We have wi-fi again after 3 days in the remote wilderness!! Here our story continues on from Khoroug.We awoke the next morning, with Jeff sleeping 15 hours from the afternoon before, recovering from a virus. We were lucky to get rooms in the L’ani Guesthouse, just beating a large group of adventure tourists arriving shortly after us. We got the last two rooms. Breakfast was omelette, pancake, jam, bread and black tea, fairly standard fare for guesthouses in the area.
We left following the Panj River again, with Afghanistan on the other side.
At first the road followed a barren course, narrow, in poor condition, but better than the day before. We averaged 35 to 45 kph. The river was again a raging torrent acting as a natural barrier to the border. Contrary to what most people would think, all looked normal and peaceful on the other side. The infrastructure was below Tajik standards but the villages were picture postcard perfect in a green oasis along the barren stretches.
We finally left the precipice of a road we were on and entered the fertile stretches of the Wackhan Valley, where large silt covered flood planes are now rich agricultural areas. In 1873 an agreement between UK and Afghanistan split the Wackhan into two spheres of influence, divided by the Panj and Pamir Rivers, with the Northern Section, which we were in, going to Tajikistan. The southern went to Afghanistan.
The Wackhan offers up a seemingly endless parade of exotic superlatives. Vivid green villages counterpoint towering valley walls, which open up regularly for glimpses of the dazzling white Hindu Kush mountains marking the Afghanistan – Pakistan border.
We travelled south to Ishkashim, Wackhan’s regional centre and largest village. The next stage put us in Namadgut which has nearby the historic Karaa Kha Fortress, dating from the 3rd century BC. All that remains now are a few mud-walled fragments which give a glimpse of it’s purpose in guarding the area once for two brother Kings, but later the silk route from China.
The next major attraction was Yamchun.7 kms of hairpin bends take you up 500m above the valley floor to the 12th century Yamchun Fort. It is complete with multiple alls and round watchtowers with the most breathtaking views of the valley and surrounds. What it must have been in its day!
The climb up was super steep and narrow and C-YA felt good in low range 4WD clawing up the ridge in first gear It took 45 minutes to go up and then down again.
Our stop for the night was likeable Langar, above which rise a knot of spiky peaks. We had to search out a homestay guesthouse as they were hard to find in this village. We finally found one down a narrow rock covered lane. Jeff,our forward scout, by smiling, and being friendly, was able to secure a bedplace for us from a goup of grumpy german tourists that were being difficult and demanding.
C-YA was first in line to cross a small stream to drive to the guest house, when disaster! The whole electrical system went dead! Nothing, zilch!
We lifted the bonnet and found that the constant pounding, rattling, and bouncing on the bad roads over the last 2 weeks had unscrewed one of the securing bolts holding the battery stay in place. The battery had been shaking around and one of the terminals had finally detected. Luckily it most only have been for a short time, because we were able to secure everything again by Pete from Team Quokkastan removing a bolt from a door stay on the Quokkavan that fitted perfectly!
We parked beside a small stream flowing at the foot of the guest house and moved our luggage in to our platform bedroom.
Mattresses were placed on the platform, pillows and blankets made available and we were comfortable. The young family running the guest house were very lovely and made us feel welcome. We earned more praise by giving their 2 yo daughter a couple of the dolls we were carrying to later donate. We also informed our hostess when goats entered the compound and started to eat her vegetables in the garden, and finally by offering the father a Russian Baltika beer, were were their favourite houseguests. Poor Pete from Quokkavan had been suffering all day from a similar virus that hit Jeff 24 hours earlier. As soon as the beds were made, he lay down, still wearing his hat and slept through till the morning.
We retired to bed in our “corridor” bedroom, named as such because the before-mentioned germans had a room off this corridor and they were up several times in the night going to the outside bathroom. Mind you so were we, as that evening, Jeff gave all of us our Diamox tablets as were were heading for high altitudes over the next several days. Diamox has a diuretic side effect, so we all had pitch dark trips to the outside dunny that night.
The outside bathroom has one toilet, one shower and one basin so it was a busy room, made difficult when the toilet stopped flushing!. The shower and basin all drain through one small floor drain, as Jeff found out when he washed his coffee plunger in the sink and all the coffee grounds went all over the floor!
The big climb starts tomorrow. Mugrahb and the Pamir Hwy, here we come!
Mongolia Charity Rally 2015