Tajikistan’s Death Road – Part II

For an hour we all stayed in complete silence. Sometimes I would hear a groan from the back seat. Camel’s son, a boy who appeared to be six years old, was sleeping heavily between Paulo and Edgar.

“What am I doing here? Would someone be able to recover our pictures and videos if we fell down the cliff? My mom would go crazy if she had to come to this godforsaken place to fetch my body. I wonder if many people di –”

“Wow! The wheels are passing less than one inch from the edge of the track!” My thoughts were interrupted by Edgar’s sudden astonishment.

“Tell him to turn around and go back to Bukhara. Look at the crag right here. Look at this! Look at this,” said Paulo in Portuguese – well, every time we spoke among the three of us we did it in our mother tongue – and pointed through the closed window.

“I also would like to go back but I haven’t seen a place where we could make the turn,” I said.

“This driver is insane,” said Edgar while trying to look further down the cliff.

“Oh my god! What now? Will two cars pass on this road?” Paulo asked when he saw two points of light appearing far away on the road.

“I don’t know. The driver doesn’t seem worried,” I shrugged my shoulders.

“But is he going to pull over and let the other car pass?” Edgar slumped in the seat and stiffened.

“He must be used to do that. Look at his son sleeping like a potato sack,” I laughed.

“Guys, the other car isn’t slowing down either,” Paulo said and poked me on the shoulder.

“Now he looks worried. I think he is going to pull over,” I said.

“OK? OK?” I asked the driver and pointed to the headlights coming in our direction.

“OK. No problem,” he answered with the faintest nod, without looking away from the road. Then, he finally slowed down.

“What now? The other car has also stopped,” Edgar said.

“Maybe it’s a duel to decide who is the bravest,” I said. It was supposed to be a joke, but I didn’t laugh. Neither did my friends.

“I am getting out of the car,” grumbled Edgar, “I don’t want to see that,” and he opened his door.

“No, no,” the driver yelled and waved Edgar to stay seated.

“The other car is coming,” I said without knowing if it was a good or a bad thing.

“Are they really going to chit chat here, now?” Edgar complained when our driver opened his window and started talking to the other driver that had just stopped next to our car.

“Friend, friend,” grinned Camel, and we took the road again.

I looked behind and saw the other car lights being swallowed by the darkness.

“If two more cars come our way I might have a heart attack,” I mumbled.

“And I will never pass this terrifying road again, ever,” confessed Edgar with his trembling voice.

“Oh! That’s why all the other cars coming this way were four-wheel drive,” concluded Paulo with an afflicted smile.

“We are so stupid! How come we didn’t realize that there?” I cried out, “There were fifteen cars waiting for passengers to Pajakent and this was the only one that wasn’t four-wheel drive.”

“I would have paid ten times more to get a safer car if I had the slightest idea that the road would be like this,” said Paulo, who was also the expedition’s bookkeeper.

Categories: Expedition

The Tajikistan’s death road – Part I

The sun was beginning to set and a couple stars were already shining in the cloudless purplish blue sky when the car left the paved road and entered the uneven dirt track of the Shahristan Pass, the only thoroughfare across the Tajikistan Mountains connecting two of the main cities of the country, Khujand and Panjakent. After a few minutes bouncing along a steep ascent, the road became narrower and bumpy, seeming almost derelict. According to Camel, our local driver, it would take more than six hours to travel the path of 250 km and arrive in Panjakent, in the west of the country. From there, the next morning, we would try to cross to Uzbekistan.

The car turned to the right and Edgar, at the back seat, saw the two-thousand-meter crepuscular precipice that followed the edge of the road.

“Oh, my God! Tell him to slow down,” he said with a trembling voice.

“But he is not even at twenty kilometers per hour,” I replied from the front seat.

The curvy road that crosses at an altitude of 3,400 meters has a bare earth stony surface with washboard corrugations and some heaped snow spots. If another car came in the opposite direction, the driver would have to brake and the slightest skid could throw the vehicle off the track.

“Shit! If we fall, no one survives,” said Paulo, seated behind me.

At every single turn, the wheels would send ochre dust and gravel flinging up into the murky, misty cliff. Eventually, the night fell impetuous. The darkness consumed the last sunbeams and seized the mountains around us. In more than one hour we had traversed less than 30 km and the gloomy night would probably slow us down even more.

When we planned our expedition from Beijing to London, almost one year before, I had not imagined that such a short thoroughfare could be so scary.

