Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wakhan Trek Adventure

Hi back in Dushanbe. Here's a copy of my blogs on the company I was working for website. Ade

Ade and the gang, finally get some serious trekking in the Little Pamir (04/08/2009)

We had a tough and an amazing day today. It took a while to organise loads and hire horses for our first day's trek. The group did a lovely tour of the town guided by the local school teacher. Interestingly the school was built by the Central Asia Institute made famous by Greg Mortenson’s book “3 Cups of Tea”. After an early lunch we set off through the village. The entire village came out to wave us off and wish us luck, quite a touching moment. We were soon working hard as we climbed over the 4,150m Daliz Pass. This was quite hard work for some but we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Great Pamir and Hindu Kush ranges. We arrived in camp tired but glad to have finally stretched our legs. Best go to sleep and be ready for tomorrow...

Ade enjoying the Wakhan (06/08/2009)

What a day we have had. After a hearty breakfast of porridge and bread honey cheese and peanut butter we set off and crossed into the Madoff Valley. This is a huge open previously glaciated valley with a beautiful meandering river flowing through it. Soon we found amazing Petrogliphs dated from god knows when. There were many animals carved onto the rocks and there was even one showing a snow leopard eating a man. We continued up the valley and had lunch with a nomad Wakhi family while they looked after their sheep and goats, some of us had a chance to ride a yak. Back on the trail we trekked up the main section of the valley, as we continued up this huge open valley it reminded me so much of my treks in Western Mongolia... heh Jonny I think we should have a Wild Expedition there next year, what do you think? We are now camped next to another Nomadic Wakhi family and their local Wakhi yurt just below the 4820m Kofal-e-Qarabel pass which we plan to cross tomorrow. Wish us luck.

Ade reports from camp, having crossed the Kofal-e-Qarabel pass (07/08/2009)

Hi all from a beautiful campsite just below the pass. Today was a bit of a tough one for some as we climbed up to 4820m to the Kofal-e-Qarabel pass. We left early after a fond farewell from the family we were camped by and started the long walk to the pass. Fantastic views all the way up to the top of the pass, and even better view from the top. We had a lovely picnic lunch just off the pass with our herdsmen before descending into the Chaplak valley where we set up camp at the confluence of two glacial streams. I can hear them flowing majestically as I write this blog in my tent. The almost full moon and Venus is illuminating the valley spectacularly. We have decided to have a rest day tomorrow, as most are pretty tired after more than a week of constant travelling, is starting to show its effects. It won’t be a complete lazy day as we are planning a visit to a nearby Wakhi family. Goodnight.

Ade leads the gang back over Kofal-e-Qarabel pass (09/08/2009)

After a very relaxing rest day and a magnificent meal of Mutton Kebabs and chips which I finally got to use my HP sauce, we had to start to head back down. My main concern is to get back to Sharhad in time to meet our jeeps. The group are going well, some better than others as we crossed over again the Kofal-e-Qarabel pass 4820m. The views appeared even more spectacular as we viewed them from a different angle. Lunch was in an idyllic meadow, with alpine flowers all around. It was very relaxing as we eat our picnic of tuna & happy cow cheese and local naan, cooked for us by a nomadic family. Now we are in camp next to a gentle stream at a place called Barnoz. I don’t think you’ll find it on any map or even google earth. We have another early start tomorrow for a continuing descent through the Wakhan Corridor, so goodnight.

