Living on the edge in Tajikistan – Martin White

Martin takes his kit for the ultimate test

They say you should do one thing a day that scares you…I did several years’ worth of that in one go when I went to visit a doctor friend in Tajikistan.

I arrived in the capital – Dushanbe in the middle of the night and met the taxi driver my friend had arranged for me. We set off to drive to the north of the country which involved driving across the Pamir Mountains (the western bit of the Himalayas) The roads we went on went up to 21,000ft, weren’t surfaced and had no safety barriers. The taxi driver (who couldn’t speak any english – and My Tajik isn’t great!) drove right on the edge all the way on the 5 hour journey, sometimes causing rocks to fall off down the 1000ft+ sheer drop. We stopped on the top for some great photos.

When I arrived in the Silk Road town I was staying in, I had an amazing time and received overwhelming hospitality from several families; this seemed always to include ‘Dumba’ – a delicacy of sheep-bottom fat – it’s as nice as it sounds – especially served cold!

We got out to the best wild experience I’ve ever had in the foothills of the mountains – more awesome views, camp fire, snakes, and a feeling of being very, very remote. I’ve bought lots of kit from GO Outdoors, but there you could really put water filters and the like to the test.

Several months on I’m still a bit traumatised by the taxi ride, but it was one of those ‘never forget’ experiences that I’d do again given half the chance.

Tajikistan is a friendly, beautiful, although quite deprived country – if you fancy something beyond the normal, I’d recommend it – but not in the winter – if you did that road with ice and frequent avalanches, you’d be a better man than me!

Martin White