This country has mountains!

This lovely woman appeared at the end of the hike. She liked the photo.

My first hiking trip in Tajikistan was with a group of Americans from the U.S. embassy on September 16, We hiked on a trail called 7 Bridges in English. Unfortunately, I don't know the Tajik name at this time. I can't determine the exact location because I don't have a map of the country yet. I do know it was in the north somewhere. The first 45 minutes of the ride was on the well-paved main road. Then we turned onto what I have named a combo road: dirt, gravel, paved and pot-holed all in one. It was a very narrow road with houses so close on each side that I could have touched them, but the copious amount of dust kept me from opening a window. As we got closer to the end of the road where the hike would start, we passed many villas under construction. Where do people get the money for this? It was a beautiful hike and I was able to use my fancy water purifier with water from a river without getting sick. MORE HIKE PHOTOS

On our way to the hike we shared the road with a flock of sheep going to market.

My second hike on the 17th was with a local group that caters to foreigners called Hike Tajikistan. We went to Laylakul in Zerafshan valley. Again, the paved road was wonderful. I was the last one to get in the van, so I got to ride shotgun which worried me a bit, but in the end, I think I had the best view of the world. I am sure everyone remembers learning about the driving road game called "chicken." After the second drive to the second hike, I have nicknamed the Tajik version of this "game" as cooperative "chicken." The road has a single lane in each direction with a fairly wide shoulder on each side. Cars and vans and trucks are passing each other constantly at high speed and with the tiniest bit of room to spare each time. The drivers all cooperate by inching into the shoulder when an accident is imminent. After about 70km/44mi we turned onto another combo road which continued for 25km/16mi beautiful miles into the back of a really long valley. The hike started at 3000m/9800ft and initially gained about 500m/1640ft. This is where the weaker hikers, like me, got to rest by the side of a small lake. The strong, speedy hikers pushed on to a higher elevation of about 300m/984ft more. On the way back, my new hiking buddy from Tanzania and I decided that the trail was for animals more than humans because it was invisible and we were glad there was a guide. MORE HIKE PHOTOS

This was the reward for the near vertical assent in the middle of the hike.

On the 24th I went on another hike with the Hike Tajikistan group. This time we went 75km/46mi north-west of the capital into the Fan mountains. We hiked at Timur Dara Lake near the village of Karatag where a famous Tajik poet, Mirzo Tursunzoda was born. The guides said this would be an easy hike. Well, the guides were right about the difficulty except that the one little hard part they told us about was a really intense little hard part that has made me regret not bringing my hiking boots with me. I have learned of a hiking equipment store and may go look for some boots because sneakers are just not going to survive these mountains. MORE HIKE PHOTOS