After the climbers were killed by Taliban insurgents at Nanga Parbat Base Camp in June (see previous posts), we abandoned our plans to climb in Pakistan this year. We made a last minute decision to go climbing in the Pamirs in Tajikistan instead, largely because there are no permitting requirements. Without any of the red tape, all we needed to do was buy tickets and go. The little we knew was that Tajikistan had almost no tourism, so there were no adventure tour companies readily available to help us with our logistics. We would have to do that ourselves. This combined with little information on climbing objectives guaranteed that at a minimum it would be an adventure.
Tajikistan is one of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics and borders Afghanistan which is to the south. We flew into the capital city of Dushanbe arriving at 2 AM, and without spending the night, got in a jeep for the 13 hour drive to the city of Khorog in the southeast part of the country. We would provision there and then head into the Pamirs.
It was a beautiful drive up and over some mountains and then a big descent to the Panj
River that separates Tajikistan
from Afghanistan. The drive follows the river the rest of the way to Khorog and was spectacular with huge relief from the valley to the tops of the rocky mountains
above us. It reminded me of the drive
to Skardu along the Indus River in Pakistan.
|Driving up the Panj River|
|Afghan village on the other side of the Panj River|
|Chinese goods along the Pamir Highway|
In Khorog we met with Zhandia who is in charge of the Pamirs Eco-Cultural Tourism Association (PECTA), a new tourism agency funded by a grant from the Aga Khan Foundation to help develop a local industry for trekking and climbing in the region. Bo White, an American who has been active in Tajikistan both climbing and helping the locals to develop a tourism industry, had put us in touch with her. Zhandia lined us up with jeeps, assigned other staff to help us in the bazaar to buy all our food and supplies, and found us a cook and assistant cook/interpreters. Our cook and assistant was something I had never had before, – a mother and son team - Zadifa and Bakhtiyore. They both spoke some English and in this far flung outpost of the former Soviet Union everyone spoke Russian as a second language to their local tongue and all the writing was in Russian. So having someone to interpret for us was important since none of us could speak or read Russian.
|Provisioning in Khorog|
In the bazaar, three interns from PECTA, Sayora, Forugh and Safina helped us with our shopping. The people in Tajikistan are Muslims, but they are Ismailis, a liberal branch of Shia Islam. In Tajikistan the women can dress in modern western clothes, are visibly active in educational institutions and commerce, and alcohol is readily served in restaurants and outdoor cafes.
|Our helpers from PECTA, Forugh and Safina|
|Doug and his new friend|