Joined: Dec 2012
Into Afghanistan at last
It’s a 120km down to Ishkasheim from Khorog, A mixture of tarmac and gravel. I left Khorog early morning fueled and oiled up with a thirst for adventure. (I was carrying an additional 4litres of oil in my side bag now) I would try to get down there and across the border to Eshkasheim on the afghani side all in one day. I planned to ride to Sarhad-e-broghil, the end of the road in the Wakhan, a few days riding without any chance for fuel along the way. Once there then go by some other means further into the little Pamir. I had met the Wakhi people’s months before in Chapusan valley, Pakistan. (The Pakistan Pamirs) I came away with such a positive experience there, so I thought I really needed to meet their neighbors in Afghanistan.
Arriving at the Border 5 minutes before lunchtime no one wanted to let me in to the customs area. They have a 2 hour break from 12-2 so I had to use that time to entertain a policeman who was waving cars down on the road, at no time did he ask about my missing plate. The guards came back marching out from their barracks, opening the bridge gate to the customs area. I was now free to cross and enter the customs area. (The border facility comprises of a bridge to an island in the middle of the Amu river where both the Tajik and afghan customs are, then another bridge spanning across into Afghanistan)
I enter the first door – Vehicle registration. The female officer helps me to complete the paperwork and checks both my passport and the bikes. She then Asks for the devornost. I thought I had made a couple of extra copies for border formalities but after searching through. I realized I must have binned them in Khorog accidentally when I was cleaning up. She tells me No devornost no leaving Tajikistan with the bike. We go out outside and another 2 young officers’ who like to show you who’s in charge join us and then go around the Ural pointing out this and that shaking their heads telling me all the problems I will have… “You can’t take benzine (fuel) across the border!” “ you have no number plate!”…”you will not cross!” they start to really piss me off & I too them, after all my work in getting the Afghan paperwork in Khorog I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wait there on my bike watching 2 Tajiks cross the frontier in front of me. I am there an hour until the Afghan side closes. The Afghani commander and 2 customs officers come over to ask about if I am crossing today and they are informed of my situation. They and the Tajiks talk it out in front of me, the commander then turns and asks for my rupost, after reading through and handing it back he then says, “you have one more problem”. Oh great! Whats next? “The border is now closed so please go to the village (Tajik Ishkasheim) for some food and stay at the hotel and come back tomorrow, you can pass then” Ohh ok then.
I push the Ural around to face out of the border facility (this is the only time you really feel the weight of the bike; a solo Ural weighs 230kg, plus on top of that 40l of fuel, oil, tools and spares, cooking equip, food and luggage. It must be weighing up around 290kg now) (640lbs)
I ride on to Ishkasheim in a couple of minutes and again stay at a guesthouse that I had stayed in the summer before. It’s great to be welcomed back here; I go for a walk up the street to find a cold beer and a quiet place to sit with it to update my Journal. I arrive back at the guesthouse to meet some cyclists that were previously at the Lodge in Khorog. We eat a large dinner set over some good conversation and retire for the night.
It’s Saturday morning and the border opens at 9am, I’m there right on time, the cyclists arrive too as they want to visit the weekly Afghan bazaar that is set up on the Island along with plenty of locals parked up in their soviet machines. The gates are opened we all flood across the bridge, I continue down into the customs area while everyone else turns right to the Bazaar/ market area. The Female customs officer is wondering why I have come back here with my motorcycle, she tells me once again I can not take it in. This instantly pisses me off as I could have gone back to Khorog for my devornost copy and back again. She and the young officers once again look over my bike with paperwork in hand. They want to search my bags, I tell them they can’t until you let me through with the bike, Just then 2 black land cruisers pull up into the customs area. The woman and young officers all quickly disappear inside to their respective work areas. I gather its some body important as everyone is saluting the man being escorted out of the 4x4. I just stand there watching the whole show and now the border is officially open with a steady stream of Afghans rushing past me to setup their market stall in the most prime position. After awhile some of the senior personnel from the land cruisers start to ask questions about me and are intrigued by the Ural. The woman and young officers reappear answering them for me. The most senior, just shrugs his shoulders and tells them in what I assume to be, just let him pass already…
The female officer asks for my passport again and brings me back into the office, she completes the paperwork once again and then gives me an extra slip with the bikes particulars on for when I come back. A receipt I gather. I'm shown to the young officer now at the immigration line amongst the Afghans coming the other way. It's all a bit cramped in the narrow corridor but I get to the desk and I hand my passport over, he asks for the immigration slip from when I entered the country, this is the first time I have even heard of such a thing. (Customs at Kyzyl-art border must have forgot) After a bit of arguing over who's at fault, he brings me around to the other side of the counter so he can talk in hushed tones and tells me its 20$. I reach into my shoulder bag and slap a pack of Marlboro's into his hand, he smiles and we shake hands. (even though I don’t smoke carrying a pack or 2 always comes in handy )
I am stamped out of Tajikistan and walk back and pick the Ural up from its leaning post and kick it back into life, then I hear an uproar from just out of the customs area, its the cycle tourers woohooing, giving me the thumbs up and waving goodbye. I wave back with a smile and ride through and up to the afghan customs buildings against now a sea of Afghan's, I glance around, there's guys hunched over carrying 10 or so rugs on their back, wheel barrow's loaded up to eye level, kids dragging sacks too heavy to carry and teams of individuals pushing and pulling donkey carts fully laden with goods.
I first meet the customs policeman, he speaks good english but i was warned back in Khorog at the lodge that he is always looking for a bribe. he makes some smart ass comments about the bike, "how do i know this is Ural?, there is no badge telling me" So i get out my pen and write Ural on the tank and tell him "now ya know mate!" with a sarcastic smile. He asks about the fuel sitting off the side of the bike, I ask him back "how is it any different if i had a 40l tank or a car with it in the back of?" opening up my backpack and side bag he seems to be more interested in trying to score a new knife or a lighter and holds up my small Joby camera tripod and asks if its for massage... He brings me inside to the customs officer, they ask where i am headed "Just to the Wakhan back in 2-3 weeks..." Then the Police man says If i do not give him 50$ they will not let me in the country, at this stage I just want this border fiasco to be done with asap, I give him 40$ and am stamped in. Finally I can breath again and look forward to some nice riding up the Wakhan. phew! A steep and very badly corrugated dusty road winds the 5km upto Eshkasheim. As i ride along the Bazaar (main street), everyone just seems to stop and stare, I just smile back and keep on riding to Juma's Guesthouse.
Soviet war era machines still even being used today.