I think this is awesome. It's like I've suddenly been transported to a crumblier, less expensive California.
Brandon, however, is grouchy about our early spring. He likes a nice, decent length winter and he's had about four weeks less winter than he was expecting. I know I would be grouchy about missing four weeks of spring, my own favorite season, so I don't blame him.
All of this warm weather has meant the beginning of hiking season. Because when it's too warm to sled, it's time to hike. This year we have a much, much better idea of how to go about hiking in Tajikistan and so have had much fewer I'm-not-your-friend-right-now moments. The children, after hiking all last year, have finally resigned themselves to being dragged up into the mountains every Saturday for the next two years, and have even flirted with the idea of allowing themselves to maybe enjoy hiking. It's all been quite pleasant.
But still, we have our moments. Because who would like just nice pleasant experiences all the time? Not me! That would be boring!
One of our recent hikes was past the village of Zimchurud. The drive in was very tame - there were no sketchy bridges, the road occasionally was paved, and we never drove any closer than two or three feet to any steep drop-offs. The parking was even easy. I had read about this hike before, the description had noted this hike as having several 'stony bathes' that are nice for swimming in the summer. I'm always a sucker for 'stony bathes' and so had saved this hike for a hot summer day last year, but when one of those days made it around, we were grounded from hiking and the Zimchurud hike never happened.
So, even though it's not the right time of year for stony bathing, I decided to try the Zimchurud hike, mostly because it's within a 30-minute drive of home and we had started late in the morning.
The hike started out nicely - the day was beautifully sunny, the weather pleasant for hiking, the grass a brilliant spring green, and we were greeted with sprinklings of yellow crocuses telling us that yes, spring really is coming.
Then we reached the first ford. And I say first because there were several. In the beginning we were fastidious about crossing, choosing a narrow place where Brandon could hand the children across the stream. But then we reached one about twenty feet wide (and only five or six inches deep) and Brandon slipped off his carefully planned rock route and just sloshed across the whole thing with two or three children on his back. I had my Vasque Gortex hiking boots (thanks for that present fifteen years ago, Mom and Dad!), so my feet weren't wet. But that didn't salve my conscience.
When the fords started occurring every eighth mile and we had to hike through a five-inch deep snowy portion of the trail and Brandon was wet to the knees, we decided that really, this hike is only good for a hot summer day.
So we turned around, hiked back through most of the fords to a nice picnic spot, and had a picnic. Because, really, that's what everyone hikes for anyway.
The hike itself it a nice easy hike with no fords (the hike is called Seven Bridges) and a supposed waterfall at the end (not that we've ever made it to that far), but the drive to the hike isn't so nice. There are spots where our car tire is about six inches from a drop-off into river and six inches from a rock wall. These spots are bad, but the worst spot is a bridge that gives our car the same six inches of wiggle room on either side combined with a steep approach followed by a wall, sharp turn, and another lovely drop-off. I'd take pictures, but whenever we go over this bridge, I'm too busy playing guidance crew in front of Brandon as he attempts to not wreck our car in the river. It's very nerve-wracking.
We made it over the bridge, our friends did too, and we went on a lovely hike. The children found an abundance of sheep bones and Kathleen is now the proud possessor of one sheep skull (why can't I have two? Because you don't need two). We stopped for snack at yet another perfectly beautiful spot with a rushing crystal-clear river, bright sunshine, and brilliant green grass. The adults chatted while the children threw rocks in the river (an official part of every hike), poked sticks in the river, and almost fell into the river. Everyone reluctantly headed back after an hour or so, but really I could have stayed there all day. There is no end to the idyllic mountain beauty of Tajikistan.
Everyone made it back to the car with no dunkings, and we even got the cars successfully turned around (although it was a little dicey when the car started sliding backwards down the hill) and headed in the right direction. Then we hit the bridge. Our friends, driving a Rav4 made it over the bridge after having their back tire literally halfway off a sheer drop-off. Brandon decided to take the way of caution and hug tight next to the jutting corner of somebody's dacha wall. Taking lessons from our time in Baku, he folded the mirror in before starting. I guided him in, heart pounding, and praying that our car would stay out of the river again and maybe promising that we'd never go on this hike again. The front of the car cleared the wall with inches to spare and then I watched as the back of the car didn't. Brandon and I cringed as the cinder block corner scraped across the car, but there was no going back and he just drove forward, hoping for the best. We made it a across the bridge (again!) with a new set of scratches on the car. Thank heaven body work is so cheap in Dushanbe.
All of these mishaps haven't, of course, stopped me from planning out next hike this weekend. I'll pretend to be good so that Brandon will agree to go, but we both know it's just a show. Poor Brandon. And poor car.