Day 89 (1): Across the Fan mountains and through the tunnel from hell
Ayny Travel Blog› entry 125 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium)
We were happy to meet the main road, as the road from the Marguzor lakes had been particularly bad. We had averaged about 15 km/h. Well, the next stretch of road did not get much better, really. For a while it was ok, but then there was an 80 kilometre stretch to the town of Ayni which was so incredibly bad, that we soon slowed down to a crawling 20 km/h again.
But the worst was yet to come. After Ayni the road a lot better. Surreal, almost. Flat, smooth, clean, black tarmac. The roads here are being built by the Chinese. It was weird to see Chinese workmen at the roadside, knowing that there is a lot of unemployment in Tajikistan. I mean, why not use a Tajik workforce? Later we learned the truth about the Chinese road building.
We were very happy to be making progress. We knew it would be another long day of driving, but at least with roads like these we would make it to Dushanbe before dark.
And then darkness came in a different form. The road used to go over the 3372m Anzob pass, a pass prone to frequent closures due to snow and landslides. So a tunnel has been built under the mountain. However, something went terribly wrong with the design of the tunnel. Or rather, with the studies conducted to determine the site for the tunnel. The mountain turns out to be very porous, or it might even have a natural spring, I don't know. But water is literally gushing out of the mountain here, flooding the newly built tunnel.
For years they tried to stop the flooding and in the end they simply diverted the water to one tunnel tube, while using the other for traffic. But this doesn't mean that the tube carrying the traffic is dry, far from it. The entire road is submerged and we had to drive in near-dark, trying to swerve around potholes the size of compact cars.
We could not drive faster than 10 km/h. This means that we spent nearly 45 minutes in the 6 km long tunnel, all the while breathing toxic exhaust fumes and hoping and praying we wouldn't get stuck in one of the potholes or have a breakdown.
This was a true nightmare. I am not claustrophobic, or scared easily, but I have to say that I wasn't feeling very comfortable when we drove through the tunnel and I was glad to be out of it.
Before we arrived at the tunnel we had met some cyclists who had been dubbing whether they should take the tunnel or the pass. I hope they took the pass. Cycling through this tunnel would be suicide!