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Discovery Tajikistan travel guide #2/2010


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Along the Pyanj in the Wakhan Valley
Krystyna Marty started working at the Embassy of Switzerland in Tashkent three years ago . Being interested in all aspects of Central Asian culture and her love for traveling have made her one of the knowledgeable Western travelers.

Her passion for a voyage to little known destinations is shared by her husband and together they have covered thousands and thousands of km's in their own SUV, stopping over at exotic and remote places such as Uchkuduk, Murghab, Saimaluu Tash, Merv.

The first glimps of the Pyanj river, as we started descending after the Shurabad Pass remains unforgettable and indescribable the thrill to know that on the other side of the Pyanj, the narrow path hewn into the rocks, our constant companion for the next 4 days, is indeed in Afghanistan. Deep in my heart I know that just to get this feeling once again, I would go back in a second. Alas, it takes considerably longer than that to reach the Pyanj from Tashkent

These are definitely among the most awe inspiring mountains on Earth; never monotone - a palette of earthy tones, greys, browns, beiges accentuated by purples, occre, ice green granite. We are headed for the Hindu Kush and the wide Wakhan Valley further South; in the summer, the Pyanj are wild waters, especially here where the sheer rock face, upon which the Afghan villages are perched, hems in the rushing stream.

Yamchum Fort is not only a perfect view point over the valley but a point of reference in the history of The Great Silk Road. As I look Eastward, standing on the windswept precipice, I imagine how the caravans that passed here valued the degree of protection represented by the forces dispatched from the fort at a moment's notice. A bath in the grotto of Bibi Fatima Sakhro Hot Springs behind the fort leaves me invigorated and refreshed, after a long jeep drive.

Vrang is one of the most interesting villages in the valley and I spent a whole afternoon there. Locals showed us the complex water system with channels and sluices and we clambered up to the remains of the Buddhist stupa. A very peaceful place. I could have explored the Buddhist caves further up but preferred to just prolong and enjoy that special moment by the stupa

The museum and guest house at Langar is wonderful, cozy and lovingly decorated, equipped with the ultimate luxury, a real bathroom. The atmosphere at the shrine is mystical, the century old garden holds an air of magic. To get a good work-out, we hiked up to the Petroglyphs above town but had to take it slowly, after all, Langar is at an altitude of 3'500m, I could certainly feel the air getting thinner

A last view over the valley and the junction of the Wakhan and Pamir rivers, that together make up the Pyanj. In the distance a spot was pointed out where the Russian fortification had once stood, some 150 years ago, to fend off the (allegedly) advancing British. Back then, nobody could have even faintly imagined what history really had in store for this part of the world. So a last glance and we're winding our way up to the high altitude plateau that leads towards Murghab and the Kyrygz border. Wakhan - good bye

Discovery Tajikistan #1

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