We spent two days in Dushanbe in order to conduct some maintenance and repairs on our bikes. For this, the place to go in Dushanbe seems to be the “Bike House”. While having breakfast we talked to the French bikers. It turned out they had plans similar to ours.
When they left, we got to know two cyclists from Austria who were on their way to New Zealand. They had started in Austria seven months ago and the plan was to spend seven more months on the road. We talked about our ways of travelling: it turned out that they were camping almost all the time. In hinsight, this makes sense as it is probably difficult to find a cheap place to stay every night (especially since you can only ride so many kilometers each day). When we “confessed” that we only had camped three times so far, they offered to cook camping dinner for us if we’d meet along the road once more. Since we were planning on spending some days doing maintenance this was in fact not too unrealistic.
After breakfast we rode to the bike house where the others were already talking to the mechanic. We inquired about the things we wanted to to: check the valves, change the engine oil and.. install a new pair of steering head bearings in Chriss’ bike. During the last days, he had noticed that they were a little “stuck” in the straight position. So, we had to find some bearings and get them installed. This turned out to be a bigger problem. According to the mechanic, they would have to get shipped from Moscow. This would take around a week.
We were not too keen on waiting a week, so we decided to go two other waypoints for potential “motorcycle workshops” which we had found on the Internet. As it turned out, both of them did not exist (any more?). So we headed back to the Bike House – which was already closed. Great!
A little disappointed we rode to our next accomodation. We had decided not to stay in the previous one as it was pretty expensive considering the facilities. When we went out to get some dinner, Chris talked to the brother in law of the owner. He lives in Canada, so his English was impeccable. After we told him about our problem, he put us in contact with an other bike mechanic. After exchanging some messages, Chris rode to his workshop which was still open at 8pm! It was not far away from the Bike House, but tiny and without any big signs. So, it was pretty easy to miss if you didn’t know what you were looking for. Denis, the mechanic, was waiting for Chris. After having a quick look at the bike, they agreed to meet again tomorrow at 10am to fix the bike. Wow! After spending the entire day looking for a mechanic the series of coincidences leading to meeting the mechanic is almost unbelievable!
On the way back Chris picked up dinner. As he was waiting, a local called Fama started talking to him. He told about the time he spent in Germany a few years ago. Back then, he lived on a farm for one year where he helped taking care of the animals. From the way he talked about his experiences you could tell that he liked his time in Germany! As Chris was about to leave, Fama gave him some bisquits (he was working at some kind of bakery) as well as a bottle of water for free!
Back at the hostel we wanted to stay outside to eat. Again, we met a local with whom we spent the evening talking and laughing! He bought beer for the men and ice cream, tea and some other pastries for Fabi. Chris was not allowed to taste the pastries – as he put it “only for the lady!”. It was a very funny evening – the guy wanted to convince us to drive to a “waterfly” (waterfall) with him which he considered to be very beautiful. And like many other Tadjik locals we met so far, he considered Fabi “very beautiful” and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t the wife of Chris yet..
The next morning, Chris headed to his appointment with Denis. In order to work on the bike, it was at first necessary to move other bikes out of the shop. When this was done, Denis started the dissassembly of the steering. In no time, he pulled the steering head out so we could look at the bearings. They looked as could be expected: the shell of the bearing had visible imprints from the bearing itself – no wonder the steering was stuck in the center position!
While we were working on the bike, the friends/collegues of Denis arrived one after another. As it turned out, they were all members of the “Moto Brothers” – a local biker club! With the bearings, Denis set off to find a new pair of bearings. Chris stayed at the workshop together with the other club members. While they were waiting, Chris inquired if he should bring them some ice cream as well – the local hospitality turned this into: “Here, have some free ice cream”.
After way over one hour, Denis returned – without new bearings. But Denis knew a “trick” to fix the steering for now: He switched the upper and the lower bearings and also rotated the shell of the bearing. This was supposed to make the stuck center go away. After cleaning the bearings, Denis reassembled everything. Then Chris went for a test ride: amazingly, the problem was completely cone! The trick did the trick – amazing! Of course it’s unclear how long this fix would last – so, the problem wasn’t completely out of the way. But we were not stuck in Dushanbe for a week. Instead we could start our trip along the Pamir Highway the next day! Checking our valves and changing the oil was postponed to Osh in Kyrgyztan.
For dinner we wanted something “normal” as our stomaches were still revolting. We ended up at a small “Pizza and Hot Dog” booth. Our order go “mixed up” a little. We ended up with two small pizzas and five (!) hot dogs. Financially, this error wasn’t too bad, the total was 37 Somoni which is equal to around 3,7€. But still, the sheer amount was a liiiiitle too much for dinner. But at least this gave us some breakfast for the next day.