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The Road Along Afghanistan

As many of you have pointed out we are situated right at the border with Afghanistan and today, the first day after our successful move (we now live in a very nice little Pamiri house along the river), we decided to take a look for ourselves.

Two of our lovely neighbours
Like so many places we have traveled to, the journey often starts from what the locals call  'the station' or ‘the terminal’; here, at the edge of town, you’ll find the minibuses, jeeps, Toyota Landcruisers and Chinese made vans of vague nature, which offer their services to all places on the Tajik map. Dushanbe, the capital, is the most popular destination (16 hours for 600 km).
At the Terminal - loading up for Dushanbe
But we were less ambitious today and opted for Garm-Chasma 47 km away (“Hot Springs”). After some old fashioned haggling, we soon made our way to the South along the Afghan/Tajik border, which is formed by a sometimes thundering, sometimes meandering ice blue river (the Panj). As we were progressing over asphalt (mostly), we could see an unpaved trail on the other side. The landscapes here are amazing and spectacular. Villages, on both sides, bathed in the morning sun (weather still nice here b.t.w., on our level  no snow expected till December) and they looked lovely in their autumn colors with a backdrop of the high mountains.
Looking out on Afghanistan
At times, the trail on the Afghan side looked like a picture from biblical times; donkey caravans with often huge loads, followed by men and women and the occasional horse. Probably, on our entire journey to and from the ‘springs’ we must have seen 2 vans using the ‘road’ on the Afghan side.
Apparently, according to our sources, the Badakshan region in Afghanistan is as safe as Tajik Badakshan. This ‘safe’ strip runs along the Panj river and on Saturdays at strategic points is the scene of cross-border markets. There’s no need to make a crossing, whatever is available on the Tajik side is also available across the border in Afghanistan. Because this border is so porous – at times the river is just 50 feet wide – there are occasional check-points and groups of Tajik military patrol the area.
At Garm Chasma, we took a two hour hike and although we could see the glaciers, it would have taken us more than a day to reach them. The trails available are those used by the shepherds with their flocks of sheep, herds of goats and cows. No yaks here; they are more prevalent in the East of the region and in the high-plains. Sunday seems to be a wash-day.

Overlooking Afghanistan from Khorog
For those of you who are interested, twin-tubs are what are available in the cities for washing. So far we have come across one front-loader and absolutely no dryers. Washing is hung out to dry in the (now) autumn sun. In villages, we saw women heating water over open fires beside the river and scrubbing clothes in huge plastic basins.

Washing hanging out in the Autumn sun
Bridging the world
Happy Campes/Hikers
You’ve asked for more images, so we will do our best to oblige. The electronic communication situation is still mind-numbingly slow and sometimes download of the captions don’t happen. Thanks to all of you who drop your comments; it’s wonderful to get your feed-back. Please do keep them coming.

Comments

  1. You two look wonderfully happy, in your spectacularly beautiful new home. Keep your long-johns close for the new adventures. Love those descriptions and photos.

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  2. Christine and Jelte - Buenos dias de El Salvador! Loving your posts and your pictures and thinking of you in your amazing new world as mine is coming to an end (only three weeks left till my posting is done) - say Hi to Rod as well - I'd love to hear his stories, too.

    Day of the Dead celebrations here today - anything similar there?

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  3. Christine, I think you have a book here of your experiences. Or at the very least an article for the NY Times (or LA Times?) travel section. I'm not quite sure how you would go about it, but I think it is worth pursuing...

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