A trip up the Geisev Valley
Geisev Valley Travel Blog› entry 366 of 658 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Going back down the Valley was far quicker than going up and we reached the first suspension bridge just after 15.
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.