TAJIKISTAN PART 2 – OUR ADVENTURES ON THE PAMIR HIGHWAY PART 1

The lights are on, people are living there, we are so close, but why is Afghanistan still so far away. Unreachable through stories we read in the newspaper, it’s a country out of balance with a lot of problems. It’s also a country that looks extremely peaceful from where we are now. Over 300 kilometers we’re driving already with the only thing that keeps us away from reaching Afghanistan is a beautiful blue river. A river that for decades already separated lifes from both sides. Life is far from easy in Tajikistan, but life in Afghanistan is probably much harder. If those people were born at the other side of the river then their lives would have been probably quite different. Despite the lights in the houses at the other side of the river are burning and everything looks calm it still is this country where life can be quite turbulent.

So close but still so far away

We started our Pamir adventure and on our first night we found a beautiful camp spot at the Nurak lake. We pitched our tent in a dry river bed of the river that feeds the lake when the snow from the mountains start melting. Not far from our spot we saw a small building that is used as a house. When we passed the building we saw a guy from our age and waved at him. He is answered our wave with a very enthusiastic wave in return. Not much later he arrived at our camp spot and with help of Google translate we tried to communicate. Then he started talking about his boat and asks if we want to get on it. “Why not?”, is what we thought. Despite the boat had a engine, he had to row us to the other side. Because it still is Tajikistan and why would you maintain or repair things when there are still ways to use it? He got us at a bigger boat and a sort of old USSR floating barack. Proudly he told us that this is all owned by his family and while he’s showing us every corner, he insists us on making some pictures. After this tour he brought us back to the shore and we said goodbye. Back at our car we decided to toast on the start of our Pamir adventure and sip away a vodka.

Nurak lake including a boat trip to some old floating Soviet Baracks

After all impressions of the last days we decided not to drive too far today. Besides, the world turned out to be one big grey dust mass when we woke up. First we thought it was very foggy but when we found out that nothing of our stuff was humid we knew that it was the dust. We slowly woke up and took our time for our morning rituals. When we got packed we drove about 165 kilometers and decided to stay there for the night. Now and then a shepperd passed but none of them seemed to bother about us standing there. Tom did some work on the car and Dani was busy with all kind of things. That night it was almost warm in the tent the outside temperature was around the 5 degrees celsius. Unfortunately the dust didn’t appear the next morning. And since we were not in a rush we slowly prepared to head on. Meanwhile we attracted some attention from the village and a little brother and sister came to visit us. In the beginning they were very shy but that changed after a while and they start tearing apart the content of our car and had a look in the tent.

Our new made friends from the village down in the valley

At 10 o’clock we finally drove off to Khorog. After 5 kilometers we saw the first bridge connecting Tajikistan with Afghanistan. A country with countless heartbreaking stories about the war. Where terrorist attacks are still part of daily life. A country which always felt so unreachable that country is now so close that you almost could touch it. At some points the river was so small that you could wave to the Afghan people on the other side. And what beautiful was everything, the grassy green fields, the blossom and the small clay houses with the mountains in the background. Everything looked so calm and peaceful and in a way the people at the Afghan side of the river live the same lives as the people on the Tajik site. Make living from small size agriculture and some animals. The big difference is that on the Tajik side of the river a lot of tourist will come and go especially in the summer. While we drive further in the direction on Khorog we are chatting about the differences in life between these countries and what things have changed in the last years.

Afghan villages at the other side of the river

That day we had a long drive of approximately 300 kilometers to the Bartang valley. The route to this valley is beautiful and while driving the weather had improved slowly. The dust disappeared and we even catched sometimes a glimpse of sun. On our way we came across several towns and while waving to the people we leave this villages behind us. We have a good reason to drive all the way to the Bartang valley. The part we’re crossing is very narrow and the only camp spots you can find are near the river which means very close the to Afghan border. And because there are many Army checkpoints and patrols there is a big chance that you got sent away while camping because it’s too close to the border. For this reason we headed to the Bartang valley and there we found a very nice spot to stay for the night.

Tajikistan

Bartang valley

The next day we went to Khorog and the first stop in Khorog was the tourist information center. In this center the people were very helpful, besides they had a lot of information concerning road conditions. Fortunately there were no major land slided and getting to Osh without detour shouldn’t be any problem. Before leaving Khorog we visited the bazaar to buy the last groceries and we went to a border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan for the customs department. We had to extend our temporary import papers for the car and this should be possible there at the customs. All of this was quite hard and difficult for the bored people working at the border and the guy in charge of the import papers would only make it around 3 o’clock or the next day. We decided not to wait for it and just see what would happen when we are leaving the country. Also from what we had read on the internet it shouldn’t be a big deal because bribing was probably cheaper than extending the temporary import. We filled up all our tanks and we were ready to go.

This wasn’t the fuel station in Khorog but this is the way to fill up your tank on the Pamirs

The weather was again very nice, a good reason to only drive a short distance. Around 3 o’clock we had found a perfect spot to camp. We had a view on the Afghan mountains and enjoyed every second of the hot sun. We knew when it would disappear behind the mountains we had to deal with the cold. The snowy mountain peaks gave away that it could be quite cold at night. And cold it was that night but fortunately we were treated with very nice and sunny morning. From our tent we waited for the sun to appear and got out of the tent when we knew it was not too cold anymore. Like always we washed ourselves very fast, because this is the coldest part of our morning ritual on the other hand we took our time for the breakfast and enjoyed the morning sun. A new day with new adventures had started good and curious about all things what would cross our paths for that day we left our beautiful camping spot.