Do you know much about Tajikistan, a mountainous country in the midst of Central Asia? I knew nothing about it, or most of Central Asia, until the Tajik Rally last year. Now I love this awe-inspiring place - a beautiful unknown land.
I love traveling, leaving home in a small car and driving somewhere. You do not know what happens the next day and what people you meet on your way, what type of landscape you will see when you wake up. Every second brings surprises and the journey is your destination. Once, an advert for the Tajik Rally caught my eye. I wondered where Tajikistan was and asked friends. No one knew, so it was the right time and the right place to go.
The rally started from the central square of Munich, Germany, in August 2014. More than 50 European participants with 24 cars covered the distance of almost 10,000 kilometers through Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan. Our team, Ostournauten, made 500-700 kilometers a day, only on the Pamir highway moved 100 kilometers a day, because of the border controls and stops for repairs. We finished on September 6, 2014 in the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe. Most teams got there in three weeks.
The trip was absolutely amazing: the vastness of Kazakhstan, friendly people everywhere and marvelous landscapes of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with those astonishing mountains up to 7000 meters high. I will never forget the smiling children as they waived to our cars. My passion is filming and this trip provided me with the vast amount of picture opportunities. It was so easy to stop on the road for a fantastic shot. We also made a film.
However, there were real challenges too. For example, in Kazakhstan the road got so bad and at times we drove on the sand. It was dusty but fun, until we realized that the gasoline was running out. Though the fuel was cheap, only 20 Euro cents per liter, it turned out to be hard to find a station to sell it, most of them were empty. We were driving almost to the last drop and worrying that we would be stuck in the middle of the dessert. All of a sudden, as a miracle, a gas station appeared. They had fuel and we could fill the cars.
Another gripping nightmare was a broken bridge on the Pamir highway, which meant that we had to make a 600-kilometer detour, leading us along the Afghan border. There were thousands of potholes and we lost our exhaust pipe several times. However, we were ready for the difficulties. We stocked on spare parts at home and had a car mechanic in the team. One person even learned Russian and this helped us immensely, he could talk to the border guards and to locals in small villages, there people still speak Russian as one of their languages.
With the rally we supported two charities, Habitat for Humanity and Haensel+ Gretel. All teams fundraised and collected donations. People could donate online or give us a sealed envelope with a donation and a task to go with it. Some of these were quite challenging. For example, we had to dance in a mankini in Kazakhstan (Hello, Borat!). Or let gas balloons into the sky with a group of school children. At the end of the journey, the cars were auctioned in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, to support construction projects. The teams also took part in building activities to help three families insulate their houses in the Kumsangir district of Tajikistan.
The most useful thing in our journey was a big map glued to the engine hood of the car. We could easily show people where we came from and where we were going. On the other hand, they could show us where they lived.
The whole journey was the greatest experience and I can recommend everyone to go through it at least once. You will develop new skills and acquire impressions you will never forget.
The Tajik Rally was organized by Adventure Manufactory.