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August 2012


A particular travel story, organized for a mini group of 4/5 people, reduced to just two participants. Difficult, demanding, like all journeys independent and without support vehicles, but stimulating, fascinating, unique in many respects. At the time I published stories on the blog and this lent itself very well, also in light of the difficulties that have arisen. The result was a travel diary, supported by an avalanche of photos. Maybe it can be published in magazines, I don't know, I haven't tried it, however you can find it below. I like it very much and I always reread it with pleasure, let me know what you think!

  • Ettore YAMAHA XTZ 660
  • Pierandrea BMW R100 GS

1st August, Rome-Tashkent, Uzbekistan Airlines flight.
This time I'm pissed off, holy shit!! Even before thinking about customs clearance with all its dark problems, the mysterious east decides to give us an advance and the first problems begin!!
The Pamir area has always been a territory subjected to continuous social and ethnic tensions, the last bloody clashes took place in 2010, then between ups and downs the area continued to welcome tourists who certainly represent a source of income for the area. often unexpected!!
But what happens no later than 10 days ago, when we are now ready to leave and with all the visas issued? The government decides to tighten the mesh of control towards some ethnic fringes by launching an operation against one of the many armed groups, which control the area and the various trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan, commanded by Mr. Talib Ayombekov, one of the many warlords . The consequences are that General Abdullo Nazarov, commander in chief and responsible for the security of this borderland, returning to Khorog, is killed while returning from Ishkashim, another area that we should visit, a splendid valley, that of Wakhan, which borders the Afghan border!! Of course mr. Ayombekov denies any wrongdoing, let alone!! And thank goodness!! A disaster!! The most violent clash since the end of the 1997 ethnic unrest arises !! Information reports dozens of deaths, with government helicopters bombing Khorog, 12 government officials killed and at least 23 wounded, 40 captured rebels, including 8 Afghans, with 30 deaths.

The area of ​​Gomo-Badakhshan, the one crossed by the M41, the Pamir road, is certainly the poorest area of ​​the poorest of the former Soviet republics, but it is also the real entry point for opium produced in nearby Afghanistan, before being sorted on Russian and European markets.
A local radio reports that the population has openly sided against the government, blocking streets and squares, with sandbag barricades and cut trees. The news of Mr. Ayombekov has been lost, the government reports that it is beyond the Afghan border, but on the other side of the border they deny it!! And here the news, in the purest Soviet intelligentsia style, becomes multiple, smoky, difficult to verify:
1. The negotiations lasted several days to convince mr. Ayombekov and his closest collaborators to surrender and hand over their arms failed, the rebels organized a massive press campaign supported by local newspapers
2. Mr. Ayombekov died in the fighting and his place was taken by Commander Yadgar
In the meantime, researching the net I found a forum of people stuck in the Khorog area, the most reliable seemed to me this English guy, nick name “Prisoner” followed by a 5-number code, which reports the developments of the last few days. The diary to Silvio Pellico, reports that 5 days ago in Dushambe they started again to issue visas for the Pamir, while the last letter, dating back to 2 days ago, confirmed that the situation had become fluid and that he was about to return home!!

Well, this is the beginning and it couldn't be better than this, given the difficulties of last year!! Tomorrow, customs clearance which, we hope will not turn into the usual nightmare!!

August 3

We don't start very well, 45 minutes wasted because the girl who issues the permits for the customs area arbitrarily sends me to the area of ​​military competence, and there I have to wait almost an hour because I suffer the decision-making of the Uzbek military hierarchy: I literally come dribbled from office to office, but the responsibility for this decision can only be taken by the commander who naturally arrives when the fuck he likes. Of course, his assent will be peremptory and verbal, so I will be led again by the girl who, without batting an eye, fills out this tiny piece of paper to begin the completion of the paperwork.

For the rest, all the same as the previous year, both the military and the managers of the dangerous goods office recognize me immediately, print my photocopies, change my money in black (with a saving of over 30% on the official one) , they offer me a drink, add a soup and, although there are also 4 other Perugian boys who join the group, at 3 pm we are out on the motorcycles.

