Thursday, July 31, 2008

Down to Dushanbe

Got to Dushanbe yesterday after 6 days of pretty heavy riding, despite the altitude drop from 2100m to 700m. Plenty of ups and downs and the roads were worse than I'd expected. At least the last 100km were perfect tarmac and a pleasant cruise down into the heat of the lowlands.
I had a dip in the last hot spring (in Obigarm) before heading down.

Touchwood, my bike frame weld has been very well behaved so far...

Dushanbe is very Soviet, with broad leafy boulevards = excellent shade! It's much quieter and more pleasant, if more boring, than Almaty.

Last night I stayed with an 81 year old Russian babushka who came here from Siberia 54 years ago. It was in fact her son (a truck driver) who had invited me, but he hadn't turned up yet. She insisted that I stay anyway. She is amazingly healthy and robust but feels her way around the house - she's blind from glaucoma and whatever else.

My Iran visa invitation letter hasn't turned up at the embassy. It was closed yesterday (Wednesday) due to a public holiday in Iran. Now I hear that Thursday and Friday are the WEEKEND in Iran (??? what is that all about? first time I've heard that) though apparently the Iranian visa/travel agency and the embassy work on Saturday.

The agency I went through in Almaty (Stantours) tells me now that 1 in 5 invitations go missing, and that they can't contact Key2Persia (the Iranian agency that issued the visa) until Saturday. Great.

In a park I tried some draft beer and met an Iranian tourist, who said that the agency should be open today anyway. That's a thought - why not ring them? Sure enough, I got onto the manager, who had the reassuring news that they never actually get hold of the invitations - that they are sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Iranian embassies, which commonly lose them.

My Tajik visa finishes on Sunday, and theoretically I can extend it, but it sounds like a real hassle. I'll try to avoid this at all costs.

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