A Perth cyclist trapped for three days in a hotel during a military uprising in Tajikistan has described his fear as bullets ricocheted past on the street outside.
Brian Thompson was two months and 6500km into a cycling tour along the ancient Silk Road when he and his fellow travellers found themselves in Khorog, not far from the Afghanistan border, as government troops tried last week to seize control of the town.
Mr Thompson, 56, of Cottesloe, told The West Australian how he and his touring companions found themselves holed up in a hotel as fighting broke out on the street below.
“We were about 200m from a bridge where the fighting was fiercest … they were fighting for the bridge and it sounded like they were shooting over the top of us,” he said.
“A couple of times we heard ricochets (of bullets) outside on the street.”
Mr Thompson said the group’s local contact had appeared at the hotel during the three-day ordeal with “his eyes as wide as saucers” saying there were dead people outside on the street.
Mr Thompson, a retired small-business owner, and his touring companions desperately tried to make contact with their embassies in the intermittent times when communications were working.
He feared at one point he would not see his wife and two sons again.
“I’m disappointed to be coming home in some respects,” he said. “But I live in the best city in the world, I have a great family and here I am riding my bike in this s… place and you think, what am I doing.”
Mr Thompson and three other Australians were evacuated on Friday by a Tajik Government helicopter, organised by the Australian Embassy in Moscow, and were taken to the relative safety of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.
He said the other Australians were safe and planned to continue their tour, which was originally intended to finish in Istanbul.