Planning the Wakhan Corridor

Murgab Travel Blog

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A view from our house in Murgab

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Sigrid (Belgium), David (Canada)

Murgab is a sorry looking town, located at 3576m (11800ft) in the South East of Tajikistan. The main reason to visit the place is to book onward transport and also complete some registration formalities. Kamchabek knew a family in town that would take us in, so we didn't have to use a META home stay again. As we had electricity, a cozy room and a bucket of hot water to take a wash, we agreed to pay them $8 for bed, breakfast and dinner, which was still a fairly good deal.

All of us were craving a substantial meal for Dinner, so when we got served potatoes with meat, i chose not to ask what the meat was, although i have a fairly good idea that it was Marco Polo sheep.

Murgabs main road
Under other circumstances i wouldn't have eaten it, but on this occasion i was just too hungry to turn it down.

Our host family were all very pleasant, with the daughter Elmira and the two little boys always smiling at us. Mohammed, who was the youngest son, seemed to take a shine to me, even though he had a shy personality at first. I didn't really see a great deal of affection between adults and children, so i was quite surprised when he came to sit next to me and even held my hand.

On Wednesday we got up together at 08.00 and had a disappointing breakfast of eggs and stale bread. Our first task for the day was to complete our registration with OVIR, which ended up taking longer than anticipated, as we had to walk around town looking for somewhere to photocopy our passport and visa.
Looking over Murgab


After changing some money at the bank and visiting the KGB to confirm our registration, we wandered through the town, which had a real Andean feel to it. People wore colourful clothing, mountains revealed interesting contours and there were plenty of curious eyes following our every move. If i didn't know better, i could have sworn I'd just arrived in a Peruvian town.

We ate some Plov in a cafe located at the bazaar, before trying to organise a jeep to take us to Khorog via the Wakhan Corridor. I had a rough idea in my head of what we should be paying, as i knew the cost of petrol and roughly how far a Russian Jeep could go per litre. In our minds we had a price of $280 for the three day trip, but all the people were incredibly greedy and asking for anything from $350 - $450.
Murgab bazaar
Even though i wasn't keen to use META, we decided that it couldn't hurt to at least go to see them to receive a quote.

The META office was a lovely building that was located on the edge of town, and was a clear indication of where they were spending the communities money. We arrived at 14.00 only to find the co-coordinator was on an extended lunch, so we were left to sit around for half an hour, waiting for him to return. Once he arrived, we went and sat in his office, whilst he worked a quote out for us. All the drivers had told us that the trip we wanted to do was approximately 500km, so i was surprised to hear the man tell us that our journey was 680km. Obviously this made his quote far higher, but i was a bit shocked when the words $550 slipped from his mouth.
Kyrgyz men in Murgab bazaar
After some negotiations, we managed to get the price down a little, but it was still over the quotes we had received in the market. This really summed META up for me, a company that is out to eek every last penny from you. I left the office wondering why the hell Lousy Planet had recommended them so highly, when they were clearly the most expensive company going.

The four of us walked back to our home stay feeling a little deflated, but this soon changed, when Kamchabek told us that the Dad of our family had a Russian Jeep and may be able to take us. Some food was laid out for us and the Dad joined us to negotiate. After a few minutes of talks, we had settled on $300 for the trip, which included $50 for him to make the return trip from Khorog to Murgab, in case he was unable to find any passengers to go back with him.
Sigrid and a local girl walking down the street


It was interesting to talk to both drivers about their feelings on META, as they had both worked for them. Like every other local we had talked to, they really didn't like them. They were upset that META not only took 15% from the tourist, but took an additional 8% from the driver. They supposedly also lied about the price that they had been paid, so as to keep more of the money which they received. META only ever took money from what we were told and never helped out with Jeep maintenance. When i asked them where they thought all the money was going, they both smiled and simultaneously made a gesture that signified it was going into the top pocket. Having heard nothing positive about META from any local that we talked to, i find it hard to believe that they can really be creating the positive effect within the community that Lousy Planet claims that it does.
Cute local girl in Murbag
To me it seems like CBT in Kyrgyzstan, just another travel agency that has cornered the market and is trying to set unrealistic prices for foreign visitors to pay.

Now that we had sorted out our onward transport, we were able to go back to the bazaar to buy some provisions for the journey. It was fascinating to walk amongst the people, who were a mix of Kyrgyz and Tajik. The Kyrgyz men tended to wear Kara-Kolpak felt hats, whilst the Tajik's often had baseball caps and shell suits on. Many of the women were wrapped up in colourful garbs and some were even fully covered, except for their eyes.

Back at the home stay we had Dinner and i got my laptop out so as i could play some games with Mohammed. Once more, Penguin Racer proved to be quite a hit, and soon we had the whole family sat around watching.
Kids playing on my laptop as the Mum watches
The four of us were all feeling pretty exhausted and as we had a long day ahead of us, we agreed on an early night.

On Thursday morning we got up at 07.30 and had some porridge and bread for breakfast. We said goodbye to Kamchabek, who was hoping to head back to Osh, before loading our gear into the green Russian Jeep that would be transporting us for the next 500km's. Shortly after 08.30 we departed, full of optimism for what may lay ahead.

Deats says:
Hey Bart, im surprised META have gone, they were making a fortune! Suppose they just make as much in Dushanbe though. I think Tajikistan has huge potential for tourism, and they should try to cater for all budgets. They have to realise that to charge a lot, they have to provide a lot. A mat on the floor is not worth $8 for example. Having your own car sounds very nice. You must have had some good maps/GPS though to find some places - especially in the Pamirs? What happens if you break down? I was discussing this in Mongolia actually. I guess you know your way around a car? Im a mechanical idiot, so i wouldnt dare do it :D
Posted on: Jul 18, 2010
Biedjee says:
Hey Phil, you will be happy to learn that the META has disappeared from Murghab. The Murghab Eco-Tourism Association now resides in... Dushanbe. Quite annoying for people coming from Kyrgyzstan. I agree with you that the homestays in Tajikistan were way overpriced, but the disappearance of META has not improved things. If there was one thing I found lacking in Tajikistan it was an organisation tapping into the huge tourism potential in the country and structuring things for tourists. Now all organised tours are arranged from either Dushanbe or Khorog, leaving very little for the people living and working in the Eastern Pamirs.
Posted on: Jul 17, 2010
Deats says:
Yep, we actually went to within 2 metres of Afghanistan as well the other day! Spent many hours driving along their border, but never stepped foot across. Maybe next time :)
Posted on: Jul 14, 2008
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A view from our house in Murgab
A view from our house in Murgab
Murgabs main road
Murgabs main road
Looking over Murgab
Looking over Murgab
Murgab bazaar
Murgab bazaar
Kyrgyz men in Murgab bazaar
Kyrgyz men in Murgab bazaar
Sigrid and a local girl walking do…
Sigrid and a local girl walking d…
Cute local girl in Murbag
Cute local girl in Murbag
Kids playing on my laptop as the M…
Kids playing on my laptop as the …
Murgab bazaar
Murgab bazaar
Murgab
photo by: Biedjee