Pamir Mountains – Tajikistan #7 – July 2014

February 1, 2018

The Wakhan Corridor had been an integral part of our dream to drive the Silk Road across Asia, and to this point, it had been nothing less than spectacular. Looking at our maps, the road we were on actually continued along questionable trails all the way to the Chinese border where it would intersect with the Karakorum Highway. It could have been an interesting adventure but we still had no Chinese visa and our mandatory Chinese guide would be waiting for us at the Turugart Pass border in Kyrgyzstan, two countries and 2,600 miles away. We knew we could not be late.

To get any higher we would need an airplane. 4,287 meters, (14,064 feet)

To get any higher we would need an airplane. 4,287 meters, (14,064 feet)

After crossing the Khargush Pass, 4,344m (14,251 ft.), we camped above a pretty lake for the night. We were now in the National Park of Tajikistan, home to over 400 lakes and three of the biggest glaciers in the region along with ten smaller glaciers.

In the morning the dirt road joined the pavement of the Pamir Highway, reported to be even more beautiful than parts of the Wakhan Corridor. It would take us back to Khorog along a route we would need to retrace on our way northeast to Kyrgyzstan. No matter. This was what we came to see.

We were following a track along Yashikul Lake.

We were following a track along Yashikul Lake.

The Roof of the World

In every new country one of the most fascinating elements are the people. We were now getting to know a little more about the Pamiris or Pamirian or Mountain Tajiks. Some live in Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan. The vast majority of Pamiris live in a semi-independent area inside Tajikistan called the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, (GBAO), in the high valleys of the western Pamirs known as the “Roof of the World” in Persian (Farsi). These mountains are the second highest in the world after the Himalayas with several peaks over 20,000 feet (7,000 meters).

In the treeless valleys, yak dung was saved for cooking and winter fuel.

In the treeless valleys, yak dung was saved for cooking and winter fuel.

Pamiris live close to one another in small remote villages. Perhaps because of the extreme climate, often over 12,000 feet (3,900 meters), and the harshness of life, they seemed to have an openness towards strangers. Few places in the entire former Soviet Union are as remote as this. It was just a feeling.

Hitting the blacktop of the Pamir Highway, the overloaded Chinese trucks that now follow this route had pretty much destroyed parts of the pavement. On a tip from a traveler we had met in Uzbekistan, we turned off on a side road to search for a hot spring. We did find herds of yaks in a beautiful valley. Women from scattered yurts were making fresh yogurt or cheese. The obvious river crossing leading to the hot springs was a little too deep and swift to try alone. It took all of low range 4X4 with our ARB front differential locker engaged and the TruTrac limited slip on the rear to climb back up the 45° ball-bearing slope to the barren top.

The People of the Pamir Mountains

Sheroz and his cousins posed with Gary for a photo.

Sheroz (far right) and his cousins posed with Gary for a photo .

Back on the Pamir highway, heading downhill towards Khorog, we came to the village of Morgh (or Morj) and had just waited for a herd of goats to cross when we were waved down by a young boy who was jumping up and down with excitement and motioning us to stop. OK. The boy insisted we come to his home for chai, (tea). He did not speak a word of English. In fact, he was mute and deaf, yet extremely intelligent and an amazing communicator. We met his family and he proudly showed us a diploma of excellence he had received from a special school he attended in Dushanbe. The boy showed us his swing and we compared kitchens in our camper. His name was Sheroz, a name of another person that would play an important part of our lives during the coming years.

A lady from the village and her granddaughter were visiting Sheroz's grandmother.

A lady from the village and her granddaughter were visiting Sheroz’s grandmother.

At his grandma’s house, we enjoyed hot tea with cookies, bread and fresh yak butter. Her home and that of his aunt were simple, built of rock and mud, but immaculately neat and clean inside. A cousin was working outside making repairs to the mud walls, one handful at a time. Grandma was later busy in the garden cutting grass with a sickle. Firewood was neatly stacked and ready for winter.

As we left, Sheroz was waving and playing with his own handmade two-wheeled “truck”. Into the next valley there was a surprise waiting for us, one that would change our lives forever. There she was, with a knowing look as if she had been waiting for us, like “What took you so long?” “The Magic Girl of the Pamirs”.

The Magic Girl of the Pamirs

Little did we know that we would soon meet “The Magic Girl of the Pamirs”.

Little did we know that we would soon meet “The Magic Girl of the Pamirs”.

 

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