Interview with Ania Kosmaczewska, participant of a 3-month cycling trip from Georgia to Pamir
-On the first day after returning from the expedition, you appeared at work and we laughed that instead of an office chair you should have a bicycle seat. Is it difficult to return to civilization?
Oh it is not easy when you beat 3,5 thousand kilometers by bike especially when a very large part of the route is in high mountains. We knew well what we were getting into. I spent my trip with two friends, with Ola last year’s holiday – in two weeks we travelled Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, covering a thousand km. As we noted at the beginning of our travel relation on Facebook – we have one thing in common: we love freedom in travel. We like traveling off the beaten path, without rules or schedules of the day. Cities make us feel tired. That is why we decided to travel, where there are not many of them and we could commune with nature.
-Six Wheels Trippin – which is the name of your travel relation on Facebook you read and watch with bated breath. I liked one of the phrases: “at the seventh lake we stopped talking. It was such a mystical feeling when you do not want to talk, you prefer to soak in the beauty of the scenery.
It’s probably the best summary. The route of our trip led through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We had the opportunity to see very diverse landscapes: turquoise lakes, mountains in all shades of brown and green, but also green pastures, steppes, herds of grazing sheep and yaks, wild horses .And the people, who were very authentic and living in the rhythm of the seasons. Because we love freedom during our journey we did not stick to the travel plan or the map. We did not want to go quickly, but to experience what was given to us. We were changing the route if necessary. We used to spend a few days in one place. All the more so because contrary to popular belief and stereotypes, the hospitality of local residents is probably greater than this proverbial Polish one. We lived in the houses, watchtower, yurt, but also in the library of the mosque. In Iran we were surprised by such a situation in which the driver was honking at us. It turned out that it was not a warning or a greeting, just an invitation. The driver wanted to host us very generously. Another time, we were gifted with roses. We were also a local tourist attraction, and we even had the opportunity to conduct English lesson in one of the schools. The food we were given at every step would be enough for 3 months of traveling. Looking and even participating in the life of the natives, we often realized how little modern man needs to live a happy life.
– You mention stereotypes, and some fears associated with them. For example, you were discouraged from driving through Iran.
The image of Iran is created by the media. However, after three weeks of traveling through Iran I can say that it is a friendly and a safe country, with people open to the world, sadly closed by fanatics in a religious box. Another myth was about Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, no one urged us to drink vodka and men did not catch our eyes. Nobody demanded money for a favor, just the opposite. I have the impression that there was a kind of rivalry among the natives, which one of them would be more generous, more “rich”. Sometimes we had enough of this warmth and ran into the mountains. There was just a tent and basic food.
-What type of local dishes and drinks did you taste? What kind of invention of civilization did you miss?
There were a lot of mutton dishes as they are Georgia’s and Iran’s “national” dishes. In Kyrgyzstan I drank kouis which is fermented milk of mares. It didn’t taste well… to be honest. I am denying another myth: we did not miss regular baths. We used rivers and streams. The most difficult time happened when we were overcoming several kilometers of mountain climbs f.ex. 4,600 m above sea level. The day before it was so cold that water in our water bottles froze. Usually, we were sweating all over, our legs and hands were swollen, and uninvited insects were sticking to our bodies. However, it was one of the best experiences in the world, because the heavenly views compensated for the inconvenience. The country seen from the car loses a lot. There is only one conclusion: riding a bike can be compared to the theater performance in which you are a participant. Driving in a car is like a visit to the cinema where you are a passive observer of the movie.
I wish all people could experience such a journey!
Photographs: Aleksandra Matusz, Piotr Rząca