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.
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.
Tajikistan deserves all the superlatives thrown at it; they all stick. So awfully dirt poor, uber hospitable, proud, surprising, with perfectly clear skies and blue lakes, and so very good at squatting.
Although the last to be uploaded, this is the first in the series of Tajik pictures and covers the north the west and the Pamirs to Ishkashim, on the border with Afghanistan:
Continue reading the road to dushanbe
James ‘Loyd Grossman’ Cheah conducts a guided tour of the lower end of the Khojand hotel market:
who lives in a tajik house like this? from Tim Way on Vimeo.
The Eastern Pamir is the size of Holland and home to 16,000 people; even that is unsustainable. Murgab, the only town of note, has a market based in aircraft and shipping containers, and a constant pong of burning tesgerine; uber-unpleasant.
We travelled up from the Afghan border, through Bulunkul, Murgab and up to Jailang – don’t look for it on your maps, Jailang is a settlement of three yurtes and two whitewashed buildings at 4100m that are home to an extended family of yak herders.
High-altitude adventure at it’s best:
Wakhan adventures took us along the Panj river, the Tajik border with Afghanistan, for a number of days in September. Forts and potatoes aplenty, but a crossing was ruled out by our guide. “Just a little wade?”, we asked. “They are watching” we were told.
No wading for us then, but an Afghan camel in the final picture seemed to have no problems crossing the border, just as the tonnes and tonnes of class A drugs on their way to Europe don’t every year.
We were waved at by afghans, we saw them cutting hay, even having dinner – but that first question will have to wait, for the time being.