Shewa Valley Reviews
Oct 19, 2007
Shewa is the traditional summer grazing ground for the Kuchi nomads of Northeastern Afghanistan. It is located in Badakshan Province about three hours east of Faizabad. The Kuchi caravans go up in May and stay until the first part of September. They camp in family groups in black tents made from goat wool and spend the summer watching their animals, making milk products and heading back and forth to a nearby town to trade meat and yogurt for supplies.
The valley itself takes about three hours to drive across. The altitude is roughly 8500-9000ft and ends near the alpine Lake Shewa. Multiple streams and rivers criss-cross the main and side valleys. It is possible to do fly fishing and day treks from a central base. The Kuchis are open to receiving visitors but take them something to repay their hospitality.
From Faizabad you will drive about 2 hours east along the Kookcha river and then turn off to the north and climb roughly 5000ft very quickly. The road is driveable the entire way but do be careful....there are ample shells of vehicles to remind you what happens if you are not.
You will need to stop in Faizabad at the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism to get a letter that will introduce you to the local authorities of Shewa. In Shewa the district capital is at a place called Pi-Lo and you will need to check in with them before setting up camp. It is roughly a one hour drive from the beginning of Shewa.
The mountains surrounding the valley remain snowcapped year around and can be walked to easily. Marmots have colonies throughout the valley. You might want to observe where they are living and camp there in order to observe them. They become used to humans quickly if you don't mess with them.
Take fishing gear and ask the locals where the best place to wet a line is. They will try to get you to use one of their throw nets but will watch with wonder as you cast a lure. The main species is some sort of trout. It is quite bony but makes a decent meal.
Lake Shewa is located at the northern side of Shewa and remains iced in until quite late in the season. This year (2007) the car road did not open until the middle of June. It is a high altitude lake of incredible blue. All of Shewa is an incredible green through the summer with lots of alpine flowers. Be sure to bring sunblock as there is barely a tree in the entire valley and with the altitude you burn quite quickly. The nights can be cold through the summer and there was frost through June on our trip.
There is a small market in Pi-Lo but you will want to bring most of your supplies from Faizabad in order to have more than the basics. You will need to be mostly self-supported but you can buy a sheep or goat for meat. You will probably have to butcher it yourself or have someone else do it in exchange for the pelt and organs.
You could set up a base and hike out of there everyday or move further up the valley with your camp as you have experienced the sites in one area.
Get there soon if possible because the traditional lives of the Kuchi is changing. Many of them bring their families up in vehicles and it won't be long until they have satellite tv set up in their tents and bring their herds by transport truck. The Kuchi Caravans may not be nomadic much longer.
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