The Melon hits the deck!

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July 15th 2016
Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: 36.7333, 71.6167

Friday 15th July

Time Check: 1610
Location: Ishakamin Altitiude 2,500m

I bring this report to you from the small first floor balcony of our little windswept abode for the night. Below me various locals are bustling about carrying small children in their arms or perhaps loading vegetables into their bashed up cars.

This is a "Frontier" town with no paved roads or much if any Western culture but the people seem cheerful and are pleased to see us. The guest house was totally deserted and the key to the main front door was not lockable so our guide Altanboc used a nearby rock for security!

We are bordered by the Pamir Mountains to the North and to the South East the "Hindu Cush"..........the gateway to Pakistan. This a "strategic zone" and only 180km (1 days drive) from the nearest Taliban forces. In fact, the nearby shared market (with Afghanistan) was recently closed by the Tajik armed forces due to some sort of attempted TB incursion. There has been trouble on and off in these parts for several years and until April 2016 was on the F&CO "Essential Only" visit list.

We departed Khorog in bright sunshine at around 0930 after a fair breakfast of the ubiquitous egg omelet and slightly tough bread. Our first port of call was a "Hot Spring" some 40 minutes away. We arrive only to find the "Danish" tour party had beaten us to it. We had been tracking them for the last 2 days........relatively elderly and "frog faced" they rather irritatingly always seem to be a few steps ahead..........just polishing off the last grains of rice as we hit the local lunch stop or holding up orders at local restaurants. Are they really enjoying this sort of caper? More suited to a "follow the umbrella" type tour around Vienna........

The Hot Springs were indeed a "thermal" wonderland......a vast mound of iridescent white, pink and yellow calcium sulphites/carbonates fizzed and belched steam topped off with a spray of hot water from the "peak" Towering some 50m above and a rotten egg smell prevailed................we were then separated into men and women.......and proceeded nervously to our respective "HOT POOLS".........a 3 SECOND GLIMPSE OF THE PROCEEDINGS WAS ENOUGH!..........REMINISCENT of some suspect LIBERAL1930's Prep School...... the locals were parading around with all on show........I beat a fast retreat back to the Jeep.....

1910: We have come to the conclusion that this is a 2 flea town......partly finished, a slight drain problem, NO STREET LIGHTS and probably hellish in the winter when the temperatures will drop to well below zero for weeks on end.

Only one incident to report: As I was getting my pack out of our jeep I managed to allow one of the highly prized bright green and yellow stripy water melons to role out the back.......... It was too heavy to stop and with a loud "KERFLOP" noise it hit the dirt flesh sprayed from a gaping is currently looking rather sad in a storm drain outside the hotel!

The Group "Chipper Meter" is down as we are all plodding about waiting to be picked up and taken to a rather uninspiring local restaurant.......

Time Check 0615

The Group is stirring........with much mutterings about the side effects from last nights meal from those who dared to eat it!...........we were up and showered by 0550 and kettle fizzing by 0600. From my vantage point I can now see the snow capped mountains in the distance as the dust and mist of yesterday is beginning to clear......

To be frank we were pleased to see the town disappear in our rear view was harsh, dusty and soulless.

Today we are heading East along the Wakhan corridor to Langar (2,700m) a small village situated at the junction of the Pamir Mountains, Hindu Kush and Afghanistan. Pakistan is only 10km away. We are slowly climbing all the time and later in the morning we hit the 3000m mark as we stomp around a fantastic fort overlooking the majestic scenery

Time Check 1811 Langar

We are settling into our traditional Pamiry Homestay. Remote, traditional and to some very primitive.......our little room has no beds but mattresses are laid out on the carpeted floor by our friendly host! The walls are also line with heavy carpet. These are hospitable rural people who are now directly benefitting for the small amount of tourism starting to pass by their front doors. They borrow money from the Micro Finance Bank or Aga Khan Foundation so as to install "basics" like solar water heating or a Western style WC. They then receive money direct for our stay and in turn are able to provide us with an honest night's stay considering the remoteness and harshness of the environment. To be frank this is not everyones "cup of tea"......if you are looking for creature comforts or boutique shopping forget it!

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