Salam, Lachie and Ana here.
Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and other sites are periodically blocked here in Tajikistan. No-one seems to know why but basically some weeks they work, others they don’t. The problem for us was this meant we couldn’t access groups to ask about snow and hiking conditions around Tajikistan. Paige in Sweden was a legend and asked around for us but it seemed we wouldn’t really know anything for sure unless we just went and had a look for ourselves.
We just wanted to be in the mountains. But with no idea about what was possible we felt trapped in Dushanbe. We were getting restless and just needed to make a decision. So we bit the bullet and decided to travel halfway across Tajikistan to Khorog, the heart of the Pamirs.
At 6.30am we found ourselves in a big yard containing by dozens of 4WDs and people looking to travel down the Pamir highway. Local transport here works via a shared car system; basically the drivers park in the yard and leave when they are full. Three hours later and 10 of us had been recruited to fill the 8 seats of the jacked up Toyota Landcruiser. A mountain of gear was loaded on the roof and we hit the highway at top speed. It was 600km to get to Khorog but it was going to take a marathon 16 hours of driving. Crammed into the back seats it wasn’t long before the crazy number of people began to heat up the joint. It wasn’t far off a sauna in there and sweat beaded off our faces for most of the ride. Momentary relief would come when a window rolled down and let the cool air blast our overheating bodies. Unfortunately I say momentary relief because the window was only down for long enough for someone to toss their empty chip packet, drink bottle or vomit bag out into the beautiful landscape, then it was back into the sauna.
The roads started out wide and smooth for the first few hours. We’d read endless posts about the rough, bumpy, appalling Pamir highway but this seemed to be quite pleasant. It didn’t take long for the mountains to surround us and great lakes filling the bottom of deep valleys. It was quite enjoyable for the first few hours. We stopped for 20minutes for lunch and to stretch our legs before punching on towards Khorog. Very quickly the road narrowed, then turned to dirt. The potholes appeared and from there, there was no looking back. We bounced our way along the sides of mountains with the surging river below. The banks on the other side of the river were home to the lands of Afghanistan. We traversed this border for the last 10 hours of our trip and the scenery was beyond stunning.
After some hairy corners we were somewhat glad to still be alive as we rolled into Khorog at 1am. A good sleep in was in order and then it was time to figure out what the hell we were going to do. We’d made it across to the Pamir Mountains but unsurprisingly they too were still heavily covered in snow. But across the border there was potential. We’d heard bits and pieces of rugged and remote hiking possibilities just over the border, in the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan. We hadn’t planned on doing it this trip because it seemed like too much and we weren’t prepared, but with not much else on offer we started giving it some serious thought.
Before launching into that expedition we had one warm up objective here in Tajikistan. Two hours back towards Dushanbe a remote valley took off towards the interior of Tajikistan, and from that valley you could walk to an isolated village in the heart of the Pamirs. Jizev.
More on that soon.