Wakhan Corridor #2 – The People, Tajikistan 7-2014
People in the foreign countries we are visiting are part of the joy of overland travel, and for sure, the children are the most fun. They have no fear, no set opinions, no religious or political concerns. They are just curious that strange people in a strange vehicle from a place they may never have heard of suddenly appeared. We can show them on the map on the side of camper where we live, but usually it’s beyond their imagination. A balloon, one of our photo cards or some fun stickers from our sponsors always bring smiles. When they spot our truck coming, they often run to the side of the road and wave. Our passing may be the most exciting thing that has happened all week.
In villages along the road or in the big markets, there are many wonderful women. The lines in their faces show the hard life they have endured, but the smiles are always there. Men and older boys are more interested in The Turtle V but we can’t really answer their main question, “How much does it cost.” We just say that we don’t know because we have many sponsors. To explain why a custom expedition camper might cost over $180,000 is more than they can really grasp, so we try to avoid the question. Young girls are sometimes a little shy, but their magical smiles are a treasure. Family ties are extremely important, and we try to catch a photo when mother and daughter or father and son are together.
Tajikistan is a Muslim country, but a very liberal one at that. They are Ismaili Muslim and do not observe Ramadan. There was no call to prayer in the morning. The beautiful dresses of women might shock the eye, but they did cover their often-attractive figures. On the flip side, tight jeans and form-fitting blouses were not unusual, and a headscarf very optional.
From Turkey and east through the Stans, Monika’s worry of how she must dress and act in these Muslim countries turned out to be unfounded. Always wearing a headscarf and a full-length skirt with a long-sleeve shirt was not necessary, and being able to look men in the eye and shake their hands was not a problem. In fact, as we have done in Mexico and South America for years, when we reach a border check or a police ID stop, I stay in the truck and Monika gets out with our paperwork. The guards, all men, show her ultimate respect and perhaps are even a little thrown off guard that they are dealing with an attractive woman. The “macho man” relation is out the door. It’s kind of funny to watch.
Everyone you see in these photos and all that we met were neat and clean so it is hard to imagine that most did not have running water in their homes nor “bathrooms” as we imagine them. Often the best was an outhouse in the backyard with a “squat hole” and a pitcher of water.
After driving the Wakhan Corridor, we returned via the Pamir Highway back to Khorog to resupply, and that was another adventure.