Exploring Tajikistan !
Everyone has some dream destination in his mind, and I was not much different from that point of view. Tajikistan, with the massive wall of mountains which separates Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan, better known to the world as the Ali Pamir range, was the dream land for me, which I have been desirous of visiting since my childhood. Last month I spent one full month in exploring the Kyrgyzstan and the memories were bit painful because of some personal reasons. I got tired, and I wanted to be relaxed, and I headed towards Tajikistan for that purpose. The Idea of visiting Tajikistan gave me a lot of peace in my mind and I was frightfully happy at heart.
Sooner, I could notice that I am in the foothills of Muztagh Ata, about 100 miles to the east in the adjoining Xinjiang, I started feeling that my dream is getting into reality. It was altogether a different scenario from the dry and desolate deserts to the series of greenery and soaring mountains. The site was in resemblance, of Tajikistan, to what I engraved in my hearts. Most of my travel to Pamir mountains, was concentrated to the hitching, hiking and occasionally by marshrutka- a shared taxi sort of transport, which I shared with an old couple travelling in their old car. I have entered Tajikistan and Pamirs via the Kyzylart pass at high altitude of 4280 meters above MSL in the Trans-Alay mountain range, not suitable to travel by Bus or any other public transport.
In my opinion, Tajikistan is equally suitable for trekking and at the same time for moving around in a vehicle from one place to another place. In the opinion of some persons, it may not be so easy to travel in a vehicle because of its inherent infrastructure being bare-bones one.
The summer months of July and August are the most popular and suitable for travelling Tajikistan. I have arrived here in September-October months, which is relatively off season where one may encounter few adverse weather days. If you are alone, the options left are not much either you form a group to hire a shared taxi or pray God to find a vehicle to offer a lift to Tajikistan. Therefore, under the circumstances, arranging a shared taxi would be the easiest and most easy option for travelling, but will be costly. In Osh market, I was able to arrange such a group and hire the vehicle for around $200 to share with the locals. On the way to Tajikistan, there are not acceptable spots except Karakul Lake near Tajikistan, where if you feel, may break for night halt or reach your destination thereafter.
Murgab is a town which is so much away from the influence of Stalin period and is unique in nature and charming and lovely place. The town’s early morning could be adding further charms to the beauty of the town, if you are lucky and it is snowing dawn. This would be worth remembering to be part of waking to a white snowy dawn and I am extremely confident of the view. Here, you will invariably notice that most of the inhabitants here are neither from Pamirski nor Tajikistan. You may get a see an occasional yurt here or there. You would require some Tajik currency here which can be drawn from the bank on the highway.
You must not depend or trust much on locals for any information or help regarding your travel plan issues. It would be better to find the leading yurt look like building office located on the northern boundary of Murgab and get some assistance, if things have improved. Here human residences are exceedingly scarce, and because of highly scarcely settled population and harsh weather, you need to be self confident and self sufficient in wandering the mountains on foot. This is especially advisable due to expensive travel in eastern Pamir compared to that in western Pamir. There were a lot of enjoyable stuff to do around, and you would have to depend on the private vehicles unless you decide to walk around all along from one place to another. If you decide in favor of walking, you should be entirely self sufficient for the whole week. I decided for a combination of the two obvious choices for reasons not to tire myself too much for the nearby destinations, I preferred to walk on foot and for the far away destination I shared a vehicle with friends.
Alichur was my next destination but for a short while. There were not so many reputable shelters during this period. It was a tiny small village. I came here along with a travelling couple and we spent with a local who gladly accepted to host us for one full night. The town was so small in size and you can roam about within two hours and icy winds were blowing freezing the bones. There were no decent restaurants except a small shop selling noodle and rice. Locals could enjoy the muddy fish soup, but not for me. Alichur is badly disconnected from rest of the world and just strolling or walk on foot here and there in the village was sufficient to know most of the houses. The residents there were not aware about the political changes I their region. The village could be loved for its moon shaped barren land for a while.
Due to unfavorable weather, I decided to move out with the help of a waiting Chinese truck towards the Yashikul lake. The lake was not connected by the Pamir highway and have to take help of local villager, for a ride westwards to the Yashikul lake. The place was the coldest place of Tajikistan, so one would feel extremely cold and pinching, if not prepared. You should be cautious on even a clear and sunny day, the weather could be terribly pinching. There are always no means of transport available except for going to the eastern side of this village and seek lift from the passing truck and stopping for lunch. Some of the trucks may oblige you for going towards Khorog. Hence go there and speak to the drivers for seeking their favor. Some of the drivers may demand some small money for that favor.
Due to the mountainous terrain the trucks are not able to pick up speed and remain slowly crawling and takes extraordinarily long time to reach there. Many times this is not unusual to find a truck convoy stopped for either a flat tyre or due to some mechanical fault in their vehicle, but the convoy help comes and they move in together to help each other. At last after a long time the destination of Khorog could be seen.
Khorog is the only one city in this Pamir region between cliff’s and Afghanistan. It is a convenient place to roam in the main valleys like Shokh-Dara valley, Wakhan valley, the Gunt valley, Bartang valley and Vanj valley, carving the Western Pamir landscape. The landscape and the size make the importance of the town in the region.
The city’s reasonably decent bazaar has a travel information centre and the only place to find some buddies to help for travelling or trekking here. It also has internet facility available but deadly slow connection.
After exploring, visiting and enjoying the Khorog, it was the right time to say spiffing bye to Tajikistan. The memories of the delightful visit were so deep rooted in my heart that I wish to come again and again to the lovely place and have the company of the people there.
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