August 6

Samarkand, the pearl of Asia, the city that more than others evokes the myth of travel and exploration to distant lands !!

"We don't travel for trade,

Our hottest hearts are inflamed by the warmest winds.

For the longing to know what shouldn't be known,

We walk the golden road that leads to Samarkand ”.

James Elroy Flecker in the verses of Ishak, read for the first time in 2006, before facing the first trip to these lands and that most of all, probably give free rein to the imagination!

Here we finally learn definitively or almost that the border point of Penjikent is closed, tomorrow we pass by Oibek, we return slightly to the north, but we enter from the best point, which allows us to start the famous mountain routes, from Istaravshan, called Kir in the parts, Ciropoli by Alexander the Great, Ura-Tyube by the Russians and which boasts one of the best preserved historical centers in the whole country.

Here we are!

August 9

We are in Tajikistan, first stop in Istaravshan, one of the country's historic cities. The entry point of Oibek, of course, was somewhere else from where road maps, tourist guides and even people interviewed had made us understand, so much so that in the end a tour of 425 kilometers on the just over 200 assumed was completed. All military and police checks, when we report that we are headed to Pamir, do not reveal the slightest uncertainty or the slightest problem to carry out such an itinerary, but the next day ... ... on the first step, that of Ayni towards Dushambe, when the road has now disappeared between stones, sand and holes that often become real chasms, where the locals pass by carelessly with all types of vehicles, I stop to photograph a truck with a transmission problem and crossing Franz, Swiss, on the road for 15 months with his bicycle, headed to China!

“The Pamir road is closed, at least it was until I was in Dushambe. However they are trying to open it as quickly as possible. The blocked tourists are diverted to a small pass further north to leave the country towards Kyrgyzstan, while the entry customs is closed !! "

News of at least 3 days old, calculating the means of transport of my interlocutor, but which confirm what I had read on the internet in Samarkand !!

On the top of the pass, 3385m, we have a taste of what awaits us in the next few days: the view sweeps over steep valleys !! The asphalt will resume once you get off at about 2000m altitude. We stop for a tea in a bar along the road and a boy, with fluent English, will inform us that yesterday the Via del Pamir was still closed and that the tunnel to Dushambe is inexorable 16 kilometers of mud, with water raining from all sides. leave, turning it into a dimly lit underground stream !! But first the detour to Lake Iskander kull, an emerald green gem at 2200m, nestled between steep mountains, where we arrive, pay admission and decide to stay overnight in this Soviet summer camp!

A further day of delay in the hope that they open this fucking way, which is our real goal of the trip!

August 10

The next morning, the return from the lake on the main road, with an extraordinary light, a couple of stops in the villages, is exceptional. Before leaving, Murs, the factotum of the campsite where we slept, informs us that the tunnel is “only” 5 kilometers long, the conditions are very bad and that the Pamir road is open !!

The photo stops begin, this multi-colored valley crossed by this dazzling green river makes me waste a lot of time. I arrive in one of the villages and as usual some children greet me invading the roadway. I stop and ask: "photo?"

It's chaos, they seem crazy, a little girl, she covers her mouth with one hand, then she does her hair !!! Ah, the women !!

While I take out the reflex, screaming voices in decisive approach make me turn, children, but how many are there?

I am attacked by a euphoric horde that I struggle a lot to pose next to the bike. I also show them the result, this time very composedly they appreciate my work. I thank them, they thank me, I touch the head of the youngest one, I wear the helmet and I start some running alongside me for a while mimicking me bye, bye !!!

Don't, I definitely don't want to be anywhere else but this one !!

We resume the M34 and the road without hesitation, begins to climb, the view is crazy, they say this is one of the most spectacular mountain routes on the planet, are they right? Between broken trucks, coal mines, friendly people who greet you, at 3372m the road disappears into a black concrete hole, just a few meters are enough to understand that, apart from the length, the rumors about this tunnel are true! Unique experience, certainly unique by heart !! 6 hellish kilometers, unique, unforgettable, fun.

Dushambe, 1035 kilometers traveled, tomorrow Khorog.

