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dreaming of... home sweet home.......

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
Sadly, 'back home' in California, our old friend and feline companion Clarence, has gone to join his buddies in cat heaven.   We had to make an unexpected trip back to Los Angeles in June so we had the opportunity to visit him in his ' happy retirement home' with our friend Haley. 

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
Much has happened since our last blog.  Our 'quick trip' back to LA  turned into a three week unexpected bonus... catching up with friends in LA and San Diego, visits to our immigration lawyer and wonderful walks on the beach.  Although the mountains here in Tajikistan are spectacular, I don't think they are any substitute for the vastness of our Pacific Ocean.  The fish in the Panj and Gund rivers are tiddlers, barely six inches long.  And I can't say I'd want to grow too large, living in the freezing waters of glacial melt.  We're in the midst of the hottest time of year.  Temperatures here in Khorog have broken records over the past few days (40C+ now) and it's hard to imagine that come the end of September, we will need heaters and heavy sweaters in the evenings.  The rivers are swollen with glacial melt.  Interestingly, one can gauge the temperature by the height of the rivers in the morning.  There is a differential of half a foot, depending on the daytime temperatures.  We see kids jumping off the bridges at strategic points, where the depths, currents and huge boulders are manageable.  Give me the warm waters of Hawaii or Florida any day!  Not even a big toe gets subjected to such extreme torture.   There's another hazard to swimming in the rivers here in Khorog.  Many of them form natural country boundaries between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.   Swim at your peril!! one has no idea where Tajikistan finishes and Afghanistan starts. If you want to get scooped up like a beached fish  by the local constabulary (still known as the KGB here) this is a sure-fire way.  Four days in their company, in your swimming gear can now be added to your list of adventures in this incredible land.

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..........


  1. lalawoman and consort, great to hear from you and amazed that you are in the two month countdown to and end and a beginning (and who knows where?). But 40C is NOT hospitable. I am glad that Mady and Pat stood in for us (unbeknown to them). The loss of the air flight certainly crimps your options.

    FYI: Steve and Manjula and Karen and Keith are together on Endless Summer in Palau. Keith joined the boat in islands north of Papua New Guinea for three weeks before the they met up with Kare in Palau. They certainly agree wih you re the Pacific!

    We look forward to seeing you in Oct, with tales to tell.



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