This past week I had to go down to Dushanbe from Khujand. Its a relatively short 5 hour journey, except it involves crossing through a gigantic mountain range in the middle of Tajikistan.
The quickest way to go through a huge mountain is of course to go right through it. Tunnels are an engineering marvel, without which travel time for many people would been extended exponentially. Prior to the construction of the Anzob tunnel, travel and commerce between the two largest cities in Tajikistan were often disrupted each winter by frequent avalanches.
Of course, the construction of the tunnel (led by an Iranian consortium) was a great thing, but completing the tunnel would have been better. The Tajiks learned a big lesson: never work with the Iranians again. Most people here name it the “Tunnel of Death”, and here is what it looks like inside:
So there is a tunnel, and by that I mean there is a 5km long hole through a giant block of mountain, but that is about it. Potential hazards at present include leaking ceilings, lack of drainage, zero ventilation, ditch sized potholes and to top it off, plenty of carbon monoxide. It is open though!
Driving through the tunnel was great, you enter one side and it is complete darkness for the next 5km, unless there is a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. No roadlines, no markers, just the silhouette of the cylinder. As a driver, you will have to swerve away from massive potholes, dodge construction equipment littered along the tunnel, and of course avoid oncoming traffic too. In case you are wondering, the stretch is littered with large equipment because construction is STILL underway, almost 10 years after it officially opened.
Needless to say, most of the other tunnels in Tajikistan today are safe and well-built because after the Anzob lessons, the Tajiks turned to the Chinese for help. Thank goodness!