Published: October 11th 2010August 17th 2010
Turumtal Kul lake
Petra, Alex and Thomas
From Frichtamo homestay in Jawshangoz we slowly made our way out, as the path is bad, swampy bogs and dodgy bridge and river crossings, 2 locals jumped on the back of our 4wd to guide Kevin on where to go and which turn is safe to take, we made it to a gravel road and along the way we met up with a push biker, it's Ricky, the Kiwi dude we met in Pamir lodge in Khorog, we chatted a bit and then stopped at a small magasin where there is nothing worthwhile to buy, Ricky is heading towards the pass so we said bye to him. It was a long but gorgeous ride towards our target destination Turumtal Kul, an alpine lake at 4,202 meters, scenic drive it was, we felt like we are in a plateau as we kept getting higher and the mountain tops seems not so distant, a lot of them still has unmelted snow, it is cold here and desolate but surprisingly we encountered a number of local cowboys, not shepherds, they don this cowboy hats but they are walking! We asked for directions several times from these guys.
We stopped at a view point
before driving down towards the shore of the lake, it is gorgeous with flowers of different colors dotting the surrounds. We opted to do several hours hike around the lake , at least attempt to as we haven't a clue how long it would take, Julie decided to stay so Thomas, Petra, Alex and I set off, we followed the coastline at first, walking in the "beach" until we have to go inland as it gets soggy and boggy, I sunk in one and wet my boots, I was so annoyed, I decided to go further inland and voila we found a proper trail there.
The scenery is just spectacular, different colors, the flowers, the mountains, the lake, the sky, everything conspiring to make an excellent photographer in us, just click the button, its like a painting ready to be painted. swats of bugs swarm us everytime the soft blowing wind stops. I swallowed some of them! We saw from a distance a beachy part so we decided to head there and it was a great spot to picnic, it is so quiet only birds make the noise, no one there but us. the sun is nice warm, the
water is very inviting and it did not take long before we all skinny dipped, Petra starting the process then we boys followed one after the other, imagine swimming nude at 4,200 meters, to us that was an incredible experience. We went for a nap after the swim and then realized we need to get back, we cant go around the lake as it is too big so we went back the same way, we found Julie and Kevin strolling around. Julie told us we had a flat tire but Kevin changed it but we now have to find a vulcanizing shop to fix the tire. We now drive towards Jelondy but is still a tall task, we have to go through a few rough roads, we found a faint trail after asking local herders then from a distance we saw the main Khorog to Murgab road, it's paved, all we have to do is find a way to get there, we have to cross a raging river! Kevin was a good driver as he managed the crossing with no problem. The main road took us to Jelondy, we stopped in the small town to ask about fixing our tire,
Kevin came out one shop with a big watermelon, a gift apparently from locals. We drove on and found the Sanatorium.
It is a big complex this sanatorium is, only 2 somonis to use the hot springs, you can smell the stench of sulfur even from the raging river outside. A bunch of 4WDs parked outside, this is a popular stop for tourists and locals alike, Kevin took us men to the inside of the men's section of the hot springs, its crowded, naked rowdy young men milling around, must be a group excursion, we did not like it so we decided to check out an old sanatorium 5 minutes up the road but it was not operating so we decided to head back and use the "new" hot springs resort, by this time it was only us and one old man in the pool, who demonstrated his toughness by going under the super heated flowing stream in the corner of the pool. The boys tried it but it was too hot, I wasn't silly enough to follow suit.
We ended up having dinner there in the sanatorium we are all starving by now and poor Kevin hadnt
had a meal since breakfast. As we wait our orders, a tourist came with a beer, we asked him where he got it from and offered us some we thought it was free but the guide the tourist was with offered each for 15 somonis, we bought it but wasnt happy about this greedy jerk. Mitchell the Korean dude appeared all of a sudden, his group is here too, we travelled together to Khorog from Dushanbe and was going to be with us in this excursion but does not like to hike so he opted out. We left the complex and drove around to find a place to camp, we found a perfect spot near the river, we quickly set out tents while Kevin looked on playing his favorite dance music "we no speak Americano" with a really danceable beat, this will be our theme song throughout the trip as he plays it every chance he gets. It was my fault in part I gave it to him to supplement his limited mp3 tracks, and now we hear it to no end, I have to thank my Csurfing friend Firuz for giving me this music! He then left us for
the night. And whilst nothing to do we polished off the remaining booze we had, vodka.
Woke up to a cloudy morning but like the day before it eventually clears up as the day progress, Kevin came and took us out of there, we stopped again in small towns to check the availability of a vulcanizing shop, this set us back approx. 80 kms as we look go towards the opposite direction to fix the tire. We ended up in one town where we asked in a magasin shop for help finding a tire shop, we ended up having an early morning vodka with the locals and eating the watermelon from yesterday as it fell from the car when we opened the door and cracked so we finsihed it there. The scenery here is outstanding btw, odd shaped hills, raging river, especially when we got to Varshodz where we found a vulcanizing shop eventually, Kevin dropped us off at the shop and he went with the guy to get his "glue" at his home, took about an hour to fix our tire, meanwhile Petra and I walked towards the river to find drinking water, but it was not clean
looking, we had lunch in the shop, a dodgy canned corned beef and stale bread, there is a magasin nearby we bought some snacks before and now it is shut because the owner is in the vulcanizing shop watching our tire gets fixed, I guess it is a big event here when tourist come to fix tires, worth shutting down his shop for the day(to our annoyance!)
Tire fixed we headed top our destination, the Bulungkul(3,737 m) and Yashil Kul(3,719 m) lakes, following the main road we saw a couple of salt lakes, white salt covering most of the landscapes, we drove on a dirt road to get to the town of Bulungkul, the lake was nice but we kept on towrds the bigger Yashil Kul, it is very windy here, and we encountered 2 push bikers around the lake, we wanted to find and camp near the hot springs but failed to locate it. We contemplated camping here but it's too windy and cold so we eventually went back to Bulungkul, gassed up in town then got stuck in the muck as we try to go around the lake and camp on the other side of Bulungkul. Kevin
drive to Turumtal Kul lake
Kevin chatting to local cowboys
tried to get us out of there, we attempted to push the car out of the jud we got sprayed with mud. He went to town to get help, the 1st truck wasnt good enough so we waited for a second truck, all the while as it was cold we got inside the car and got drunk, we bought bad beers earlier at one shop near Varshodz, when the 2nd truck came, along with half the village and some"local" tourists, we got pulled out successfully and the locals refuse any payment so we went back to town and offered it directly to the town chief, who reluctantly took the money, the people here are genuinely good people we were humbled by their generosity.
We found the dirt track to go around the lake and settled to camp next to an abandoned ruined house. There is no wood to burn, Kevin found a few slabs which he cracked up to pieces with a rock! Thomas and I went for a walk to gather firewood, none! even dried shrubs are hard to come by, so when I found a small farm hut, no one there, I gathered what little drying dung
I found to use for fire. I came back we started the bonfire to keep us warm while we cook our food, with loud Panamericano music and booze. This is the 1st night Kevin our driver is sleeping with us in a camp, he slept in the car and the whole night you can hear the music blaring from the truck, and the next morning he claimed he did not sleep well, I wonder why! despite that we love this dude, he spoke good English despite what he thinks,and has a sly sense of humor.It took 4 days though for him to warm up to us and now he is one of the gang. Mozzies abound as we had breakfast, we packed up and started heading out to the Kargush pass this was the pass that Kevin wouldn't cross without good set of tires. With confidence we went up it, it was very cold here and windy we stopped at a car who got engine problems and Kevin helped the old man fix it then we stopped at an excellent viewpoint, next to a lake atop the pass with views of the massive Afghan mountains. Eventually we got to a
checkpoint. It's a military base and just across the river is Afghanistan, the soldiers took interest in us, one dude collected our passports and registered us in the book while the rest of his buddies sat and watched our every move. Alex was able to get a picture with them, they happily obliged, about half hour later we got our passports back, i know they are slow, the same guy who did the paperwork lifted the barricade to let us through while his friends just looks on, maybe he is the only on duty soldier and the rest is off for the day, all 7 of them!
So now we are on our way to the Wakhan corridor, and from now on Afghanistan will always be on the other side of the river.
There are more photos below