The Wild Wakhan Valley
Langar Travel Blog› entry 20 of 83 › view all entries
My departure from Ishkashim on Monday was not as smooth and easy as I was led to believe, but eventually successful. There was absolutely no transportation in the morning, but after waiting two hours looking for a ride, I met a man named Hudoded who was heading to Langar, the outpost at the junction of the Wakhan and Pamir Rivers, about 110 kilometers east of Ishkashim. He invited me to have tea at his sister's house in the adjacent village, so we walked with his daughter, who was suffering from pterygium and therefore was why he had taken her to a Khorog hospital, down the road, through a field, over a stream, up a small hill and through the narrow paths of the village to his brother-in-law's.
We still waited for two more hours, and I finally agreed to pay 80 somoni for a taxi to get to Langar, which probably paid the way for the rest of the passengers, but at $23 it was either that or wait for another two hours for possible transportation.
Hudoded pointed out some of the sights along the way that in some cases I was able to photograph, like the ruins of Khakha fortress near Namadgut and the hill caves at Vrang. Gholib, our trusty driver, insisted that we stop next to what appeared to be a garrison or restroom, but was supposed to be another hot spring, though not as picturesque enclosed in concrete.
The last passengers to exit were Hudoded and his daughter, and Gholib and I drove into Langar as dusk was setting in. I had asked to be taken to the village jamoat khona, a type of community hall that sometimes doubles as a guesthouse, but I later found out it was temporarily closed, and Gholib had his own motives. We pulled up next to a house in the west end of town and as he said, "seichas," I wondered just which interpretation of that word I should be taking. But when two dirty children pulled open the gates to the house and we pulled in, I figured he had found a place to stay for the night whether I had anything to say or not.
It turns out that the place wasn't so bad, except for the fact that I probably contracted my first case of giardiasis for the trip on account of the improperly boiled tea. In Langar, most cooking was done on Franklin stoves in which twigs, dried plants, cardboard and eggshells are used for kindling. The first cup of tea was only lukewarm, and the second registered slightly above warm. I reluctantly swallowed the warm liquid and ate a decent meal of fried eggs and ramen noodle soup. I flipped through the various phrasebooks I brought, trying to find enough words to make conversation, but then Gholib prayed devoutly and then had a lengthy conversation with his sister and an old woman who remained unidentified in the corner.
When I reluctantly asked where the toilet was, Gholib led me outside and began to tell me he didn't know either, and with the pocket-sized flashlight I'd picked up at my last job's Annual Conference exhibit hall (thanks RAPS!), we found a field behind the house. As I was carefully looking down to avoid tripping over any rocks or ledges and twisting my ankle again, a bent section of fence that had been sawed off at the top appeared ready to take off the right side of my face, but I escaped with a small scratch. We climbed over a pair of (un)electrified barbed wires and shut off the flashlight. I was about to ask where the appropriate place to relieve oneself would be should one need to do something other than pee, when a distinct sound from another section of the field answered that question for me. Dreading the likelihood of a midnight rendezvous to fertilize the field, I realized this was the adventure I was seeking and was thankful that at least I brought along some toilet paper.