11 August

So in the morning, we leave from the capital Tajika under an encouraging sun, everyone has confirmed that the road is open, but soon we will know !!

The route initially runs in an arid countryside, then begins to rise and the valley narrows, even the asphalt disappears !!! Traffic is drastically reduced. At a crossroads of the policemen who I ask for directions to Khorog, they show me an iron bridge, we cross it and another world begins. We arrive at a checkpoint, the police register us, we declare our destination, they don't blink, they show us the direction, wishing us a good journey. I'm starting to believe it, maybe the situation is really resolved, maybe it's really open, maybe ... ... meanwhile the road narrows and begins to climb hillside in conditions that define disastrous is a real understatement !! A complete abandonment, we are approaching the poorest area of ​​what is considered the poorest state in Central Asia and it shows. 80km in slow motion, where the locals circulate with little means, including trucks as if nothing had happened, we too get used to it. Flooded sections, waterways to cross, landslides, landslides, at the end an iron bridge and the road becomes a kind of mule track, a torrent to cross and a second roadblock. I don't have time to lift the chin guard of my helmet, when the soldier tells me: "Pamir closed!"

I misunderstood, maybe tired, I take off my helmet, say hello, usual handshake.

"Pamir closed!"

Fuck I understood correctly, Pierandrea and Ettore also arrive, of course they think I'm joking when I tell them the news. Smiling children offer us apples, in the meantime another bitch has come out, a policeman this time, who, with rather arrogant ways, prevents me from taking pictures and confirms that the road is closed. A minibus with 6 boys from the Czech Republic, a couple of French cyclists, another 3 Belgians always bicycles arrive. One of the guys in the minibus, speaks Russian, tries a negotiation with the military, meanwhile a car full of clubs arrives from the other direction of the road, one of the women comes to meet us and turns to me, perhaps because I'm the tallest, informs us that the situation in Pamir is dramatic, they are still killing people, and that someone has to let the outside world know about the situation !! Incredible, they have hidden everything from us up to a few km, while here they are shooting !!! The lady appears desperate, she asks me if I am the guide, I tell her no and that she is sorry for the situation, who knows what she will do with my understanding !!! We decide to sleep in a small village in a hotel house, full of local workers, where 2 teenagers, pretty and very kind, welcome us, set us up in the garden, serve us dinner, fill us with attention, neglecting other customers, despite the barriers communicative are almost insurmountable. They seem to know what happened to us and almost want to console us by making us forget the disappointment that, useless to lie, is really burning!

In the morning, I open my eyes at 5.45 am, get out of bed and start getting ready, holy shit it can't go like this, for the second time after last year, I'll try again! I go down to the bathroom, I get ready, the others wake up and watch me.

"Don't break, don't even talk, I know, it's useless, but I'll go back to the checkpoint, if I don't come back in 2 hours, join me!"

12 kilometers, same road, same bridge, same stream, same military, same answer!! The Pamir Highway will remain closed. We go to Kyrgyzstan, they have opened a step further north to tourists, a beautiful road, a valley narrowed by very high mountains covered by ice, in the evening we will sleep in Sary-Tash, another hotel house, this time without beds, we sleep on the ground , but instead of the bathroom there is a latrine!!

The journey continues, the Torugart awaits us!!

August 12

In Sary-Tash the Pamir highway, the M41, also turns up, but it's tough !! It is hard to keep up, when one of the main objectives of the trip, no, let's not fool ourselves, let's say the fulcrum of the project, is blown! I notice it from small details, which manifest nervousness, a change of pace, strange arguments of my traveling companions. I decide to let the day run smoothly, letting it flow, giving 2 options for the end of the stage but making the point of arrival decide. It will be a stage of over 620 kilometers, with no stops apart from a watermelon in Osh, but the M41 works in my favor, with breathtaking scenery and a road in good condition. I slow down on purpose, but the pace seems to be at the end of the raid, both Ettore and Pierandrea don't stop for the whole day, we no longer go for the sake of traveling, but only to arrive!!

