Throughout my time in Kyrgyzstan, I was told that the border to Tajikistan was going to be dangerous, and I had heard about the border guards and their disagreement of a road being built there which had heightened tensions. Eventually resulting in the exchange of gunfire and mortar rounds in the weeks previous to me arriving and subsequently began to be told that the border was closed. But as I had no choice with it being the only border I could get to (going in the right direction) in time before my visa ran out, I just had to go there and see what the situation was. I was warned to be careful and local tensions were high as their usual business across the border such as importing and exporting rice had been temporarily shut down and people were beginning to feel the strain.
But as I began getting closer and closer to the border peoples opinion and sometimes what they deems as facts would change from yes the border is shut to no it’s open to finally, It’s shut but foreigners can go through.
So as I got closer and closer there was a larger and larger police presence. On one particular day I had been stopped by the police 7 times and seen the inside of two different police stations, all because the policeman were confused as to why there was a man walking around the border area. After I had explained it seemed to be ok but I made sure I got the number of the person interviewing me so that the next 5 times I was to get stopped, they could ring someone to confirm my “story”. Because initially there were some language difficulties and I ended up having to call Ahmed back at the embassy to help explain, which he did and although it worked great I didnt want to have to do that 7 times in a day.
So on my arrival to the border I went forth to the only guard I could see, at what could only be described as the most desolate land border crossing I had ever been to and showed him my passport and waited. About an hour later a man came out asked a few questions and then they let me through the gate into the border checkpoint. A few looks at my passport and a stamp later I was on my way to the checkpoint.
Border crossings are the only time I’m ever nervous because I don’t know what to expect on the other side of the gate once I’ve crossed and there’s no going back, a certain finality to it. But onwards and upwards, the border was very close to Isfara and that evening I made it there in time for sunset and found a motel, with the task of finding some internet in the morning.
The next day I trapsed around Isfara trying to find a phone shop that could help me with a cheap phone and some mobile internet to help with weather and staying in contact whilst on the move. I came across a Megafone store and the guys who worked there turned out to be great guys, they asked what I was doing there and told me that it was unusual to see westeners around this part of Tajikistan. They eventually said I could get a phone and internet free for the month that I was there, which was amazing! The guy that spoke the best english went around the corner to the market with me to get the phone unlocked and I was good to go, he also told me to take his number and call him if I got into any trouble.
The next day I was set to go and I started to make my way to the next mountain range I would find myself walking through.