|Christine and Clarence @ 2800 S Anchovy|
It's 'countdown' time. Less than two months to go and still, we continue to gather knowledge, friends and experiences that will last us a lifetime. The summer tourist season is in full swing and new faces appear daily in the PECTA office, and for those particularly enquiring ones, in the MSDSP office too. They have interesting experiences to share; all of them. This is, after all, an adventure travel destination and without exception, there is an expectation - and guaranteed delivery - of a regular adrenaline rush.
|Overnight at the Vanj checkpoint on the way back from Dushanbe|
|Clarence (not quite) in his prime|
Two weeks later, his kidneys packed up on him, so 18 years after barging in to Jelte's life (I had yet to enter 'stage right' many years later), he bowed out in his inimitable, graceful fashion. 'Thank You' Clarence, for the many years of joy and happiness you gave so generously. We miss you.
|Clarence and Haley, June 2011|
To make the loss a little easier on us, Wrigley continues to turn up every evening for a bit of sustenance and company. He does not hang around long; just enough time to say 'Hello' grab a quick drink and a few pieces of chicken (if he's lucky) and he's off continuing his rounds, cadging off the next sucker. Even the animals give us survival lessons here.
|Early morning breakfast spot, Roshan, looking on Afghanistan|
|Tranquility on way back to Khorog|
We've also had our first visitors...... Mady and Pat arrived from France, loaded with goodies: Indian Tonic Water for our desolate bottle of Gordon's, wonderful French cookies of every description, Lavazza, Lavazza, Lavazza, genuine Parmegiano Romano, wonderful wine from Provence which, as I am sure you can appreciate, is a long-gone dream; cereal bars, and wonder of wonders, freshly baked croissants all the way from Cannes. The trip was not just another adventure for them. A lecturer in tourism by profession at the French SKEMA Business School, Mady generously gave her time pro-bono to run a three day Tourism training course at the University of Central Asia, here in Khorog. It was a full complement of eager and committed attendees and we believe the benefits and ensuing results will be ENORMOUS. THANK YOU Mady. One of the challenges of Mady and Pat's arrival was the absence of flights between Dushanbe and Khorog. TajikAir says they are losing too much money on this route and it appears that the only time they put on flights are when they have to ferry VIPs in to and out of the Pamirs. So, to ensure that we did not lose OUR VIPs en route, I made the road trip to Dushanbe on Friday, over-nighted and then was up at the 'dawn of crack' on Sunday a.m. to meet their flight. They negotiated customs and immigration in record 20 minutes and had to wait for the arrival of their carriage... a stalwart 4-wheel Toyota Land Cruiser for the immediate return to Khorog. The scenery was spectacular and although we would not recommend doing it too often, this road journey is a true introduction to the adventures of Tajikistan. Their whirlwind visit included drinks and dinner at the Serena Inn, where we had the chance to interview for our Tourism Course, a (relatively) large group of 'culture vulture' Americans, a hard-hat visit to the site of the planned University of Central Asia, a stroll in the second-highest botanical garden in the world, dinner and drinks in 'Central Park', lunch in a traditional Pamiri home, drinks chez-nous to break open the first bottle of Indian tonic water, visits to a few of the tourist 'hot-spots' for Pat, a couple of dinners at the Delhi Darbar (voted by Pat the best joint in town) and a quick and furiously hot two days in Dushanbe. True to our suggested itinerary, Mady and Pat visited our local haunts there - Segafredo for an essential shot of caffeine, the Rohat Tea House - now, a must for every visitor particularly, as rumour has it that it will soon be relocated to make space for some government edifice, and our absolute FAV, the Ashoka restaurant, which knocks the curry spots off most Indian restaurants anywhere in the world. Truly. Food was not the only item on the schedule. The Green Market, the National Museum, Opera House and the Somoni statue were also ticked off the list. Tajikistan, anyone? We promise you will not be bored!!
We're working flat-out now, finishing up projects - most of which have been a challenge from the start - the remainder of training sessions that we committed to so many months ago, installing much-needed databases - now, these are a REAL challenge, given the temperamental nature of internet connections here in the mountains of the Pamirs. Much more needs to be finished or at least put in place by us before our departure in early October..........