August 13

Still M41, still steps and scenarios to be framed in the postcard of memories as my friend Luca Maggiitti would say. Yet another step beyond 3500m and the yurt camps begin. I stop, I ask to take pictures, I am invited to enter, they offer me food and to drink kefir, their typical fermented milk drink. This time I find my two companions standing a few kilometers ahead waiting for me, more photos, more people, children, invitations to enter a yurt and this time they are there too. 20 minutes and the pace finally returns to the usual one, we also abandon the M41 for a secondary valley that immediately becomes dirt, increasingly narrow and lonely. In Kochkor, but now I can again, I impose, despite it is late and it is raining, to reach Naryn, the ideal starting point for the Torugart pass. We will arrive soaked, muddy using the last available lights and find a group of locals returning from a wedding party at the entrance to the village, ask for information, have a shot of vodka and head to the guesthouse.

August 14

I had heard about the Torugart pass, or rather its legend, in 2006, later confirmed by some readings. An impervious step, where customs rules do not exist due to the continuous and fickle changes of mood of the border services of the 2 countries. But times change, progress advances and the Chinese are number one in the world in building roads in impossible places. The dirt road, in the usual horrible conditions, is now compressed alone between the 2 check points before the actual border. 60 kilometers, which however make it clear what kind of enterprise it must have been to drive on this path until recently. At the border, a soldier and some truck drivers offer us arbuz.

"Cucumero, very good !!" the boy in camouflage repeats to me once he learns his name in Italian. Group photo, but when he discovers that we are not headed to China, in his broken English he explains to me that to get there you need a special permit!

Apologizing, he tells me that he has to inform the boss about him and that we can't move !! He calls him on the walkie talkie. Fuck !!

A couple of minutes and the answer comes, we shouldn't be there. I gather the crew who are gorging themselves with "cucumero" with the truck drivers who take turns getting on the motorcycles to have photos taken and we go back. The road is really bad, but the landscape is indisputably extraordinary!

The EDT guide mentions among the things not to be missed that of climbing the pass and among the absolutely most irritating ones, that of going back !! Is it worth it? I do not know.

At the check point still military, more jokes, registration of passports and we are outside or inside depending on the point of view. It starts to be late, but we don't worry about it, the lights become important, profound, extraordinary. Shepherds on horseback, truck drivers who never deny the greeting, mountain views, the view sweeps clear between the valleys at 3000m! In the evening, under an incredible starry sky, we will sleep in a camp of yurts at 3100m, in a secondary valley 15 kilometers from the main one, overlooked by the fortified caravanserai of Tash Rabat, located on one of the many silk routes and dating back to the 15th century!

August 15th

Mid-August, still good weather, sun, we spend half the day, literally sprawled on the meadows, photographing, observing the Kirghiz shepherds, shoeing horses, performing acrobatic tricks, leaving for mountain excursions. In the early afternoon, we are not very convinced, we get back on the road to return to Naryn. In the evening in the usual guesthouse, an Israeli traveling with a group tells me that the Song Kòl lake is of extraordinary beauty. I had already marked it on the map, I was a bit undecided, but it is the third person in three days that confirms the beauty of the place! We talk about it and decide in a few seconds, tomorrow again change of plans with relative loss of one day.

The most important thing about a trip is not to stop traveling …… .and dreaming!!

Enough bullshit, let's go to bed!!

August 16

Still on the street, still a bright day, where the lines of the horizon recede to the point of making us believe that beyond there is only the end of the world. The gem of central Kyrgyzstan, Song Kòl, this alpine lake at 3100m, leaves no doubt to the imagination since the detour that leaves the main one after about 50 kilometers from Naryn. The jewels shock you, immediately, with their multi-chromatic facets, their unpredictable reflections, the brilliance: we immediately climb to over 2500m among lush valleys, and mountains of 1000 colors, where children on horseback rule the cattle and adults tilling the fields. Handshakes, communication made with gestures and few words, laughter, pats on the back, photos for everyone, thanks. After an endless series of hairpin bends with the road that becomes almost a mule track, at over 3000m, here is the lake, blue, turquoise reflections, in a desert valley with orange shades, carpeted by dazzling green meadows, we go around it counterclockwise and we follow the dirt road.

