Sunday, August 9, 2009

Beyond the City Limits

The Chinese silky smooth asphalt road out East abruptly descends into a donkey track at Obi Garm (hot spring, potentially twinned with Lemington Spa). I can imagine work gangs of Chinese labourers downing their picks and shovels, removing their straw hats and soaking their aching bones in the green sulphurous water. No more road building for me matey!! Whatever the reason, your land cruiser, truck or, in our case, Corrolla hatch back is in for severe pummelling. Hugging the mountain edges, sliding down muddied gullies and bouncing our way up to the vanishing peaks whilst dodging drunk Russian truck drivers and counting abandoned exhausts is all part of the enthralling ride.

CAMP, the unfortunate acronym for my organisation, is the off spring of the Swiss. As with all western endocrined organisations there are reams of reports, days of meetings, hot air balloons worth of bluster and as much action as in the American sub prime market. However, CAMP is useful to filter untraceable Swiss francs into central Asia under the guise of Natural Hazard Workshops in rural mountain communities.

The Toyota eventually ground to fearful halt shadowed by rocky overhangs and lined with viscous mudflows at the edge of a Chicor. Felix (My Swiss Counterpart whose favourite adjective is ‘Naaais’) and Davlekbek Davlidov (DD, our own personal Borat), traipsed up to the Mosque and introduced ourselves to the Waquim (Head of the village). He cordially invited us for muddy green tea, stale bread and cheesy balls, that were quite possibly shaped under a rather fat mans armpits. DD talked the tajik talk and organised the workshops, whilst at opportune moments the lanky Swiss guy and the token bemused Brit nodded like obedient donkey’s and placed our hand on our opposite nipple as a mark of respect to Waquim. (For the record this was not each other’s despite the name of the organisation).

Eight villages later, the bowls of discontentment literally rumbling from salty cheesy balls, and a variety of reconstituted dairy products of varying degrees of sourness, the battered Toyota pulled up at the only guesthouse in the district. The business minded owner was on vacation in Dushanbe and swallowed the key for security. Thankfully, one of Waquims accepted our invitation to stay with him as honoured guests, and prepared a series of fatty meaty soups, and ploth (aka grizzle in pastry). Apart from fertilising his garden, the night literally passed through us and we bid a fond farewell at the first call to prayer Another four villages, another four hospitality meals and another four hours travelling, we chugged back to Dushanbe in a battered state, and able to roll our own salty cheesy balls.

Too Good: The hospitality in the villagers, those who have the least, give the most.

Too Bad: Some of the villages will be flooded in the next six years by Central Asia’s biggest hydro scheme. The inhabitants will be re-housed 200km away!

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