Day 93: Entering the Wakhan corridor

Shanbedeh Travel Blog

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Clearing rocks from the road. Err... road? What road??

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

After our visit to the Botanical Garden we went on our way again. Once again we deviated from the Pamir Highway and continued to follow the Afghan border south, along the famous Wakhan corridor, the strange strip of Afghanistan which was mutually agreed on between Russia and Great Britain as a barrier between the two empires. Today would be an easy day. No more than 100 kms of driving.

Our first stop was Garm-Chasma where there is a natural hot spring. When we arrived all three of us said the same thing at once: like a small Pamukkale with mountains! The hot spring has created a single travertine, next to which a pool has been made. We had to wait half an hour, because it was women's hour.

Garm-Chasma hot spring
Obviously, in a conservative Islamic society like this, men and women are segregated (even though there is far less segregation than in Iran, I guess mixed bathing simply goes too far).

We took this as an opportunity to score some lunch. Strangely enough, in one of the major tourist attractions in the region, there was no restaurant. Apart from a tiny stall selling bread and vegetables, there was no food available at all. Seems like a missed seriously missed opportunity here. A chaykaneh (tea house) would definitely do good business here. Instead they have opted for building a Ridiculous Big Hotel™ instead. A hotel we weren't allowed to visit as unregistered guests.

We simply put some chairs out on the parking lot and cut open the watermelon we had been lugging around since Penjikent.
Garm-Chasma hot spring
Half an hour and a quarter watermelon later it was time to visit the hot spring.
Slightly ill at ease, stripping off for communal bathing, we soon overcame our anxiety and joined the 20-odd locals in the balmy hot waters. Apparently the calcium sediment of the water has  healing powers, so obviously we had to try the local tradition of applying some on our skin.

Half an hour later we were all scrubbed clean and refreshed again and we left Garm Chasma. We had planned to spend the night here, but it wasn't a nice place to stay at all, so instead we just drove on. About 45 km later we arrived in a tiny village called Sanbedeh, where we found a small a small patch next to the roadside where we could park.

We put the table and chairs outside and I cooked us some dinner.
Wild camping with a private toilet - ha! beat that if you can!
It almost seemed like real camping all of a sudden. There was even a toilet we could use!
Some locals came to say hello to us, but apart from getting the usual curious questions (where are you from? Where are you going?) we were mainly left alone. One person invited us for dinner, but we politely declined, because we had already started cooking. This turned into a bit of an awkward situation, because he was afraid he had insulted us by inviting us. He left and returned a few minutes later with a friend who spoke English, to apologise for his intrusion. We tried to explain it was us who should apologise, but I am not sure we got the message through. Sometimes it is difficult to deal with the hospitality of these people.

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Clearing rocks from the road. Err.…
Clearing rocks from the road. Err…
Garm-Chasma hot spring
Garm-Chasma hot spring
Garm-Chasma hot spring
Garm-Chasma hot spring
Wild camping with a private toilet…
Wild camping with a private toile…
Garm-Chasma hot spring
Garm-Chasma hot spring
Preparing dinner - my mum would be…
Preparing dinner - my mum would b…
Curious villagers having a peek at…
Curious villagers having a peek a…
photo by: Biedjee