The Tajikistan Pamirs are an incredibly remote part of the world. To get there you either need to drive for 16 hours (sometimes 20) from Dushanbe (Tajikistan's capital city), on a road that makes a milkshake seem tame or you can take a tiny plane that doesn’t quite get up above 6000m cliff faces. Despite the horror stories, the flight was worth it. Looking out the window to the south, the Hindu Kush mountain range of Afghanistan was clearly visible and at times too close!
After notably fuelling the car in Khorog for our 600km journey, we took off South towards the Wakhan Valley. This fertile valley has been inhabited and used as a Silk road trade route for centuries and is littered with archaeological markers. Age old petroglyphs, 3rd century BC Forts, Buddhist stupas and hermit caves, Islamic mausoleums, and burnt out army tanks document the valley’s colourful history.
This valley straddles the Tajiki-Afghani border and looking right across the Pyanj river is Afghanistan and the magnificent Hindu Kush. Famously known as the Wakhan Corridor, it was divvied up as a “no-mans land” by Britain and Russia during the Great Game era.
Today, it is a border heavily guarded for obvious reasons including drug trafficking. The Tajiki side of the road is maintained but at points little more than a steep bumpy mountain track (I hope the footage doesn’t make you too seasick!).
The local people are mountain farmers who get around in 4wd jeeps and constantly breaking down trucks. The means of living is poor and economic programs such as tourism home stays in the summer have been set up to help subsidise income. In winter, the temperature here can plummet to –40 degrees.
When living amongst it, the most striking feature of the valley is the local warmth and friendliness (even at the military checkpoints). Because of the years of trade and movement, it is difficult to recognise the ancestory of the people’s faces, the looks and features are diverse from Persian, Asian, Greek and Hindu. I added a couple of pictures of the shy but photogenic kids at Belunkul to give you the idea. To travel to this place you will need a special GBAO military permit on your Tajikistan visa. Its probably also worth noting that as we travelled further south east, towards the Tajik/Afghan/China border we had to get permission from the KGB.
Originally posted on Teacup site, my video postcard can be viewed here: