A trip up the Geisev Valley

Geisev Valley Travel Blog

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Children in the village where we had lunch on Day 1

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

Wouter had arranged for a taxi to pick us up on Tuesday morning at 09.00 to take us to the Geisev Valley. At 08.00 the driver turned up to tell us that he no longer wanted to take us for the agreed price of 1 somani ($0.29) per kilometre, because petrol was expensive. You don't know whether to laugh, scream or cry at such people, who seem to be in abundance in Central Asia. After agreeing a price, which would make him a fair amount of money, he was now telling us petrol was expensive, did he not know this yesterday, or had the price mysteriously gone up over night! In the end, he backed down and agreed to the original deal, but we were all now on the defensive, as its hard to trust such a character.

Crossing the bridge over the Bartang Valley


David and Sigrid were still both feeling unwell, but had decided to accompany Julia, Wouter and myself on the journey, as the first day had been scheduled to drive up the Bartang Valley to the town of Bardara, thus not partaking in anything too strenuous. After 65kms we reached the town of Rushan, where we encountered a police check point. When we told them where we were planning to go, the response came back that we couldn't, as we didn't have the relevant permits. It took 20 minutes of driving around and waiting, to discover that we could in fact go to Bardara - but our car would never make it! The driver of the van had agreed to take us, but had clearly never been before, so had not realised the condition of the road. Clown.

Luckily we had planned to make a three day trip, which would include a day in the Geisev Valley, which was only 25km from Rushan and accessible by a better road, so we told the driver to head there instead.
A side valley leading off the Bartang Valley
20kms down the road the driver stopped to ask directions and insisted that we had passed where we needed to be, even though we had seen no sign of the suspension bridge that Lousy Planet said that we had to cross. We drove back 5kms to the town of Yemts, where some locals said we must head even further back to Rushan. At this point we had to insist that we knew it was wrong, so the driver went and asked elsewhere and thankfully found someone that knew what they were talking about. Once more the car was turned around and we were heading back to where we had come from, only this time continuing further, until we reached the clearly visible suspension bridge that led over the river.

The driver didn't want to leave his car here and hike up to the village where we would be staying, but he also didn't want to stay with the car by the bridge.
Scenery in between the Bartang and Geisev Valleys
He told us he had friends in Rushan so would go and stay there, but this would add another 50km and therefore 50 Somani ($15) to our journey. We had already agreed to pay 50 Somani for him to wait there for us, so after some discussions, he said he wouldn't count those kilometers to our total.

Having agreed to meet at 15.00 the following day, we said farewell and crossed the suspension bridge, which Lousy Planet said symbolised the start of our hike. It was now 14.00, so we opted to stop at a house that was just over from the bridge to have some tea and bread before continuing further. It turned out a good move, as the owner told us that we had crossed the wrong bridge. Supposedly many tourists make this same mistake, but the bridge we needed was another 5km down the road.
The river running through the Geisev Valley
Things weren't going well, but i guess thats what you get when you trust taxi drivers and Lousy Planet!

It was a pleasant hour long walk along the road to the bridge, and on route we were stopped by a policeman in his little red car. He said that as the President was flying to Khorog in the next few days, everyones documents had to be thoroughly checked for security reasons. His idea of thorough was to forget to even look at mine!

Having finally crossed the correct bridge (which had a huge signpost!), a well marked path led up into the valley. Sigrid and David were both struggling and i bet they were wondering what the heck they had gotten themselves into! A river flowed for much the length of the valley, except in one section where a landslide appeared to have stopped its course, but we couldn't work out where the water was escaping to, as the pool that had been created was only small.
Girls dance for us


Two and a half hours at a very steady pace was enough to reach the first small village in the valley, where we would spend the night. Lola home stay was pleasant enough, but as some Western 'eco-tourism' initiative had helped set it up, their price list was optimistic to say the least. For the five of us to sleep on the floor, and eat three basic meals, they wanted a whopping $80. I'm sorry to say that most of these home stays have completely lost the plot. How can you justify so much money, in a part of the World where many of the people only earn $1 a day?

