Day 88 (2): The kindness of strangers
Shing Travel Blog› entry 124 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium)
With only a few more hours of daylight left we wanted to try and reach the Margozur lakes. This is a 20 kilometre string of seven turquoise mountain lakes, accessible by a winding gravel road. Progress was slow, but the views were stunning. Since there are no road signs in this area of the country we had to stop a couple of times to ask for directions. At one point we stopped near a mine where about 7 mine workers stood by the road side. We asked “Shing” and they nodded yes and got in the car. Err, wait, we asked them for directions and they thought we offered them a lift... Ah well, the car can handle it. Officially it is only licensed to carry four people, but heck, no one's going to bother in this country, now are they?
After Shing the road got really bad.
We had planned to camp at one of the seven Marguzor lakes, the fourth lake was recommended to us by the lady at the tourist office. However, as darkness fell it became increasingly difficult to find a spot to camp. There wasn't really anywhere. I mean, there was just a mountainside, a road and water. That was it. Nowhere was wide enough to park by the roadside and stay for the night. To make matters worse we were unsure whether we had reached the third or fourth lake. I did see something which looked like a flat spot of land, with a house or car parked in between two lakes, but in the darkness we completely missed the turn off (we saw it on the return trip the next morning).
We drove into a little village (which we later identified as "Nolfin") and decided to stay here for the night. After we parked the car Wim went over to the nearest house to double check if it was ok to camp in the middle of the road. The man who lived at the house immediately invited us over. He had a separate guest room in his small, one-story mud-brick house (or maybe this is where the family usually slept) and immediately he offered it to us to stay the night here. We were unsure, we could easily sleep in the car and certainly didn't want to be a burden or exploit the people's hospitality.
As we sat down on a shyrdak (thin mattress) on the floor and we were served tea. After tea came more tea and then bread and bowls of something which is best described as the watery by-product of Feta cheese.
The man kept insisting that we'd spend the night in this room, rather than sleep in the car, so we agreed. He was a lovely man even if we could barely communicate, and we feared that if we'd refuse we would insult him.
So we slept quite comfortably on a pile of mattresses, underneath an even larger pile of blankets, while the family slept in the room next door. It was quite cold at night, in fact. After almost two months in the desert and desert-type climate I had forgotten what it was like to be cold.
What a great first day in Tajikistan!
The next morning we were treated to some more tea with dry bread. I don't think the people had much to offer us, but whatever they had they shared. We were unsure whether or not we should pay anything for our stay. It can be considered an insult to offer money, so instead we left some money in the room as we left.
It had been a very interesting experience. The man was genuinely hospitable and while I have met hospitable people before, this was the first time that a complete stranger has invited me to stay at his home within minutes after meeting him.
Unfortunately we had not met the rest of his family. His wife and daughters all wore hejab, but this was seemingly not enough.
After breakfast we drove the 63 slow kilometres back to the main road. Now we could finally see the much lauded lakes. They were truly stunning. We had indeed driven to the end of the fourth lake, so on the way back we got to see four of the stunning turquoise lakes, in which the surrounding mountains reflected perfectly.
It had been well-worth coming here, even if it took us nearly three hours to drive back to the main road. Shing was also quite a nice place to see in daylight, despite having to cross that horrible road again. But it was comforting to see there were some construction works going on. This may be a poor country and this may be a remote region where few people live, the government at least seems intend to have the infrastructure fixed again.