What a day, holy shit !!

Another 50 kilometers of dirt road, we are almost at the end when Pierandrea stops, alongside him.

“I broke the gearbox !! It's stuck, I don't even know what gear I'm in !! "

Fortunately the gear selector spring decided to break in fourth gear. It will be 230 kilometers, with traffic intensifying as you approach the capital, at 80 per hour, rubbing, dosing the accelerator and sacramenting; I imagine Piernadrea and her foul language in the Marches !!!! Once in Bishkek, on the Kievskaya, off to look for this restaurant we were told about managed by an Italian and an accommodation for the night, tomorrow we will see if it is possible to do the repair on the spot !!

What a day, holy shit !!

August 17th

Pierandrea says that there is a BMW dealership in Almaty, I think that the local mechanics are definitely capable of repairing even rather serious failures. His mechanic from Perugia, we do not mention names to avoid negative publicity, says that without the extractor and if you have never done a job like this, it is better to change the whole gearbox, I think exactly the opposite: ingenuity, inventiveness, expertise and also the skills due to experience and the need to make do, in these situations make the difference !! Also from Italy, they tell him that having the right tools you can do the job alone, I think this is cyclopean bullshit and I say it too !!! Pierandrea strangely does not react, now our clashes mediated by Ettore and by a ten-year frequentation that now ranges in the enclosure of a sometimes strange but consolidated friendship, are almost daily! With these assumptions, the Italian contacts we found in Bishkek introduce us to one of the most important building builders in the capital who shows up with his factotum, Gina, I don't know if you spell it like this, but Eugenio in Italian, who once seen the half and having verified the problem, he says he knows the right mechanic. Thus we enter the world of Ali, 2 iron boxes in a guarded "illegal" parking lot. I see him, I immediately like him, I take a look at his workshop and I realize that we have come to the right place! The vehicle has to be dismantled but the communication is rather complex, call and Serghey arrives: he talks to the 2, translates me into English and I explain in Italian to my companions: a dialectical navigation through a sea of ​​funny jokes and situations, often hilarious , across three languages.

"Giovà, if you trust them, I trust you, let's fix it here !!"

I don't believe my ears, damn blockhead from the Marche region, you probably do it to get me in trouble, I am blown away, thinking that I was already ready for one of our endless discussions! Oh well, this time you win, but that's not all!!

Let's leave Gina and Ali in mystical observation of the vehicle and go back to retirement!

For phone calls Ali provides a mobile phone with a local card and an Africa Twin for Pierandrea!!

The wait begins!!

August 18

The day starts a bit slow, yesterday's dinner went beyond what it should have, I drank too much, strangely, we met some friends of Walter, who are part of the Italian community of Bishkek, including 2 from Abruzzo and despite the daze I must say that I really enjoyed it!! Last night Serghey called me informing me that the bike is disassembled and that tomorrow morning, that is today, they will go to look for the spring, which is officially broken!

I spend the morning in Walter's restaurant, helping him with some chores and letting me tell his story. Originally from the province of Pesaro, two daughters, a wife with whom he comes into conflict due to work.

In the afternoon we take a walk around the center, Bishkek is a pleasant, relaxed city with beautiful girls.

The phone rings, it's Serghey, the bike is ready, Gina will pick us up at 7pm!

The broken spring, a trivial piece worth a couple of euros is sealed in an envelope, the new one is miraculously out of a Mercedes spare part, a piece of the door of some car of indefinite age!! Extractor? I think back to the words "dell’expertone" of Italian mechanics!! How did they do it, here they probably disassembled the gearbox with their teeth !! Ali, shows us from his mobile phone the motorcycle literally vivisected on the garage floor, and adds, we start again with the navigation between multiple languages, that the shock absorber works at an unnatural angle and is wearing out the front part of the cardan transmission, that the left cylinder has slow valves and that the rack is split and must be welded !! This time Pierandrea is speechless but she seems absolutely happy with the situation. We make arrangements for the next morning for the welding, the other works will be done in Italy and off to dinner.

19 August

In the morning at 10 we are with our friend for the last interventions. A couple of hours and we're back. Last checks, various adjustments, full of petrol. We are ready, I would say in record time, tomorrow we will get back on the road.

You enter Kazakhstan, direction Almaty.

Just to change the border that we had identified for the passage in Kazakhstan, the one closest to China is closed, which makes us opt for the renunciation of the visit of the Issyk kul lake, we should add at least 1000km, doing the same road twice !!! It's really not worth it, we all agree, counting that we also plan to visit Almaty which, from where we are, we can reach in half a day.

So, the following morning we pass by to say goodbye to our new friends in Bishkek and head towards the border, clearing up customs procedures and in the early afternoon we are in the Kazakh metropolis, a breeze.

It is the fourth time I have returned from Central Asia, 2 times alone, the others accompanying people: a strange, fascinating, stimulating sensation that every time in the end leaves me with sensations that pleasantly crystallize in my memories! This is a unique place, definitely! Kazakhstan is long, wide, if the map had a third dimension, it would also be deep. In 2010, gigantic machines had begun the asphalting enterprise of its westernmost part, the most desolate and inhospitable one. I try to make my travel companions understand that, however, the difficulties will probably be there and not identifiable in some days but only when we find ourselves cursing on roads that to define bad is a trivial euphenicism !!

The endless Kazakh steppes, infinite pastures for the horses of the invincible Mongolian armies, Aralsk, with its boats moored in the desert, Uralsk, a border city between 2 continents, await us: let's start!!

From Almaty, a single cardinal point will characterize the route over the next few days, the next few weeks, with the navigator pointing west, thousands of kilometers to cross half Asia and then half Europe.

Taraz, Shymkent, but already here I realize that something is wrong: the works become more and more frequent with these back-breaking deviations on very hard and bumpy dirt roads. We arrive at 19 with the hypothesized destination, Qyzylorda, still 130 kilometers away.

The village before, Ettore joined me, asking me if that was the place of the end of the stage !! He is tired, I have already noticed it by observing how he avoids potholes in the street; Pierandrea is also tired, but he vents his physical state with a sometimes exasperated nervousness! This alone would be enough to make me decide the end of the stage in advance, we add that to the averages of the day, we still have at least 2 hours, we have to enter a medium-sized city, waste time to find accommodation, arrive at night, traveling on roads full of animals, heavy traffic of trucks and with the sun in your face.

Among other things, I am in front of a motel used 2 years earlier, a kind of caravanserai of the third millennium, with rooms, garage, workshop and bar, just finished in 2010 but which, after just 2 years, already seems to be in a state of neglect. I decide and of course Pierandrea disagrees, never mind!! Frugal dinner, to bed early and in the morning at 9 we are still in the dance! It will be the most demanding Kazakh stage!! An infinite road construction site, hundreds of kilometers, in some places the road is finished, on a very high embankment, a perfect asphalt, but closed to vehicles !! 48 ° temperature! The road is bad, but you can almost always travel at 50-60 km per hour, I would say acceptable!!

Here, however, in a few years it will be all asphalted, a long black strip that will challenge the horizon by shortening the distances !! I think about it and immediately think about the crossing in 2006, the 15 hours to get to Aktobe, the huge holes, the difficulties, the sand, the oppressive heat and a little nostalgia, inexplicable, comes over me!!

August 20

Aralsk, Aral in Kazakh, Aral'sk in Russian, appears in the distance at the end of a long, nervous day. Like the homonymous Moynaq, on the Uzbek side, it was a thriving port of what was once the Aral Sea, and with it it shares the sad story that in recent decades has led it to lose thousands of inhabitants, transforming it into a almost ghost town !!!! Due to the progressive retreat of the waters, Aralsk has remained completely surrounded by land and is about 25 kilometers from the coast line. The lake has not been seen from the city for 25 years. Here, however, the situation is slightly different, also due to the greater economic resources of Kazakhstan: in fact the construction of the Kokaral dam and the subsequent work in progress for another dam, have reversed the process of withdrawal of the waters that are now getting closer. to the original coast. The authorities hope, in the next few years, to be able to get the fishing industry back into operation in the city. The miracle is coming true.

