Getting sick again

Fan Mountains Travel Blog

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Scenery on the walk to the Alplager from Artush

People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

Our second excursion to the Fan Mountains had been unplanned, but I'd enjoyed the first one so much that i just had to return! This time we caught a minivan from Penjikent to the village of Artush and it has to be one of the most cramped rides that I've ever experienced. When we left the bazaar, i was already sat on a stool in the aisle of the van and figured that this makeshift seating was the final spot available. During our three and a half hour journey, we must have stopped for at least another dozen people, as the driver decided that the passengers could perform their own version of the Chinese circus trick of fitting countless bodies into a mini.

Tajik man that chatted with us near Artush
With limbs squeezed in at impossible angles and into inconceivable gaps, we finally maxed out at 29 people, all of whom were sweating, groaning and generally gasping for air.

It was a real relief when we finally made it to Artush and we could stretch our legs in the grand scenery and exercise our lungs in the pure air. The villagers offered us a warm welcome as we walked down the street and children would stop whatever they were doing to wave and shout hello. A jeep track led into the mountains and we followed this for about an hour uphill, before a kind old man invited us into his house.

The day was coming to an end, so we didn't stop for too long, just long enough to consume some naan bread, watermelon, yogurt and tea. The friendly old bloke chatted away to Julia, telling us about his family and when he had visited Russia.
Scenery on the walk to the Alplager from Artush
What stood out about this visit however was when we went to leave. The man would just not accept any money from us. and this was the first time since we stopped at a Kyrgyz yurt near Jelang that we had not had to give anything in return for their 'hospitality'. In the end he agreed to accept a packet of our biscuits from us, but it was this mans behaviour that i would define as true 'hospitality.' The man actually told us that it is Tajik tradition not to accept money from guests and it made me wonder what he would think to know that this tradition no longer applies within many households. I found that fact a little sad.

The last hour to the Alplager was filled with chatter of what a genuinely nice person the man had been and it really filled me with happiness to have met him.
The path from the Alplager to the Kulikalon Bowl
The alplager was set in a beautiful location and looked magnificent in the setting afternoon sun. We took a simple room without a bathroom and this set us back $20, which was quite steep, but there wasn't really any other option.

We sat in the garden where youngsters on a holiday camp were running around and playing with two incredibly cute dogs. Once we took the Yahtzee out for a quick game, we were immediately surrounded by the kids, who all wanted to watch and figure out what the rules were. At 20.00 we had Dinner, which was soup, salad, bread and tea (10 Somani / $2.90) and then retired to the room for an early night.

On Tuesday morning i woke up feeling a little stiff, as though i had the start of a virus. Normally a good walk sweats these things out of me, so i decided to just grin and bear it and try to push through it.
Scenery on the path from the Alplager to the Kulikalon Bowl
The plan for the day was to walk around three hours uphill to some mountain lakes, located in the Kulikalon Bowl, have a wander around and then head back to the Alplager.

The walk up began steadily enough, as we crossed over a small stream several times, passed a few farmers with their donkeys and after an hour finally reached the foot of a rather imposing mountain. Once we started to ascend, i had to stop every so often and wait for Julia to catch up, as she was struggling with the heat, altitude and slippery path. The trail was also not very clearly marked and Julia ended up taking a different path from me, which led to the two of us getting split up. I spent a very frantic 20 minutes running around the mountain trying to find her again and when i eventually did, i felt physically and mentally shattered.
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl


At this stage i was beginning to contemplate giving up and going back to the Alplager, as i was feeling a wreck, but the stubborn side within me dictated that i continue. Once we reached the top of the mountain, i had foolishly hoped that we may be there, but we were in fact still another 90 minutes away. I had to stop for increased periods and at more regular intervals and i was beginning to feel really unwell, but stupidly on we went.

