My homestay is giving me the briefest of glimpses into the life of a Tajik family. The house in which I’m staying is quite big and spacious, yet sparsely furnished. My abode has been the main living room, in the corner of which I have my pile of stuff and a bed consisting of a thin, soft mattress. The room consists of three levels, each one different in height from the next by about two feet. These levels form platforms that offer sitting, sleeping and walk-through functions all at once. The ceiling is an elaborate wooden structure, tiered in several layers towards a central square skylight. When I got up this morning to go to the toilet, I noticed that the family (or at least several bodies) were all sleeping together on a platform in another room. The toilet is in an outhouse and consists of a hole in the floor over a sewage tank. The family consists of parents, one grandmother and at least three children, two girls and one boy. Only the two girls speak a little English.

After a breakfast of something I don’t know (maybe semolina?), I worked on some tasks outside. Firstly, I washed my clothes. Secondly, I attacked my Brooks saddle with a knife. My blisters worsened in the last few days, making riding a very painful experience, so I have attempted to relieve the pressure on my very sharp sit bones by cutting a pair of X’s into the saddle, each one centred on the spot where my sit bones press into. Thirdly, I tried ‘fixing’ my stove, a difficult task when I have no idea why I’m having trouble with it.  I took it apart and gave it a clean, then I decided to read through the instructions in detail in an attempt to pick up any clues. Lucky I did because I discovered I am using the wrong jet (a little piece of metal that lets the fuel through). When I switched from kerosene to petrol as my fuel source, I’d simply assumed that the same jet should be used for both fuel types, but I was wrong. This was pleasing news as it gives me a reason why the stove has been playing up. While I worked on these things, three generations of the family (grandmother, mother and one daughter) ‘mowed’ (with hand-held sickles) a large expanse of garden, perhaps to make it look nice or maybe in preparation for planting some food plants. By this time it was lunchtime, which brought me a can of fish and a bowl of noodles. After eating, I cleaned up my diary entries from the last few days and then had a nap.

I rested until 3pm, when I decided I should get some exercise and see Langar. Just outside the homestay and in front of the shop I met a Polish couple on bikes, who had stopped to get some food and organise a car ride (they wanted to skip a bit of Tajikistan so they could spend more time cycling Kyrgyzstan before their holiday time expires). As they rode off down the bumpy road, I then went in search of Langar’s petroglyphs. My walk took me through half of Langar before I finally learned that the rock engravings were back the way I’d come. Assuming they were on some rock outcrops on the hill above town, I made my way onto the slopes and ended up coming across a series of graves. Bodies had been buried in mounds at the head of which were stones displaying photos of the deceased. In the side of each mound was a blackened hole, suggesting that the bodies are buried in the earth before being cremated. While my adventure across the hills provided magnificent views across Langar, I found no petroglyphs. It wasn’t until I’d given up my search and was making my back home that I stumbled across them. It turned out that I’d walked straight past them early on in my walk. I was glad to have missed them though, as I probably wouldn’t have explored so much otherwise. The petroglyphs (dating back to the Stone Age) weren’t particularly impressive, as it was hard to distinguish the ancient engravings from modern graffiti, but it was still interesting to see a few animal figures that had most likely been carved by people from hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

On my way back home I crossed paths with a Spanish cyclist and was surprised to hear he is riding through Tajikistan without camping or cooking gear, instead relying on towns and homestays. He plans on riding the way I have just come, making it first to the Khargush military post and then to Alichur. At first I thought he could never make it, but he showed me a picture of his bike, which only had one tiny bag attached to the seat post, which means he can ride extremely fast without the burden of luggage. He is staying at another homestay and was on the hunt for a shop, so he was happy to learn that my homestay also operates a store. The shop contains just a small supply of non-perishable foods, fresh produce being either grown independently or sourced out of town. For a cyclist without a means to cook, this basically means a choice of two types of biscuit, plus some junk food like chocolate and coke. I myself had visited the shop earlier, buying a can of fish, bag of currants, two bottles of water, a snickers bar and a bottle of coke.

After wishing the Spanish cyclist luck, I returned to my ‘room’ and contemplated having a wash before deciding not to bother. There is no running water here and I assume the household water is collected by hand from a public source of underground water (as I have seen in other settlements) or captured from rain when practicable. In any case, the water used by the house is stored in a few plastic containers and I am hesitant to use more than I really need to. I also didn’t fancy washing in cold water again. The bathroom can be heated like a sauna to make washing more comfortable, but I think getting it going would be more trouble than it’s worth for both me and the family. Despite being offered (and declining) the use of the heater yesterday, I think the family only uses the heater in winter time when this place is likely under snow. In the evening I continued reading my kindle, as I have done at odd moments throughout the day. I am currently engrossed in Limits to Growth: the 30 year update, a highly recommended read.

Dinner brought a vegetable and barley soup, followed by watermelon. On completing this entry, I will collect my spot tracker from outside, brush my teeth, visit the drop dunny and then settle into bed. By all accounts my ride tomorrow is going to be challenging, owing to a rough and sandy road. I also have the open sore on my bum to contend with. But I’ll worry about this properly tomorrow. For now, I should simply enjoy the comfort of another night in a warm home.

Afternoon walk

Accommodation $ Homestay
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 20,120km