Trans Eurasia travel

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The Aznob Tunnel

In the three years since we first drove through the AnzobTunnel we've called it many names. Most of them have four letters. And none of them are very polite. Its local moniker is 'the tunnel of death'; that's probably not far from the truth.

This debacle of engineering is midway between Dushanbe and Aini, and there's unfortunately no way to avoid it unless you take a several-hour detour over the zigzagging Anzob Pass.The boring of the first part of the tunnel (one carriageway) was completed by the Iranian Saber International consortium in 2007, and the Tajiks put the road into use. Work on the tunnel slowed. Now it's stopped completely.

Driving into the Aznob Tunnel is like driving into the mouth of hell, particularly if you know what awaits you. For 5km you creep your way through the bowels of the mountain, using headlamps to light your way. Not only is the road surface without tarmac and pitted with pot-holes, but inconveniently placed pieces of rebar also slice at your tyres, often from beneath six inches or more of water. Giant fans, the temporary attempt at a ventilation system, appear from nowhere out of the gloom without even a reflector to warn you of their presence.

And then there is the other traffic. Two directions of vehicles are using a single carriageway. The lorries can barely pass. Not everyone's lights work. Some homicidal maniacs think it is a good idea to overtake. Grit your teeth, say your prayers and trust that you will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you are a cyclist, hitch a lift.