The land locked nation of Tajikistan is the poorest country in central Asia. The mountainous landscape is unforgiving and temperatures extreme. Here desperate truck drivers can wait for days to get assigned a load to transport across the treacherous terrain.
Working in old and battered trucks on bone-shaking routes, dodging falling rocks and landslides, and being forced to wake up every two hours during the night to start their engines so they don’t freeze up and leave them stranded; these men are severely tested.
They do it all for the love of their families who wait for weeks at a time, hoping that their husbands and fathers will return safe. A look at both sides of the lives of Tajik long distance drivers.
History is full of long and legendary highways but none – frankly – come close to the Silk Road. It’s not just the magnitude (at least 4,000 miles, in more than 40 countries) but the mythic potency of the project. The world was cleft into east and west in the Middle Ages.
But long before, the Silk Road – which has existed in one form or another since the fourth century BC – breached any such divide. While trade was its raison d’être – Chinese silk, of course, but also salt, sugar, spices, ivory, jade, fur and other luxury goods – the road forged deep social, cultural and religious links between disparate peoples.
The Silk Road was not a road, but a network. The central caravan tract followed the Great Wall, climbed the Pamir Mountains into Afghanistan, and crossed to the Levant. Along the way were spurs branching off to river ports, caravanserai, oases, markets and pilgrimage centres. Journeys demanded meticulous preparation: the Silk Road and its tributaries cut through some of the harshest, highest, wildest places on Earth.
Follow Gary and Monika Wescott as they travel in Tajikistan in July 2014 along the Silk Road on their quest to reach the Pacific Ocean.
The Tunnel of Death, Tajikistan
Visibility reduced almost to zero thanks to large sections with no lighting. Useless headlights which fail to penetrate the fumes. Carbon monoxide accumulation which has already claimed the lives of people delayed in the tunnel. All vehicles must have windows up and airflow on recycle. Potholes which seriously challenged ex-military trucks in permanent 4WD. Exposed reinforcing bars in the remaining concrete road surface had punctured the tires of 2 trucks whose drivers were changing them in the tunnel. Along the length of a mid-tunnel section there are holes as deep as 1.5 meters which are full of water. No roadworks signs and no traffic controls in this single-lane section or anywhere else.