When we finally got the first sighting of the lakes, i found the closest bush and instantly lay down under it in the shade and passed out. Soon after i began to get cold shivers and headaches, even though it was really hot and i had to lay out in the sun to warm up. In total i spent over ninety minutes trying to sleep, before it came time to be making a move.
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
Before we set off down i managed to walk around for about 30 minutes at the top, but i was in no fit state to enjoy it. The trip back down was terrible as my legs had turned to jelly, making it incredibly hard to keep my footing on all the loose gravel.

Once we got back to the alplager, i went straight to our room and went to bed. There was no still water in the shop, which had been a common problem throughout Tajikistan, so i was left trying to rehydrate with sparkling water and coke, which was obviously far from ideal. I managed to wake up for a light Dinner before going to bed really early.

The next day was Julia's 24th birthday and sadly i was in no state to celebrate it with her. I spent the day in bed with a headache and hot and cold sweats, trying to sleep as much as possible.
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
I felt horrible having to rely on Julia to nurse me back to health on this of all days. When she went to the shop to buy some chocolate for her birthday, she said that the shop owner had been in the process of selling cigarettes to 10 year olds, which i thought was pretty diabolical.

The owners of the alplager new that i was sick and also that it was Julia's birthday and had told us that as it was also the children's last night at camp, so they would be having a big farewell Dinner, so in turn we would also get well fed. At 18.00 Julia reminded them not to forget us and again at 19.00 and 20.00 she went down to the kitchen to make sure they saved us some food.

At 21.15 there was finally a knock on our door and the chef was stood there with two sorry looking bowls of soup.
Butterfly at the alplager
When Julia asked him where the Plov, Salad, Fruit and other stuff was, he said that there was none left. I felt pretty pissed off with them to say the least, but figured that the kids were the first priority, so there was nothing we could do. When Julia took the bowls back down, she said she saw the staff in the kitchen and there was a huge bowl of Plov left, plenty of chopped up tomatoes and cucumbers and also a large cut up watermelon. For some reason they just didn't want to give us any. Complete and utter bastards.

Julia had told the alplager co-coordinator the previous day that we needed to try and get down to Penjikent as our visas were expiring. It was therefore quite annoying when we went to leave on Thursday morning to hear him say that he would have tried to arrange a lift for us if he knew we were leaving, as all the kids had been taken back to Penjikent by car that morning.
The van that took 29 people from Penjikent to Artush
I don't know whether he was just totally dumb or cruel, but it wasn't the first time that i had found myself asking this question of a Tajik.

The walk down took a little over 90 minutes and once we reached Artush we had to wait for the bus to arrive. Luckily we got a seat on it and it was a normal bus this time. Although it was incredibly crowded, all the passengers just sat normally and made the people getting on stand, which suited me fine as i was feeling horrible. It brought to an end a disappointing second stay in the Fan Mountains, but i believe that this was mainly attributed to my poor health.

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Scenery on the walk to the Alplage…
Scenery on the walk to the Alplag…
Tajik man that chatted with us nea…
Tajik man that chatted with us ne…
Scenery on the walk to the Alplage…
Scenery on the walk to the Alplag…
The path from the Alplager to the …
The path from the Alplager to the…
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
Lakes in the Kulikalon Bowl
Butterfly at the alplager
Butterfly at the alplager
The van that took 29 people from P…
The van that took 29 people from …
Drying Apricots
Drying Apricots
Lady carries her baby up the mount…
Lady carries her baby up the moun…
Scenery on the walk to the Alplage…
Scenery on the walk to the Alplag…
The Alplager
The Alplager
Family on the road near Artush
Family on the road near Artush
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Butterfly
Butterfly
Butterfly
Butterfly
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Scenery on the path from the Alpla…
Scenery on the path from the Alpl…
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Lake within the Kulikalon Bowl
Julia doing a puzzle
Julia doing a puzzle
Me with a puzzle and a cold flanne…
Me with a puzzle and a cold flann…
Butterfly
Butterfly
Fan Mountains
photo by: Deats