For our adventure this past Saturday, we went hiking. Again. I think the children would enjoy an adventure that involved less hiking and more sitting around, but there's not much of the latter available in Tajikistan, so hiking it is.
When we were in Baku we had a wonderful book filled with all sorts of things to do in Azerbaijan, complete with GPS coordinates and hand-drawn maps. Any time we wanted an adventure, I just had to go look in the book. I found a Tajikistan book on Amazon, but it isn't nearly so helpful as the book from Azerbaijan. 'There's a lovely little hike near the village of Dara,' the book will say, but then it won't bother to tell you where Dara is or how to find the hike. We had quite the time attempting to get to Takob ski resort using the vague directions in the book 'the river forks and one of them leads to the ski resort. The other doesn't.'
There is a group in Dushanbe that leads hikes every weekend - but the hikes are always on Sunday, and are only attended by adults. So even if the hikes were on Saturday, I can't imagine anyone being happy about having five small children tagging along.
And so I just kind of make up things as I go along. Sometimes I'll just look on Google maps for something that looks promising, but a satellite view is not the same thing as driving on a road. I'll also try and figure out on Google what the Hike Tajikistan group means when they say 'Gusgarf hike.' And I'll also take recommendations. But I never go with other people - nobody ever wants to have five children tag along on their hike.
What this means is that every Saturday we go hiking, I get to try and piece together what sketchy information I have into something that ends up at a specific point in Tajikistan that is theoretically supposed to give everyone a fun time.
This past Saturday I used a map I found on the internet and got a reasonable idea of where to start. We finally got paper maps of Tajikistan and I was lucky enough to find the town where the hike started on my map. Maps and roads, however, are two different things. But, after two false starts, we finally ended up on a road that looked like it was going in the right direction.
The hike summary mentioned 'sketchy roads,' which I made sure to alert Brandon to. My idea of 'sketchy roads' and his idea, however, apparently were two different things, as I got at least three 'you are not my friend right now' during our drive up. I guess he isn't fond of one lane metal bridges with holes in them or large rocks in the middle of the road or narrow roads with drop-offs on both sides. I did point out, however, that this time it was sunny and dry. He did't seem to be too grateful.
We eventually made it to a point where further driving seemed like a bad idea and unloaded everyone for our hike. The weather was absolutely perfect - sunny and sixty five. Everyone was happy to get out and stretch their legs and enjoy the warm spring weather. Three miles later they were happy to have snacks by a snow-fed rocky mountain creek and turn around back for the car. Our path went by the villager's fields where they were out getting them ready for spring planting. We passed too many donkeys to count, all loaded up with firewood that had been cut from the hills. Invitations were issued for chai-drinking, flowers and wild rubarb were given, and one man who kept us company for several miles offered to host us for the night or at least give us dinner. Eleanor, however, decided that five hours of being strapped to my back was too much and so we thanked him, exchanged phone numbers, and promised to give him a call next time we were in Dara.
Then we headed home and straight for the ibuprofen. Because it turns out that five hours in absolutely clear mountain sunshine at five thousand feet will give you a fierce sunburn. The tips of Kathleen's ears were almost purple and every single one of us burned the backs of our necks. I couldn't kneel to pray the next morning because of the burns on the back of my calves and changing clothes was torture.
So things to remember for next time: define 'sketchy roads' more clearly with Brandon (any road that is more than five miles from a main highway) and bring sunscreen. Lots and lots and lots of sunscreen.