Skirting the Afghan Border to Khorog

Khorog Travel Blog

 › entry 19 of 19 › view all entries
      I can't lie; I am writing this in retrospect from Dushanbe

     Saidali and I woke up at 5am on Tuesday morning, too early for me to do anything besides drink sweet compot.  Compot is basically fresh delicious, juice made from a variety of cherries, berries, apples, etc.  If I am lucky I can have it instead of hot green tea, which I cannot stand to drink in the summer heat.  A taxi ride brought us to a lot of jeeps, landcruisers, and ladas all going to Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast.  I milled around for a while and was chatted up by a man who works for the Aga Khan Foundation.  The 49th Aga Khan is the leader of the Ismaili Sect of Islam, which is the majority religion of the Pamirs.  The Ismailis' focus on private prayer and simple moralty keeps away the perversions of fundamentalism and hypocrisy.  The current Aga Khan lives in Switzerland, but is founding three branches of the University of Central Asia in Tekeli, Kazakhstan; Naryn, Kyrgyzstan; and Khorog, Tajikistan.  The people of Gorno-Badakhshan hang his portrait in their home, and remember him for his generosity during the food crises of the Tajik Civil War.  To give you a sense of how the Aga Khan is different from other religious leaders, this is how the previous Khan explained his choice in successor:

"In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes that have taken place, including the discoveries of atomic science, I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Ismaili community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age, and who brings a new outlook on life to his office."

I do not think an Aga Khan will ever be nicknamed "God's Rottweiler."

Right, so I got the shotgun side of a new Land Cruiser and we finally set off at 7:30am.  The northern route through the mountains was closed for some reason, so we were forced to take the longer southerly route along the Pyandzh river.  After the first few hours the already poor road lost its status as "road" in my book.  The Land Cruiser was forced to cross rivers and their wide rocky beds.  I cannot imagine even the land cruiser making it to Khorog in rainy weather.  The snow-capped peaks became higher and closer together.  Suddenly we descended to a wide, green river valley, spattered with several small towns.  The Pyandzh river marks the international boundary between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.  There were more villages on the Afghan side; mud-brick houses and a narrow footpath on the mountainside following the river.  Children waved frantically at our car trying to sell unpasteurized milk and apples.  We powered through the afternoon and finally entered the territory of Gorno-Badakhshan.  At the checkpoint, the dumb-looking guards briefly inspected my passport for the special Gorno-Badakhshan permit which I had to acquire in addition to the regular old visa. 

I woke up for dinner in Vanch at around 9pm, where I had some manti - giant ravioli with meat inside.  Not bad really.  I feel asleep again as we passed Rushan, the mouth of the Bartang Valley - my the goal of my trek.  It was not until 2am, 17 hours after we left Dushanbe, that Saidali and I were dropped off at our homestay in Khorog. 

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photo by: Biedjee