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Published: February 16th 2018
The journey from Khorog to to village of Ishkashim took us only 3.5 hours to cover 120km as we had some good runs of reasonable asphalt.
Ishkashim is in the Wakhan Valley so we started our detour off the Pamir Highway. The Wakhan Valley is split between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the border marked by the Pyanj River. It’s narrow, finger-like shape provides a geographical reminder of the border battles during the Great Game when the Russian and British Empires strived for dominance. Originally Indian territory, it was given to Afghanistan to create a buffer zone between the two.
Flanked by the Pamir Mountains on one side and the Hindu Kush on the other the Wakhan Valley, named after Wakhi people who inhabit the area, is a flat valley that sits at an average elevation of 2700m. It spans 210km between Langar in the east and Ishkashim in the west, its width varying between 20-60km.
Now we are on our own we've signaled to Abdesh that we're ok to pick people up who want a lift. It's very common to see locals waiting on the side of the road looking for a ride. Of the people we picked up
so far no one has been going far, which has been quite amusing.
We've also noticed that Adbesh is doing bits of maintenance to the Land Cruiser each time we stop. So the road is starting to take its toll on the vehicle.
The scenery the whole day was just spectacular. We started in big gorges again and then opened into a wide valley. We've picked up the Hindu Kush now on the Afghan side, as the Wakhan Valley is so narrow the mountains jut through from Pakistan. They are huge and a number are snow capped, whereas previously snow capped mountains have been in the far distance. We've also seen some that look like its snowing on top.
Water flows everywhere off the mountains so there are springs, pipes, taps and irrigation streams everywhere, making the whole valley very green and fertile during summer. Houses don't have plumbing but have a stream or hosepipe on or near the property. Sinks are outside and grey water gets emptied straight into the veggie patch usually. People also often have a pet dog, which we of course like.
Ishkashim itself sits at 2,500m, making it our first time
this trip staying at high altitude.
We had a nice walk through the village. Everywhere we have been kids want to practice their English on us as they are learning it in school, but here the kids are saying "welcome" and we met a little 5 year old boy who could speak more English sentences than we can Tajik.
Our homestay was nice, we could sit out the front on a platform and through the fruit trees in the garden see the mountains. It clouded over for the first time in the afternoon and went cool enough to put another layer on. We thought we'd freeze with just one blanket but it turned out to be so thick and heavy it was almost like a mattress. I promptly woke up at midnight boiling. The dog was let loose at night to patrol the outside of the house. The family slept out on the platform, huddled up together under a bunch of blankets.
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