We enter the city with the daylight slowly extending between the low houses, we arrive where the boats are stranded and while my companions browse around taking pictures, I go in search of the family who had hosted me 2 years earlier. They are no more, they too escaped from the environmental disaster of the Aral "desert" !!! Fallback on the only hotel in town, triple room and parking in the courtyard of a house next door. The bare-chested man who welcomes us is small, wiry, with a bundle of muscles, a large mole on his left shoulder, he makes me the gesture of victory, but he doesn't have to go to the bathroom, his face, I don't understand why it's threatening. I continue to unload the bike. Still the gesture, ways if possible, even more abrupt, he wants 200 tenge, always by gestures, by motion !!

"Oh yeah!!"

I answer him in Italian, he begins to scream and approaches me, he takes 200 tenge out of his pocket and opens 3 fingers with the other hand.

"forget about it!" I continue in Italian. Pierandrea and Ettore look at me amazed and a little intimidated by this aggressive parking attendant, I signal him to go.

We are alone in the dusty open space, just a few moments, his alter ego comes out of the house, dressed and with a white flat cap who sits on the stairs and begins to prepare a cigarette. The negotiation begins: 4 fingers, mine, he becomes even more furious if possible and aggressively approaches me at distances that leave little to interpretation, he reaches my shoulder. I open my wallet I have no small denominations and I take out 500tenge, he continues to swear, we are in a stalemate. I put my hand in his pocket and take out his 200 tenge and give him the banknote: my price is 300. The alter ego silently watches, he becomes a beast.

With the 200 in my left hand, I grind my teeth, make my right fist and strike him a blow which, once it reaches the target, turns into a caress, a pat on the cheek that makes him turn his head amicably.

I look at him with the banknote in hand, he watches me, the alter ego smokes, a few seconds, then this desert valet explodes a toothless smile. I hit him once again in the same way, another contagious, explosive laugh, I turn around and the other too, his older brother, his father, who knows, laughs amused.

I give him back the 200 tenge and I make him understand that he has to give me 100 tenge, he with tears in his eyes makes me understand that I am obviously a fool!! I got my discount, the deal with laughter is over!!

August 21

Early the next morning, after having photographed the boats in a beautiful light, I am in the courtyard to load the motorbike. The friend comes out, dressed in a nice shirt, we say goodbye, then I point out that he still owes me 100, quickly delegates his wife to open the gate and take leave of these uncomfortable presences, greets and disappears!!

The stage, the terrible Aralsk-Aktobe 600 odd kilometers, that of 15 hours, will be devoured on a perfect asphalt, with only 30km of dirt road. Progress advances !! The next day, Uralsk, the border point between 2 continents, officially marks the end of the journey, even if there is still a long way to go. The kilometers increase, despite the time dedicated to the journey is always the same, the road conditions allow higher averages, the stops are less frequent, the cameras are constantly in the tank bags, it's always the same story!!

August 24

The crossing of Russia takes two days: Samara-Tambov, then from Tambov to Zheleznogorsk.

"The wolf of Tambov is your companion"

In the evening Dino sends me a message on my cell phone, intrigued, I take advantage of the internet connection to discover that this is the phrase that the Russians say to a person, when they are tired of being friends. Of course, I'm not here to tell you the immediate and offensive reply message to one of the most creative people I know !!! I continue reading and discover that the Tambov area is legendary for the presence of wolves, which once populated the area. By now they have almost disappeared, there are only 50 examples, but on the other hand the whole area is characterized by a typical Russian atmosphere. Tambov is a provincial Russian capital. The pace of life of the nearly 300,000 inhabitants of the city is calmer and more balanced than in large urban centers. I read, always online, that here we meet and greet each other on the street and it is easy to make friends. I reflect on the extreme courtesy with which they provided us with information and then accompanied us to the hotel. The return journey, which has now become a real transfer, continues.

August 26

A stop in Kiev, then 2 mega stages to get to Trieste, another splendid border city to which I am sincerely attached. Friends are waiting for me.

10.240 kilometers traveled, we are at home, it's over, goodbye Pamir!!

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