After speaking with the owner, he told us that we should pay whatever our conscience would allow. If i spoke Russian, i think i would have asked him how his own conscience allowed him to ask for so much in the first place! Amusingly the price listing said that every meal was $1 more expensive as they didn't burn trees but used fuel.
The first village in the Geisev Valley
So that meant we were paying $15 just for the gas to cook! The traditional Pamiri house that we were sat in was built in 1998, presumably just for tourism. The irony is that these houses are built predominantly from wood, which begs the question - what about eco-tourism and chopping trees down!? The words 'hypocrite', 'laughable' and 'scam' spring to mind.

The five of us sat down and were served our Dinner, as it was already 19.00. The food which we received was some yogurt with bread and then two fried eggs with tea. According to their menu this should normally cost the five of us $20, surely the Worlds most expensive eggs!?

Once the Dinner plates had been cleared, the owner of the house began messing around on a traditional instrument. that had some similarities to a guitar.
A view of the first village across the lake, in the Geisev Valley
I'm not 100% sure how it came about, but somehow we ended up with 3 women, an accordion, a drum and two young girls in our room. It was quite funny to watch the women swapping instruments, as none of them seemed to be able to play properly. The young girls were finally thrown in front of us to dance, which they weren't too happy about at first, but then seemed to briefly enjoy the attention.

20 minutes passed before the 'musicians' exited, even if they were totally tone deaf, it had at least been good for a laugh. Julia jokingly said it was probably on their price list, but to our horror we checked and it actually was"Traditional Pamiri Musical Performance - $15 per hour”. It was only 21.00, but everyone decided that we'd had enough for one day and should go to bed.
Me, Wouter, Sigrid, Julia and David relax on a wooden bridge at the top of the Geisev Valley
We could deal with the situation tomorrow, if our consciences would let us!

I heard so many stories about Central Asian hospitality before i came here, but I'm starting to think that the definition of hospitality has been lost in translation somewhere along the line. Especially in areas that are used to tourists, there is no longer the traditional sense of hospitality. Instead, everything comes at a price and you really are expected to pay for every last piece of their 'hospitality'. Been invited into a house to stay, is the equivalent of been offered a room in a hotel. Entering a house and been offered food and drink, is no different from entering a cafe. Now some might say that you don't need to pay, they really do it from the goodness of their hearts, but this simply isn't true.
Stunning scenery in the Geisev Valley
For those that genuinely believe that this sort of hospitality still truly exists everywhere in the region, they should hear what the locals say once they leave and pay nothing! I believe it is only right and fair to leave some money for what you have been given, but providing a service and expecting money, then calling it hospitality, just doesn't wash with me.

We got up at 07.45 on Wednesday morning and a very good breakfast awaited us, once we had freshened up. A bottomless bowl of porridge was accompanied by a couple of hard boiled eggs, some bread, small snacks and countless cups of tea. Energized for the day, we made a move outside to set off trekking. As we left the village, we saw the women cooking some food outside, with wood burning away under the stove and even a shed full of wood right next to them! So much for the eco-tourism.
The little white goat that befriended us


Walking further up the valley, we saw some impressive scenery, as a turquoise river gushed past us and formed small lakes at sporadic intervals. The sun was playing hide and seek with us, which made it frustrating for photography, but at least it wasn't too hot. The journey to the end of the valley took around two hours in total and we passed three very small villages on the way.

Coming back down, we had to put our best foot forward, as it was already 11.30 and we had arranged to meet our driver 17km away at 15.00! Retracing our route back down the valley, we were joined by a small white goat for some period of time, who began bleating and chasing after us whenever we got too far down the path.

We stopped for lunch at the home stay, which was another very decent serving of fried egg with grechka, kafir (yogurt) with berries and raisins and plenty of hot tea.
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Normally we pay around $8 for full board at such places, but as we all agreed that they had been very hospitable and generous for our stay, we left $10 each. The owner seemed delighted with this and got us to fill out the English questionnaire that the 'eco-tourism' project had left. I gave the place a very positive review and said my only problem was that Western influences interfering in such areas, are detracting from the experience for a traveller. Why post prices which neither the traveller nor the local think is fair? If anything it only causes tension and hassles. Let the two parties work out what is fair for each side and surely this is the best way for everyone to benefit.

Going back down the Valley was far quicker than going up and we reached the first suspension bridge just after 15.
Looking down the Geisev Valley
00. It would have been another 5km to walk to the next bridge, where we had told our driver to wait, but to our surprise he was waiting at the bridge for us. He said he had asked again down at Yemts about the bridges, and found out we got out too early, therefore used his initiative and had driven here to meet us. I was a little gob smacked at first, but really happy that he had done this.

