We decided to head directly from Samarkand to Dushanbe via the more direct border crossing at Tursanzade rather than go north to Tashkent, into the Fergana valley and the Fan mountains, as we wanted to make up some time prior to the Pamir Highway. A big chunk to miss, but one that would put us nearly back on our predicted schedule, and therefore not needing to get our Tajik visas extended.
In general the border crossing was OK, although on exiting the Uzbek side, we had our entire med-kit ransacked (yes, they really will google every single drug!) and Tom was nearly not let out due to the monstrosity that was now his beard resulting in him not looking like his passport photo anymore! Fortunately, all was resolved in time, and they weren’t remotely bothered that we had camped in some places, and therefore didn’t have hotel reservations for every night.
Just driving up to the Tajik side, we were immediately given a taste of things to come. The road was instantly both steeper and more potholed, and the border guide was asleep whilst having his head massaged by a younger man! It was incredibly chilled and easy ($25 road tax our only fee), and the guards were forthcoming with migration cards. In general, a highly recommended crossing point for what can apparently sometimes be a challenging border to cross.
The road to Dushanbe from the border was 70km of good quality asphalt road, which was a relief! We got to the capital at lunch time and set about trying to find the Adventurers’ Inn, which was reputed to be a bit of an overlanders hub. After (miraculously) driving pretty much straight to the right place, we were dismayed to find out that it had closed as a hostel about 10 months previously, although the new owner was considering reopening in the future. She was very helpful; ringing a different hostel for us, booking us in, and giving us directions! The new hostel was called the Greenhouse Guest House, and was excellent. It had secure parking (enough for the cluster of overland bikes and vehicles present), Wifi, various dorms, and a good kitchen with free tea and coffee!
Once again we used our time in the city to try and prep for the next stage rather than see the sights. Our parcel of oil seals and bearings that was coming from the UK needed to get redirected on to Bishkek, the Delorme needed updating, and a replacement jerry can had to be found. There was also the usual list of maintenance to do from a mechanical point of view, including flushing the radiator and using the opportunity to change the coolant to a 50/50 mix that would be more appropriate for our needs in the mountains.
With each of our tasks completed with surprising ease, (finding a genuine Soviet jerrycan the obvious highlight), we watched a particularly depressing rugby match (nothing further will be said), and set out the following day for the Pamirs!