Day 92: The capital of the Pamirs
Khorog Travel Blog› entry 129 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium), Gillaume & Marlene (France)
We started the day where we left off yesterday: with an army patrol. These guys were not interested in registrations though, they just wanted a lift. Guess they got tired of walking.
The road to Khorog went very smoothly. The road had rejoined the M41, the Pamir Highway, which was fairly good in this section, so we were making good progress.
We picked up a couple of French hitch-hikers, Gillaume and Marlene, who hitched with us to Khorog.
We stopped at an inviting looking beach for a swim. After three days on dusty roads without a shower a swim was a particularly endearing prospect.
We arrived in Khorog and had lunch together with Gillaume and Marlene, after which we each went our separate ways again. We were spending the night at the Pamir Lodge, which is the closest thing to a backpacker hostel you can find in Tajikistan.
Or well, backpacker hostel... it turned out I was the only backpacker here. All other guests were either overlanding (by bicycle or motorbike) or they were in Tajikistan for a few weeks on an organised trip.
And then there was Dr Ali Muhammed Rajput. Dr Rajput turned out to be the founder of the Pamir lodge, which he opened to fund the construction of the local jamaot khana (prayer hall).
I met a girl who was in Khorog for six weeks to do a study about Ismaili's. Very interesting to talk to her and learn about this fascinating sect.
We paid a visit to the Khorog regional museum. Khorog is the capital of the Gorno-Badakhstan region, an autonomous region which accounts for 45% of Tajikistan's territory, yet only 3% of its population. After the collapse of the Soviet Union this region was hit particularly hard, as it had relied entirely on Moscow and Dushanbe for their food and fuel needs. During the civil war Gorno-Badakhstan tried to split off from Tajikistan as an independent country, but in the end an autonomous region was the best they could achieve. Being autonomous in one of the poorest countries in the world basically means that the people in the region receive absolutely no help or benefit or whatsoever from the central government in Dushanbe.
Obviously none of this was highlighted in the museum, which seemed to focus more on the Russian conquest in the region than contemporary affairs. There were only some bits and pieces about the unique Pamiri culture (centuries of isolation and lack of arable land has resulted in a very different culture from the rest of the region).
Nonetheless it displays several interesting items from the region, including a weird cross-bow shaped mouse-trap and the first piano to arrive in Badakhstan in the 19th century (hey, that is a big deal apparently).
When we were looking for the museum we were approached by an old man who showed us the way. Once at the museum he stuck with us and turned into a genuine tour guide. Even though we could only understand about half of what he was telling us, it was quite nice getting a guided tour by what seemed to be local village idiot.
The rest of the day was spent at the lodge, cleaning out the car and planning the next section of our trip. I had received some quotes from travel agents for trips along the Pamir Highway, but the three of us had decided to continue our trip together instead. We enjoyed each other's company and while I could not assist in the driving (didn't have an International license with me), I volunteered to cook and clean instead.
So we used the itinerary sent to me by one of the travel agents as a basis for our route to Murghab. We wanted to reach Murghab in about 7 days, in order to cater for any delays or breakdowns, leaving Tim and Wim still enough time to return to Uzbekistan if needed.
The next morning we did some grocery shopping at the local bazaar. Not knowing when we will next come across a proper supermarket, we made sure to have food for a week with us.
Khorog is also the site of one of the highest botanical gardens in the world, which we visited next. Though the garden itself wasn't overly spectacular, the views from the high vantage point certainly were. The two-hour walk also gave us some nice high-altitude exercise, giving our bodies the chance to adapt to the high altitude before we travel even higher.