an impressive waterfall and a clear calm pond (photos on Facebook, see above), we hustled off to the village of Saratok (which may, in fact, be spelled Saratag) and made it to a homestay there in time for lunch.  Of course, my tummy was rumbling a bit due to the lack of yogurt, so I ambled around back to the outhouse.  You couldn’t ask for a much nicer view from the toilet than this:

And yes, the john was far cleaner than the one I previously showed.

And yes, the john was far cleaner than the one I previously showed.

After liberal application of anti-bacterial lotion and noshing on “Snickirs” — not Snickers bars, mind you, but Snickirs the cookie — the owner of the homestay, Dilovar, took on his second role as our guide and showed us around the countryside surrounding Saratok.  The scene was one of beautiful alpine vistas:

The hills are alive . . .

The hills are alive . . .

. . . with the sound of music, la la la la . . .

. . . with the sound of music, la la la la . . .

The weather was just right and even a bit cool, which was a terrific change of pace from the blistering heat we’ve had in Dushanbe the past few weeks.

The next day we did another multi-hour hike, and this one was easier for me as I was wearing proper hiking books and not flip-flops (see, Dilovar hadn’t mentioned that our “walk” the day before would be 4+ hours and would include some decent up-and-down).  We saw a bunch of cute, though often befuddled Tajik kids on the side of the trail, and unlike their elders who seemed shy when the camera came out, these kids would look right at you.

Up by the summer pastures.

Up by the summer pastures.

Sometimes, I confuse children.

Sometimes, I confuse children.

The scenery continued to amaze, although people who have been out to the Pamirs say that that part of Tajikistan blows away the Zerafshan Valley where we were.  We’ll see; it was pretty tremendous to see all the wildflowers in bloom, little stone shelters scattered amongst them, with the mountains in the distance.

Inspiration for Tom Petty, I suppose

Inspiration for Tom Petty, I suppose

After the hike on the second day up in Saratok, we headed back to Dushanbe, this time we went over the famous Anzob Pass.  To be continued . . .

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My buddy’s blog

Another Tajik-themed blog to recommend, and which I’ll add to my blogroll: http://tojikvso.blogspot.com/

This blog is from my buddy who’s a VSO volunteer here in Dushanbe, and though he doesn’t update it super-frequently, it has some style and insight about it.

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  • туxm [tuxm] n. egg
Not the eggs benedict I had

Not the eggs benedict I had

As in, I had a terrific eggs benedict for breakfast at LGD this morning.  A little light on the bacon (it is a Muslim country, I suppose), but otherwise it was just great.  The benny was also a bit pricey at 27 somoni (approximately $6.08), but it was worth every diram.

Now, if the copy of the Guardian they had there hadn’t been from early July, that would’ve really been something.

Word on the street, however, is that the Hyatt’s Sunday brunch blows away the one at the Dame and that it is a major see-and-be-seen event, especially for Americans here.  I had dinner at the Hyatt last week, and it was like stepping back into the First World.  Attentive service, fluent English, clean bathrooms, and lovely food (salmon! brie! pasta salad without mayo!).  Of course, at 135 somoni for the brunch, the Hyatt makes my eggs benedict look cheap.

Thanks to the Taste Tests blog for the excellent photo of eggs benedict from The Cottage restaurant in La Jolla, CA.

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I’m going to go a bit out of order, and instead of writing about the waterfall and pond near Iskanderkul, I’ll show you something from the hike we did the next day on Sunday.  Our guide, Dilovar, grew up in the region surrounding Iskanderkul and now lives in a small village called Saratok (or perhaps Saratag, it’s unclear to me how it’s actually spelled or pronounced as I saw several variations while we were up there).  Dilovar took us through the countryside and to an oul.  This is where people from a village come in the summer to live, and it is located near the summer pastures of their livestock.  It looks like something out of the Middle Ages, plopped into a gorgeous mountain setting.

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After a decent night’s sleep on a springy bunk, which was a change of pace from the brick-hard bed at my apartment, we were all up early.  Luckily, so were the people running the camp on the edge of Iskanderkul, so we hustled over to have fried eggs and hot dogs for breakfast.  No vodka, surprisingly.  We all then headed down to the lakeside to see the view in the morning.  It was pretty cool.

View across Iskanderkul at 8 am Saturday morning

View across Iskanderkul at 8 am Saturday morning

Then I turned to my left and took another photo.

Looking to the left, here's the view

Looking to the left, here's the view

According to the guide book, there was a waterfall nearby that the locals called “Niagara” and which was worth checking out.  We asked at the camp’s store/restaurant and they pointed us in the right direction, and as we headed into the hills towards the waterfall, I turned around and saw the following view of the approach to Iskanderkul.

Looking down on the lake to the south

Looking down at the lake on the way to the waterfall

Pictures of the “Niagara” waterfall and “Snake Lake,” a pristine pond shrouded in reeds and home to ducks, tomorrow (or the next day).

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After a harrowing ride through the not-quite-ready-for-traffic-but-in-use-anyway Anzob tunnel, and following getting lost on the unsignposted road to the lake, we arrived at Iskanderkul on Friday night at about 9:30 p.m.  We were supposed to travel on to a homestay in the village of Saratok, which is about 10 km from the lake, but numerous miscommunications and botched cell phone calls meant that no one from the homestay came to meet us as planned.

As it was dark, and we were tired, and our driver refused to go further, we decided to stay at the iffy Soviet-era holiday camp, or turbaza, nestled next to the lake.  It was not quite up to international tourist standard, as my previous post will attest, but we couldn’t beat the location.  After a quick, late dinner of dried apricots, bread, cheese, and green tea, we went down the edge of the lake.  It was beautiful there, by the light of the moon.

Iskanderkul at night

Iskanderkul at night

My photo doesn’t really do the scene justice, but hopefully you’ll get the idea.

More photos soon . . .

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