A Tajik proverb
26.07.2012 - 05.08.2012 35 °C
Life is tough in Tajikistan, but as the saying goes, they are a resilient folk. A few factoids about the country for you, coz we all love those, to paint a bit of a picture:
- 93% of the country is mountainous (imagine the state of the roads)
- 45% of GDP comes from remittances, mostly the menfolk sending roubles back from working in the Russian construction industry
- Imports of goods and services make up 60% of GDP
Take any one of these facts - very little room to grow food, no local industry to support the economy, no people to provide a labour force - and any country would find it difficult to survive. Add them all together and you have yourself a very poor state. Throw in a totalitarian and corrupt government, fuelled to a large extent by the trafficking of Afghanistan's opium, and stones raining down from the sky suddenly doesn't seem so far fetched.
The day we arrived in Tajikistan the government kicked off an offensive, helicopter gunships and all, against 'rebels' in the south west of the country. 'Rebels' being those loyal to the Tajik border police (as opposed to the central government). Said 'rebels' were apparently responsible for the murder of a government official 2 days prior. The fighting took place mostly in one town, Khorog, near the Afghan border (read - drug trade). Other than the fact that it had happened all other information about the situation, including casualties, was sparse and varying. All communications had been cut. And this town was the gateway to the supposed highlight of our trip in Tajikistan - the Pamir Highway.
Bizarrely, the following day when we found out about this news everyone was going about their business in the north as if nothing had happened. Everyone telling us not to worry, it was a long way away. Imagine for a moment.... Gerry Brownlee was murdered in Whanganui. Two days later, without any sort of enquiry, the government, assuming the Whanganui Police Force are guilty of the crime, sends in the helicopter gunships and guns down the gangsters, and the unfortunate civilians in the way. Roads are closed, communications cut and no one knows the true outcome of the events. And the next day everyone else in the country is just going, 'Lah-lah lah-lah laah', getting on with their usual business. Difficult isn't it.
So we went hiking in the Fan Mountains and a week later headed to the capital Dushanbe to get the low down on roads, borders and the events. The guest house we stayed at was like a tourist refugee camp, choked with people who had been evacuated from the region before and following the fighting, and those, like us, who had always planned on heading there. We gathered information from embassies, websites, travellers, and it all conflicted. Communications to the region were still cut so no one really knew what the story was. We decided it wasn't the kind of situation we should head into so drew our Tajikistan journey to an end earlier than planned and made for the border.
It was definitely disappointing not to be able to head into the Pamirs, massive mountains, rural villages, adventures galore. Tajiks had been so welcoming and generous, the landscape spectacular, we had been enjoying our time there a lot. But we were the lucky ones. It wasn't our homes burning and we could leave.