Day 88 (2): The kindness of strangers

Shing Travel Blog

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views of the Fan mountains

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium)

With only a few more hours of daylight left we wanted to try and reach the Margozur lakes. This is a 20 kilometre string of seven turquoise mountain lakes, accessible by a winding gravel road. Progress was slow, but the views were stunning. Since there are no road signs in this area of the country we had to stop a couple of times to ask for directions. At one point we stopped near a mine where about 7 mine workers stood by the road side. We asked “Shing” and they nodded yes and got in the car. Err, wait, we asked them for directions and they thought we offered them a lift... Ah well, the car can handle it. Officially it is only licensed to carry four people, but heck, no one's going to bother in this country, now are they?

After Shing the road got really bad.

Unexpected hitch-hikers
A recent landslide had completely destroyed the road, so a new, temporary track was now made on the river bed. The car managed though, occasionally scraping its bottom on the rocks.

We had planned to camp at one of the seven Marguzor lakes, the fourth lake was recommended to us by the lady at the tourist office. However, as darkness fell it became increasingly difficult to find a spot to camp. There wasn't really anywhere. I mean, there was just a mountainside, a road and water. That was it. Nowhere was wide enough to park by the roadside and stay for the night. To make matters worse we were unsure whether we had reached the third or fourth lake. I did see something which looked like a flat spot of land, with a house or car parked in between two lakes, but in the darkness we completely missed the turn off (we saw it on the return trip the next morning).
One of the Marguzor lakes at nightfall


We drove into a little village (which we later identified as "Nolfin") and decided to stay here for the night. After we parked the car Wim went over to the nearest house to double check if it was ok to camp in the middle of the road. The man who lived at the house immediately invited us over. He had a separate guest room in his small, one-story mud-brick house (or maybe this is where the family usually slept) and immediately he offered it to us to stay the night here. We were unsure, we could easily sleep in the car and certainly didn't want to be a burden or exploit the people's hospitality.

As we sat down on a shyrdak (thin mattress) on the floor and we were served tea. After tea came more tea and then bread and bowls of something which is best described as the watery by-product of Feta cheese.
Having tea with our hospitable host
You know, when you buy Feta it comes in a watery substance. Well, this is what it looked like. It was a watery/milky substance which tasted like Feta cheese. I think it was some kind of goat yoghurt or perhaps fermented goats milk. Not bad, but very filling.

The man kept insisting that we'd spend the night in this room, rather than sleep in the car, so we agreed. He was a lovely man even if we could barely communicate, and we feared that if we'd refuse we would insult him.

So we slept quite comfortably on a pile of mattresses, underneath an even larger pile of blankets, while the family slept in the room next door. It was quite cold at night, in fact. After almost two months in the desert and desert-type climate I had forgotten what it was like to be cold.
The following morning: our car in the driveway of the house where we stayed
I slept comfortably and snugly though.
What a great first day in Tajikistan!

The next morning we were treated to some more tea with dry bread. I don't think the people had much to offer us, but whatever they had they shared. We were unsure whether or not we should pay anything for our stay. It can be considered an insult to offer money, so instead we left some money in the room as we left.

It had been a very interesting experience. The man was genuinely hospitable and while I have met hospitable people before, this was the first time that a complete stranger has invited me to stay at his home within minutes after meeting him.
Unfortunately we had not met the rest of his family. His wife and daughters all wore hejab, but this was seemingly not enough.
The stunning Marguzor lakes
They did their best to hide from us and if we would accidentally see one of them they would immediately retreat into a dark corner or behind a tree, looking away from us. Not sure which branch of Islam this is, but it is certainly stricter than anything I have encountered so far on this trip.

After breakfast we drove the 63 slow kilometres back to the main road. Now we could finally see the much lauded lakes. They were truly stunning. We had indeed driven to the end of the fourth lake, so on the way back we got to see four of the stunning turquoise lakes, in which the surrounding mountains reflected perfectly.

It had been well-worth coming here, even if it took us nearly three hours to drive back to the main road. Shing was also quite a nice place to see in daylight, despite having to cross that horrible road again. But it was comforting to see there were some construction works going on. This may be a poor country and this may be a remote region where few people live, the government at least seems intend to have the infrastructure fixed again.

Ape says:
Beautiful story!
Posted on: Nov 05, 2010
edsander says:
Excellent story and great pix of the landscapes after all those entries about mosques. ;-)
Posted on: Oct 22, 2010
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views of the Fan mountains
views of the Fan mountains
Unexpected hitch-hikers
Unexpected hitch-hikers
One of the Marguzor lakes at night…
One of the Marguzor lakes at nigh…
Having tea with our hospitable host
Having tea with our hospitable host
The following morning: our car in …
The following morning: our car in…
The stunning Marguzor lakes
The stunning Marguzor lakes
Sunflowers seem to be big business…
Sunflowers seem to be big busines…
On the road to the Fan mountains
On the road to the Fan mountains
Woohoo! Snowcapped mountains!
Woohoo! Snowcapped mountains!
The road along the Shing river
The road along the Shing river
Tim and Wim
Tim and Wim
The road along the Shing river
The road along the Shing river
Shing river in the morning
Shing river in the morning
One of the Marguzor lakes
One of the Marguzor lakes
Driving down the steep roads
Driving down the steep roads
Taking pictures
Taking pictures
Little kid welcoming us as we drov…
Little kid welcoming us as we dro…
Curious guy on a donkey at Shing v…
Curious guy on a donkey at Shing …
Driving through Nolfin village
Driving through Nolfin village
Marguzor lakes
Marguzor lakes
Marguzor lakes
Marguzor lakes
Shing village
Shing village
Shing village
Shing village
trying the water in the Shing rive…
trying the water in the Shing riv…
lady doing laundry in the Shing ri…
lady doing laundry in the Shing r…
Shing
photo by: Deats