Khojand Part 1: The Road to Tajikistan    

Image for Entry 1220609629 I asked our taxi driver how long the border crossing into Tajikistan took. He said “half an hour to an hour. You'll have to pay the border guards.” The CBT guy in Osh had also mentioned having to bribe the Tajikistan border guards who "Like to find things wrong with your documents or insist you need a frontier permit."

At the Tajik border we were sent to an office. One guard was asleep on a bed. There was a tiny shelf of books for reading. An official sat at the desk. He asked his assistant for a note book that was on the table. When the assistant pulled the book from the pile, a 10 som note slipped out.

Rowshan told them he spoke Tajik and the official asked the usual questions and neatly filled out our info in the notebook. When he finished entering the info but still hadn't stamped our passports, I thought, "Oh this is when he will not give us our passports until we bribe him." He dug through the book pile and a 5 Euro note flew out. He told the assistant to remove the notes and sent him looking for some forms. A minute later the assistant returned with some migration forms which we filled out. The official stamped the forms and our passports, kept one copy of the form and gave us the other half along with our passports. Then he sent us on our way. That was it. The driver had been watching through the window. The whole process took about 15 minutes and the officers didn't even suggest a bribe. It was a lot easier and quicker than the Kazakh/Kyrygz border. Maybe it was because Rowshan speaks Farsi which is almost the same as Tajik. Or maybe the border isn't that bad after all.

Once in Tajikistan we found ourselves driving through dry barren rocky hills. I wondered how this could possibly be considered the most fertile part of Tajikistan. Things looked a little greener as we got to Isfara. The driver stopped at the bus station. Before we were even out of the car, we were surrounded by taxi drivers who tried to grab our bags and drag us off to their taxis. Somewhat into their harangue, we noticed our Batken taxi driver. We'd been so busy dealing with the swarm we hadn't paid him. We had agreed to 200 som because we'd heard the price per person is 50 and we got the whole taxi. However he insisted the price was 100 per person. Since I felt bad about getting distracted by the other drivers, we settled for 300 which he seemed a little too satisfied with and quickly disappeared.

We were quickly pulled into another taxi and were soon driving through apricot orchards and by cotton fields where women in bright colored dresses were plucking the white puffs. The road was pretty good in comparison to Kyrgyzstan. Of course, I reminded myself, this is the wealthiest part of Tajikistan. At one point I was surprised to see a large monument reading "Kyrgyzstan" and seeing the sudden appearance of numerous Kyrygz hats. The passenger explained we just went through a tiny piece of Kyrgyzstan, fortunately without border guards. We were soon back in Tajikistan, driving alongside a huge reservoir. We dropped the passenger off in a town and about 15 minutes later, were in Khojand.

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