It took two and a half hours to drive back to Khorog, and on the way we were stopped at the police check point again. The officer who had stopped us in his red car the previous day was now on duty and greeted us warmly. If there's one thing that has really shocked me in Central Asia, it has been the good natured law enforcers. I just hope i am not made to eat these words! In Khorog we paid the driver and agreed that if we took any more short trips we would use him again.
Insects on a rock
The trip had its ups and downs, but with the second day finishing so positively, i will certainly remember it more fondly than i had first feared.

Deats says:
that would be really sad as its a beautiful place
Posted on: Aug 09, 2009
almond72 says:
Thar's gold in these mountains ! Dry mountains have lots of minerals, precious stuff & gems. Lucky nobody found out yet or this place will be mined flat.
Posted on: Aug 08, 2009
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Children in the village where we h…
Children in the village where we …
Crossing the bridge over the Barta…
Crossing the bridge over the Bart…
A side valley leading off the Bart…
A side valley leading off the Bar…
Scenery in between the Bartang and…
Scenery in between the Bartang an…
The river running through the Geis…
The river running through the Gei…
Girls dance for us
Girls dance for us
The first village in the Geisev Va…
The first village in the Geisev V…
A view of the first village across…
A view of the first village acros…
Me, Wouter, Sigrid, Julia and Davi…
Me, Wouter, Sigrid, Julia and Dav…
Stunning scenery in the Geisev Val…
Stunning scenery in the Geisev Va…
The little white goat that befrien…
The little white goat that befrie…
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Looking down the Geisev Valley
Looking down the Geisev Valley
Insects on a rock
Insects on a rock
Lunch time on Day 1
Lunch time on Day 1
Goats in the Bartang Valley
Goats in the Bartang Valley
Goats shelter from the sun
Goats shelter from the sun
A view down the Bartang Valley
A view down the Bartang Valley
A view down the Bartang Valley
A view down the Bartang Valley
A view down the Bartang Valley
A view down the Bartang Valley
A view down the Bartang Valley
A view down the Bartang Valley
Which bridge should we take...
Which bridge should we take...
Scenery in between the Bartang and…
Scenery in between the Bartang an…
Scenery in between the Bartang and…
Scenery in between the Bartang an…
A view down the Geisev Valley
A view down the Geisev Valley
A view down the Geisev Valley
A view down the Geisev Valley
A small lake in the Geisev Valley
A small lake in the Geisev Valley
Julia and Wouter trekking in the G…
Julia and Wouter trekking in the …
Geisev Valley
Geisev Valley
A view from the first village in t…
A view from the first village in …
Pamiri Family perform a concert fo…
Pamiri Family perform a concert f…
The owner of the house gets jiggy …
The owner of the house gets jiggy…
Pamiri women playing instruments
Pamiri women playing instruments
The first village in the Geisev Va…
The first village in the Geisev V…
A view from the first village in t…
A view from the first village in …
A view from the first village in t…
A view from the first village in …
Geisev Valley
Geisev Valley
Looking at the first village acros…
Looking at the first village acro…
Looking at the first village acros…
Looking at the first village acro…
A small frog
A small frog
Looking down the Geisev Valley
Looking down the Geisev Valley
Scenery in the Geisev Valley
Scenery in the Geisev Valley
Small lake in the Geisev Valley
Small lake in the Geisev Valley
A view down the Geisev Valley
A view down the Geisev Valley
Wouter, Sigrid, Julia and David re…
Wouter, Sigrid, Julia and David r…
The lake at the top of the Geisev …
The lake at the top of the Geisev…
Geisev Valley
Geisev Valley
Wouter pets the little white goat …
Wouter pets the little white goat…
The little white goat that befrien…
The little white goat that befrie…
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
A view down the Geisev Valley
A view down the Geisev Valley
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Turquoise Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Lake in the Geisev Valley
Rocky hill
Rocky hill
Gushing stream
Gushing stream
A view down the Geisev valley
A view down the Geisev valley
Sigrid, Julia and Wouter on their …
Sigrid, Julia and Wouter on their…
Geisev valley
Geisev valley
Geisev Valley
photo by: Deats