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Published: February 4th 2019
If you’re wondering whether the Pamir Mountains
, the 3rd
highest mountain range in the world, are the right destination for your trip, you should read the following lines.
It’s been almost two years since I travelled to the Pamirs in Central Asia. The group was small and consisting of avid travellers. All were happy and kind during the first days of the trip. That was until we reached the High Pamirs.
Once we were at altitudes above 3,500 m, the living conditions became rough. Everyone, travelling to this part of the world, should come prepared for both the mental and physical challenges of the journey.
To my surprise, a large part of our group came totally unprepared.
My travel companions Dave & MJ
and David & Denise
have written extensively about the happenings during our journey on the Pamir Highway
. I’ve also published a few blog posts on my own website, which you can read here
. So I won’t go into more detail about the disgraceful behaviour of these so-called travellers.
What I’ll do instead is ask you a few questions. If you answer “yes” to all of them, then you’ll know for sure that the Pamirs
are the right travel destination
for your trip.
1. Are you prepared to eat food that is anything but tasty?
The Pamir Mountains aren’t a culinary destination. The food you’ll eat is not skillfully prepared. Condiments and spices are missing. The vegetables often aren’t properly cooked.
The problem is that at this high altitude nothing grows. Groceries travel a long road before they land on your table.
To top this, even the bread is hard as a rock if not served freshly baked. For some reason, locals keep it uncovered in the open air.
To be honest, a few of the meals we ate were surprisingly delicious. For example, a plate of greasy yak ribs, which fell off the bone when I touched them, was scrumptious. But most of the time, the food is not the highlight of this trip.
You just have to know that you’ll be served what the locals have. You can’t order what you crave, no matter how much you insist.
2. Can you use an outdoor toilet?
In this part of the world, roads, water, and electricity are a few centuries behind than what we’re familiar with. However, the remoteness of the area is
part of its authenticity and the overall adventure.
I’ll admit that the state of the toilets was a real challenge. Still, not all were that bad and if you can ignore the aroma for a few minutes, the journey is worth the effort.
3. Can you skip showering for a couple of days?
In our case, the longest we missed showering was three days in a row. Since we did a road trip and didn’t sweat a lot, it was hardly a problem. Sure, it was not a beauty contest and we were a bit uncomfortable, but nothing really to complain too much about.
4. Will you be polite to your hosts even if their service is not to the standards you’re accustomed to?
Most of the accommodations in the High Pamirs are simple homestays or yurts. This means that you’ll sleep in your hosts’ own house. You’ll get everything they have – and sometimes even more.
However, there’s no running water and the electricity comes from a car battery. You just can’t expect to receive more than this. Yet the travellers I mentioned previously, demanded special treatment and complained about basically everything.
not that kind of traveller.
5. Can you share accommodation with (almost) strangers?
The rooms in homestays are often shared. It is a part of the local culture to offer a place to stay to anybody who asks.
The “beds” locals use are simple thin mattresses laid directly on the floor for sleeping and rolled away for storage. To my surprise, they were quite comfortable.
It is the local custom to make beds for several people – as many as they can fit in, actually – in a single room. So you might end up sleeping with a few other travellers in the same room.
6. Will you be able to drink water and tea for almost the whole duration of the trip?
A lot of eateries and homestays don’t serve anything other than tea. The green tea will actually help you fight the symptoms of altitude sickness so it’s good that you drink it. Along with tea, water is the other beverage in abundance. Sodas and beer are hard to come by.
So with that in mind, let me tell you what your rewards will be if you choose to travel the Pamir Highway.
First of all, the incredible views will leave you in awe. The mountains will keep coming at you, each peak more majestic than the previous. The lakes will reflect the beauty around you in their crystal waters. The raging rivers will crash huge boulders in front of your eyes. Locals will dance to traditional music and invite you to join. Ruins of fortresses and tombs, as well as thousand-years-old petroglyphs, will astonish you.
So, if that sounds like a journey you want to take and you’re not scared of the challenges along the way, you should go on an epic adventure through the Pamirs.
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