I was squeezing the door handle and had clenched teeth, but I knew I had to calm down. So, I took a deep breath, opened the window, put my head out and started looking for the moon. But I couldn’t find it. Suddenly, I realized that it was the starriest sky I had ever seen in my life. Looking at the uncountable constellations above us, I caught myself imagining if there was someone at one of those shining little dots looking at us in their own sky that night. In order to find a shooting star to make a wish, I squinted and slowly moved my head from side to side. “If I find one, I’ll ask for a safe trip tonight”, I thought to myself.

We still had a long way to go and Camel insisted on driving along the road’s edge. Putting my head back inside, I asked him – with a hand gesture – to drive on the inner side of the track. He pointed to the road, frowned, shook his head showing disapproval and said something I could not understand.

“The road is not good on that side. Here is better to drive,” is what I thought he was saying. So, I leaned my head on the seat headrest and kept my eyes wide open watching the road.

Categories: Expedition

Photo Exhibition and Documentary Premiere

Save the date! Write it down and don’t forget to invite your friends!

The opening of the “Olympic Expedition 2012 Photo Exhibition” and premiere of the documentary “Highway to hell” is this Wednesday, November 21st, 7pm, at 4corners in Beijing.

If you cannot come to the opening, don’t worry. The exhibition is going to be at 4corners for one month.

4Corners: 27 Dashibei Hutong, (off Gulouxidajie), Xicheng district / 烟袋斜街北侧大石碑胡同27号

Categories: Expedition, Schedule

Highway to hell… the ultimate video clip

On Youtube

On Youku

Categories: Diary, Equipment

Goodbye…

Categories: Diary, Expedition

The last day of an incredible adventure

The Olympic Expedition 2012 is over…

These last 60 days were an incredible adventure that started in Beijing, China, and ended here in London, UK. We smashed barriers, played with our own luck, met interesting people in amazing places, crossed terrible roads and learned a little of both culture and language of each one of the 28 countries we crossed. We had to leave Thunder Love, our 2005 Santana, in China, but we didn’t give up and kept traveling on every available transportation to get to Croatia, were two friends joined us to arrive in London on time.

It was an amazing experience, the best trip of our lives, full of unique moments that are not going to be repeated ever again. The Olympic Spirit, represented by our torch made from plastic and paper, enchanted the people that we met on our way or the ones following us on the internet. But, after, so many adventures and laughs, it’s time to say goodbye, or better, just “see you soon”. The Olympic Expedition 2012 is over, but the Olympic Games are still very live here in London.

Who knows? Maybe we meet again en 2016 to bring the Olympic Spirit to Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil…

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Olympic Expedition on ESPN Brasil

watch it here // Assista aqui

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Olympic Expedition on BBC Brasil

Only in portuguese…

Assista aqui // watch it here

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #59: The beginning of the end…

This afternoon, after taking part on a radio show, we said goodbye to the “Thunder Love II”, our van.

Bruno and Lucas left London to return the car in Frankfurt then take a flight to Brazil. Paulo and Edgar are going to Brazil tomorrow night, but first they are going to stop in Caracas, Venezuela, for couple days to visit our friend Carlito. Richard? Well… he is going to enjoy the Olympics while he decides where to go next and how to get there…

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #58: Brazil 3 x 1 Bielorrúsia (men’s football)

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #57: Finally, the Olympic Stadium in London

Categories: Diary, Expedition

London, here we are…

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Arriving in London

It’s 12pm and we are leaving Gatwick to go to London. We’ll be arriving there around 2pm. Thanks for being with us during the whole trip.

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #54: Amsterdam, Netherland

Categories: Diary, Expedition

We are almost there…

Since June 2, we’ve traveled more than 20.500 km, crossed 26 countries (some twice) and had a lot of fun with all the people we met. Now, we are in Brussels, Belgium, getting ready to cross the Eurotunnel and arrive in London Friday afternoon as close as possible to the Olympic Stadium.

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #54: In Amsterdam, Netherlands

After fixing the window of our car, we went from Prague to Wroclaw, in Poland, and then to Berlin, in Germany. Now, we are in Amstedan, Netherlands, enjoying the hospitality of my beautiful friend Lieke.

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Dia #53: Berlin, Germany

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #52: Wroclaw, Poland

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #51: Prague, Czech Republic

Categories: Diary, Expedition

Day #50: Vienna, Austria

Categories: Diary, Expedition

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