Day 96: Into the Pamirs

Bulunkul Travel Blog

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Shooting an album cover at the top of the Khargush pass

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

Early next morning we started the gruesome climb to the Khargush pass, at 4344 metres the highest point of our journey so far. Well, when I say gruesome, I mean gruesome for the car of course. Lack of oxygen and poor quality diesel meant the engine had lost a lot of its power, but it managed to make it across the pass, if only barely.

The Pamir river, which marks the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan was little more than a stream in places and it is easy to see why this part is so notorious for drug trafficking. Strangely enough we had not see any army patrol or checkpoint in ages.

After the pass it was only a short ride to the M41. We had left the Afghan border behind us now and had finally reached the Pamirs.

Hurrah! Tarmac!
We rejoiced at the sight of the Pamir Highway with its smooth tarmac surface. The gravel roads of the Wakhan corridor had been an adventure, but it was nice to drive on a smooth tarmac road again. Even if it was only for a single of kilometre... We were making a detour to the town of Bulunkul and its surrounding mountain lakes and the turn off was only a kilometre from the point where we had entered the Pamir Highway.

The settlement of Bulunkul (which means “stinking lake”) is described as the end of the world, which is quite apt as it certainly seems to be one of the most remote villages in the world. The population lives rather successfully of the fishing industry, the nearby Bulunkul salt water lake is thriving with introduced fish - a man-made alteration to nature which for once is actually beneficial.
having lunch at a home stay
The project is even supported by UNESCO.

As we entered the town we were approached by a local man who offered us a homestay. We had no intention of staying in Bulunkul though, we wanted to camp at the nearby Yashil-Kul (green lake). However, we were happy to have lunch at his place. At first he seemed unsure, he rather offered us dinner, later tonight, but in the end he obliged. In his house we were served a feast of freshly baked bread, yoghurt and fried Bulunkul fish. Very nice, especially the fish, which was a nice change after months of chicken and mutton it was a nice change.

We bought some more yoghurt and bread for dinner tonight, and promised we would come back for breakfast tomorrow morning, and then we continued to the Yashil-Kul.

The Yashil-Kul lake was absolutely stunning.
Yashil-Kul
Though it is called green, the waters were rather blue-ish, which provided a perfect contrast for the golden hills and the snowcapped mountains surrounding the lake. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse. For the first time in a week we saw clouds in the sky and we even had some drops of rain (which is quite rare for this region).

The afternoon was spent on car maintenance. Getting stuck several times had taken its toll on the car, and several parts both inside and outside had to be refastened or replaced. Tim and Wim also cleaned the engine and the air filter, preparing the car for its biggest challenge, the 4700 metre high pass we would have to cross in a few days' time.

After all the hard work on the car (I must admit that my contribution was limited to doing dishes, cleaning the windows and interior, and starting preparation for dinner) we went to a nearby hot spring for some bathing.
The hot spring at Yashil-Kul
Well, hot spring... lukewarm spring is a better term. A ramshackle concrete shack had been erected over the spring, so that we would at least have some privacy.
Well, lukewarm or not, after several days without a shower the mere thought of water on our bodies was enough to feel cleaner.

After the bathing I cooked us some dinner again, before we snuggled into the back of the car again. Though we didn't know it at the time, this would be the last time we would be sleeping in the car together. Maybe a good thing I didn't know at the time. I would miss the car and might get all sentimental and stuff.

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Shooting an album cover at the top…
Shooting an album cover at the to…
Hurrah! Tarmac!
Hurrah! Tarmac!
having lunch at a home stay
having lunch at a home stay
Yashil-Kul
Yashil-Kul
The hot spring at Yashil-Kul
The hot spring at Yashil-Kul
The spot where the Pamir (left) an…
The spot where the Pamir (left) a…
The road over the Khargush pass
The road over the Khargush pass
Bulunkul Lake
Bulunkul Lake
Rush hour in the Pamirs
Rush hour in the Pamirs
The road over the Khargush pass
The road over the Khargush pass
Khargush pass
Khargush pass
Chokur-Kul lake
Chokur-Kul lake
Bulunkul Lake and the Alichor plane
Bulunkul Lake and the Alichor plane
Alichor plains
Alichor plains
Yashil-Kul
Yashil-Kul
Yashil-Kul
Yashil-Kul
Rain clouds over Yashil-Kul
Rain clouds over Yashil-Kul
Despite the clouds I managed to ge…
Despite the clouds I managed to g…
Bulunkul
photo by: Biedjee