The Quest for Ratm

Langar Travel Blog

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Halfway up, looking back down the valley

In the morning I thanked my body for patiently waiting until morning light to find a proper bathroom, which was only meters from the field and only marginally better. I negotiated 20 somoni (about $6) for the previous night's sleep and walked with Gholib to the transportation hub where he said goodbye and handed me off to another guy, who walked to the center of town and down a lane to my next homestay. A young man named Safar escorted me to my room, which even came with a lock, and although it was cold (all rooms are cold here), the heavy blankets I saw stacked up in the corner would be more than enough warmth at night.

Langar is considered to be a good base for nearby attractions and hikes, not to mention the last village of any size for another 60-some kilometers.

Mountains everywhere
So with the day just starting I decided to hike to the fortress ruins of Ratm, supposedly 5.5 kilometers northeast of Langar. Safar showed me which fork in the road to take and from there I set out on a fairly long walk, then hike. I wasn't really sure where this fort was supposed to be, and not seeing any signs or evidence other than other shoeprints, I decided to follow my instincts and trust the birds that were circling in the direction I had been climbing. The first vista I approached was a small plateau with a few houses at the end and a view to the bottom of the next valley where a lonely house stood. The other direction revealed another Afghan border checkpoint and the Pamir River.

I continued my climb, past grazing cows and a flowing stream up past another wider plateau with houses and rows for crops.

This is Ratm
I took a slight detour around to a path that led to a road and just as I was wondering which way to turn, I saw a blue sign in the distance and headed for that straightaway. Sure enough, it was the sign for Ratm and I had been in the Ratm village as soon as I discovered the second plateau. The fort itself was not overly impressive, but did contain some rock ruins and a nearby defunct round watchtower that had later become a restroom. The views from just past the watchtower where the land started to slope before dropping off into the surrounding valleys were worth the uncertain climb. A very steep gorge was visible in the distance on the Afghan side and the isolated valleys were even more picturesque than the first plateau.

After having my fill of the scenery and fort, I headed the opposite direction along the road, wondering where it would take me.

View from the top to the Wakhan Valley
I refilled my water bottle with water from a stream and used my handy SteriPen (thanks, Mom!) to assure myself that I wouldn't develop a dreadful disease from the specks floating in it. I silently thanked Helene, an Australian tourist I met in Ishkashim, for teaching me how to use the device, which utilizes ultraviolet rays to kill bacteria. The sun soon hid behind clouds and the wind picked up as I fetched my hat, gloves and scarf I was happy I brought with me on this day hike. The views were beautiful all the way, and while it was blustery, the temperature only registered about 50 on my handy multipurpose whistle/thermometer/compass, having dropped 20 degrees from the point when I began to climb uphill.

About an hour later I approached the sign proclaiming the limits of Langar, and followed the hairpin curves down through the upper portion of town.

The northern entry into Langar
Around a couple bends, someone from a yard above called out and offered me to come have tea. Not having had lunch yet, I accepted his kind invitation and came in. Sherzo was very simple and kind, and his wife very friendly and accomodating. I practiced my Wakhi, using the phrasebook, and had a bowl of shir choy. Their two sons came in, both shy and with infectious smiles. I took some pictures and gave him the rest of my bag of tut, and was going to leave when he asked me to stay for potatoes. I then noticed his wife in the upper chamber of the room cutting potatoes into french fry-shaped pieces. While I wasn't sure if I should impose and eat any more of his food, he seemed fine and his kids were still smiling, so I stayed. For a moment I regretted it, because I saw he quickly took kindling and fed the fire, but obviously they would have to eat and I ended up not eating much. It was nice to sit, relax and enjoy the warmth of the stove and a kind family.
Sherzo and his two boys (and wife cutting potatoes in the background)
I didn't have much on me, but I gave them some somoni and headed on down the path.

Around another bend was a sign for the Langar petroglyphs, but I checked the time and it was already 4pm, too late for the hike up to see them, especially not knowing the way, so I just crossed a bridge and climbed up to a rock for a nice view of the stream below. Three boys at the bridge, acting as trolls I presume, posed for a picture, and while I thought they were going to demand money or something, they seemed pleased with the photo I took, but didn't ask for me to send it.

Back in my room at the homestay, I read and wrote in my journal until the light of day faded. I had asked for dinner at 7pm, since I'd already had a late lunch, but at around 5 they brought me a plate of fried potatoes.

My room in Langar. No, I did not have a tea party!
I realized the time zone may have changed one hour ahead, but no one was certain just what time it was and I decided it really didn't matter when nothing was dependent on the time and all that was important was daylight or darkness. Safar's brother brought me a long red candle, which I used to pass the time reading until it was nearly 9pm. The electricity came on for about a minute around 10:30 but otherwise remained off for the duration of my time in Langar, but after a day of climbing I was ready for bed and slept soundly under a pile of blankets until the morning light peered through the drafty windows.

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Halfway up, looking back down the …
Halfway up, looking back down the…
Mountains everywhere
Mountains everywhere
This is Ratm
This is Ratm
View from the top to the Wakhan Va…
View from the top to the Wakhan V…
The northern entry into Langar
The northern entry into Langar
Sherzo and his two boys (and wife …
Sherzo and his two boys (and wife…
My room in Langar. No, I did not h…
My room in Langar. No, I did not …
photo by: Biedjee