Xinjiang, China’s New Frontier province is the north-eastern extremity of a swathe of Turkic speaking peoples; it’s the northern boundary of Tibetan buddhism and the north-eastern frontier of China. Quite the melting pot.
Venture east and south: westerners are rare, hotpots are tasty and ever-present, and when we passed through, snow caused unseasonal havoc. The perfect opportunity for my first experiences of buddhism, the most peaceful of faiths, in the most peaceful of untouristy surrounds:
Varanasi is verbs; sensational verbs. A stroll along the ghats in the gathering dusk stimulates and evokes like nowhere else.
It also drove me to verse:
Turkmenistan is a flat desert with some of the world’s largest gas reserves underneath.
Above ground, a real mix of religions combine to provide a country which is almost more weird where the egomaniac Turkmenbashi hasn’t put his print. Canyons that would be at home in SW USA attract no tourists, holes in the desert are permanently ablaze, and Ashgabat’s unique – gold and marble and soon to be crumbling unique:
As weird as it gets from Tim Way on Vimeo.
Turkey’s a funny cookie. Where does it fit?
European in outlook, Ankara and Istanbul are quite apart from the rural honesty of the vast majority of this enormous country, criss-crossed by railway lines taking the scenic route around the mountainous interior. Well on the way to European integration (French veto permitting), despite having recently outlawed the most significant Kurdish political party, this bejeweled Eurasian nation deserves your investigation:
the eurasian bridge from Tim Way on Vimeo.
The high Pamir: a country-sized slab of nothingness. The most beautiful of desert nothingness. Victimised since independence, punished in the UN civil war settlement, a people already without anything and kept alive by the Aga Khan for may years eek a life when none should feasibly be possible.
Deep blue glacial lakes, sheep with horns as wide as a human is tall, hundreds of kilometres of porous international borders and sheer perfection in vistas:
to the roof of the world: episode three – the roof of the world from Tim Way on Vimeo.
A ramp to the roof of the world leads up the Wakhan Valley, great game vortex. NGOs outnumber tourists, potatoes provide entire meals, Afghanistan is just there and beauty in nature, both human and physical, is all encompassing:
to the roof of the world: episode two – the aga khan’s people from Tim Way on Vimeo.
A couple of factual inaccuracies contained in this video have been brought to my attention:
– Due to the Wakhan Valley’s inaccessibility and distance from the production/processing sites, it is highly unlikely that large quantities of drugs pass over the river. The most likely route is closer to Dushanbe.
– The Wakhan frontier between the Russian and British spheres of influence was finalised in 1895 by commission parties from each country heading to the region and taking detailed altitude, latitude and longitude measurements. T. Hungerford Holditch, who took part in the British Commission describes his memories of the trip, including the huge bonfire held in the Wakhan when they came to agreement and realised they wouldn’t have to spend the winter in the freezing cold! “English and Russian topographers worked side by side and shared equally in the rough and tumble of demarcation”, he writes.
Thanks to Robert Middleton, whose website is a leading resource on the Pamirs, for pointing these errors out.
Western Tajikistan would extend far further to encompass Samarkand and Bokhara, had Stalin not gerrymandered to prevent ethnic unity in the Soviet Union. Today, it goes as far as Penjakent, the hopping off point for the Fan Mountains – home to isolated communities of sheep and grain farmers in a landscape straight out of a news report from norther Afghanistan, just a (giant’s) stone throw away:
to the roof of the world: episode one – the road to monday from Tim Way on Vimeo.
Bandits encouraged us to make tracks from Sary Tash in southern Kyrgyzstan. But were Uyghur trucks the best route out?
A rough mountain route, the intensely corrupt ‘police’ force and a multitude of mechanical issues (and normalities) were to be hitches – on the hitch.
a uyghur hitch from Tim Way on Vimeo.
When it all goes wrong: the presenters mess up, the focus is off, the cameraman can’t muffle his deep breathing or sheep block the road!
A selection of (the substandard) clips from out travels through the extremely remote Pamir and Fan Mountain regions of Tajikistan, including the Wakhan Valley, the Great Game vortex. A series of three episodes covering Tajikistan with some better footage will follow when bandwidth allows (!):
it’ll be alright on the night, in tajikistan from Tim Way on Vimeo.
Well quite, I hear you cry. Almost in Russia, Qinaliq (pr. Khunalukh) is a world away from Baku. Ladies wear headscarves, bees roam freely in the unkept meadows, villagers burn animal shit for heating, and houses rooves provide pathways and front balconies for those higher up.
If only the food had been edible: