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Archive for June, 2010

Just passed the one week point of my stay in Zimbabwe and everything is spectacular in my new locale and with my lady.  We’ve been super-busy exploring Harare and environs together (stunning), drinking South African wine (a mixed bag, but great to have lots to choose from), watching the World Cup (congrats to Ghana, they deserved it), and buying home furnishings (shoe rack!).

What I haven’t done is gone through all my photos from the Pamirs yet, or at least, I haven’t picked and resized the ones for the blog yet.  Bad me.

Above the town of Roshtkala in the Pamirs

But I do have lots to share of the Pamirs, photos and anecdotes especially, so it will come soon.  Fingers crossed.

And thanks to U.’s photographic prowess (and awesome camera), lots too to share of Africa.  Finger crossed for that too.

At Domboshawa National Park, just outside of Harare

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  • Шашлык [shashlik] n. grilled meat, typically served on sticks or skewers and prepared over hot coals; commonly found in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Russia.

Delicious!

To echo something I said in the last installment of Tajik Word of the Day, no trip to Tajikistan would be, could be, complete without eating шашлык.  Ground lamb шашлык, known as farsh, is being prepared in a riverside park in Khujand in the photo above.

There’s a wide variety of types of шашлык, ranging from simple chunks of meats on a skewer to more elaborate, and typically fatty, concoctions.  For example, roulet is a type of шашлык in which strips of lamb meat are rolled together with strips of lamb fat to form little swirls, which are then skewered and grilled.  Yum, lipids.  Шашлык also comes in a wide variety of different meats.  Lamb and beef are the most common here in Dushanbe, but I absolutely loved the yak шашлык I had in a re-purposed storage container in the Murghab bazaar.

I need to start figuring out how to get yak meat in Harare.

Extreme zoom!

As you can see, no stick of шашлык is complete without a pile of raw onions on top.  A liberal dousing with vinegar is also a must, at least for me.

Is it wrong that one of the things I’ll miss about Tajikistan is the шашлык?

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Seen at the shrine in Langar

Ended up being 980 or so photos that I took during the Pamirs trip last week, and don’t you worry your pretty little selves, they will be shared on here.  Well, not all of them, but you’ll get the idea.  To get us in the mood, take a look at the photo to the left.  This was an inscription painted outside an Ismaili shrine outside of the village of Langar, which the last settlement on the eastern side of the Wakhan Valley in the Tajik Pamirs.  If you can’t read Farsi, here’s the English translation:

The greatest sin is fear.

I thought that was good, and it was something I kept in mind when I was hiking on inclines at altitude.

And I’ll share one other photo.  I had Asal, my traveling companion for the Pamirs trip, take lots of pictures of me in what I imagined were dashing poses.  Many weren’t.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t show one such photo here.

Notice the hipster Afghan scarf and my "tan"

Cool petroglyphs, huh?  They range in age from the Bronze Age to about last year.  More soon of the ‘glyphs and the Pamirs.

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A fun, whirlwind week of touring the Pamirs with our own driver(s) finished up today with a 6 hour drive back from Murghab in the eastern Pamirs, and I’m back in Khorog. Tomorrow the plan is to take a day trip up one of the valleys and see some more petroglyphs and Ismaili shrines.

It was an extensively documented trip thanks to an 8 GB memory card.  No pictures to be posted yet, however, as I can’t seem to find a way to upload them from the internet cafe (and the tots playing GTA next to me are too engrossed to help), but lots and lots to share when the time comes.  I’m sure some of them will even be cool-looking.  In the meantime, some more of my trip, by the numbers:

  • Three sticks of yak shashlik consumed (and a yak samosa for good measure);
  • Three Pamiri children who acted as impromptu guides for us (they bound from stone to stone like mountain goats);
  • Three pairs of Pamiri socks purchased;
  • Two different 4×4 vehicles used;
  • One homestay we stayed at that was without a bathroom or an outhouse (when we asked where the toilet was, our host swept his arm across the horizon);
  • One snow/hail storm we got caught in outside of Murghab on the Chinese border;
  • One book I finished reading (Animal Farm, can’t believe I had never read it before); and
  • Zero places to check internet.

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First off, let me apologize for being so bad about posting on this blog.  Part of the reason is that I was trying to wrap up everything at my job in Dushanbe in anticipation of the end of my contract on 1 June.  Another part is related to the new blog I’ve started about wine auctions (niche, I know) sucking my time — I’d be chuffed, as the Brits say, if you’d check it out at http://www.wineauctionspy.com.  Finally, I’ve been a bit preoccupied about moving to Africa in a couple of weeks (how’s that drop a bombshell as an aside) to be with my girl.  I promise, plenty more on that and my last days in TJ are to come.

But right now I’m on vacation in the Pamir Mountains in the Gorno-Badashan Autonomous Oblast (“GBAO”) of Tajikistan.  This is the famous mountainous eastern half of the country that I’ve been meaning to visit ever since I came here, and I was damned if I’d leave Tajikistan without coming.  So now I’m tapping this out from an internet cafe in the capital of GBAO, Khorog, a pleasant, leafy city surrounded by majestic peaks on all sides.

Getting here took some doing though.  Twenty-one hours by a beaten-up Land Cruiser to be exact.  That’s a long day of driving my friends, and it was a bit more intense than the yearly car trips my family took from Boston to South Florida at Christmastime when I was a kid. The trip included, in no particular order:

  • Three stops by the Tajik traffic police (not that many actually);
  • Two flat tires, one on our car and the other on another car in our convoy;
  • Two bowls of shurbo, one each for lunch and dinner;
  • Two tea cups full of fine, fine Tajik vodka;
  • One mini-medical emergency solved by pepto and/or zantac;
  • One mudslide blocking the road for over an hour until it was bulldozed out of the way; and
  • A partridge in a pear tree (well, not really, but I felt like we had to include it).

Photos to follow at some point, though possibly not until I get back to Dushanbe in 10 days or so.  Off to Ishkashim and the Wakhan Corridor tomorrow.

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