Ade walks, while the girls ride yaks! (11/08/2009)

Another fantastic trekking day in the Wakhan today. We have been blessed with the weather, blue sunny skies and a nice cooling breeze. After a bit of a windy night we all emerged from a dusty campsite to the warming rays of the sun, and after another hearty breakfast we set off down the valley following the river on a high shoulder. We had a glorious photo session with a nomadic family moving on their Yaks from one grazing ground to another. We dropped down into the main Wakhan valley and had lunch by the river as a place called Borack. A quick snooze by some and we were off climbing up to our present campsite just below the Daliz Pass. On the way we had a lovely experience. We bumped into a family going to Sarhad to send the kids to school. It was the end of Wakhan school holidays and half the family will stay in Sarhad with the school children and the other half will head off in to the High Pamir. The ladies in our party - Kate, Mindy, Charlie and Tiffany - were offered rides on the family’s yaks. They quickly agreed and headed down the hill and crossed the river while the rest of us blokes had to walk down and then wade across the river in our sandals. Good to see that chivalry is alive and well in the Wakhan.

At camp now and just finished dinner, last plod onto Sarhad tomorrow where we will hopefully meet our jeeps before the long drive back to civilisation. We’ll leave the Wakhan having had an extraordinary time but I could kill for a beer.

Ade and the gang have a fabulous day treking in the Wakhan. (10/08/2009)

We have had a fantastic day's trekking today. I was sad to leave my tent as I pitched it near the stream and had a peaceful night's sleep. I love falling asleep and waking up to the sound of a river or beaches. We ambled down the valley passing a few families in their mobile summer homes (similar to yurts), grazing their flocks of sheep, goats and yaks. We were greeted in such a friendly and warm way you had to pinch yourself to remember that you were in Afghanistan, a place that's usually so swamped in bad news. At lunch a local family gave us a bowl of tradition food that was very similar to rice pudding, that went down well with the group who I think need a change from happy cow cheese. After a few rock-hopping river crossings and a welcomed descent of a few 100 meters, we finally arrived at our campsite and hurried to put up tents and kitchen before the wind picked up too much. After tea, coffee and biscuits we were treated to an impromptu performance of Wakhi traditional singing and dancing by our horsemen and our local guide, quite wonderful to be here in this living culture in the Wakhan corridor.

Ade and the group start the long journey home (12/08/2009)

Just a quick blog today as we do not have much power on the computer. Last night we had a lovely farewell evening with our horsemen. The group donated many gifts such as boots, fleeces, thermals and quite a few smelly socks which we raffled off in a big thank you party. All the horsemen loved their gifts but the concept of a raffle was difficult to explain. Today was an early start on the road to Kali-e-Panja. We had a lovely visit to a local school and then a long, hot dusty drive but with awesome mountain scenery. The Hi-lux gear van had a few mechanical problems which slowed us down a bit. We are half way to Iskershim and have a crazy river crossing tomorrow. Group all well and looking forward to getting to Iskershim and civilisation.

Ade and the gang make it back to Sarhad (12/08/2009)

Back in Sarhad e-Broghil after another enjoyable and final days walk in the Wakhan. We were up early and keen to attack the Daliz Pass (4277m) before the sun really hit and it became too hot. It was really a lovely walk with a nice cooling breeze. We were greeted again by the local village people as we walked past there fields and by the kids who waved and cheered. We got to our guesthouse and there was a mad dash to the village Hamam, well, more a natural hot spring sulphur bath. I say bath, they are more like a tepid hot spring dribble, but never the less it was very welcome after nearly 2 weeks of washing from a bowl, or mountain spring or having a wet wipe moment. As we grouped to have some tea and biscuits everyone looked different. Clean. We had a fantastic dinner of lamb kebabs rice and veg curry, a mixture of the guesthouse staff and our cook team working together to produce a delicious farewell dinner. We leave tomorrow for the 2 day drive back to Iskershim which is the nearest to civilisation you can get around here.

Ade makes it back to Ishkashim where the Afghan adventure began (14/08/2009)

It has been another day in the jeeps as we bounced and bumped our way along the rough road to Iskershim. After a beautiful star filled night we were all up early, raring to get going. It was a long hot dusty day in the jeeps, luckily the river crossing was quite uneventful as the river was low. In our convoy of 3 jeeps, a mini van and a clapped out old Hi Lux which had the camping gear, we moved steadily but surely along the road, arriving into Iskershim at 3:30pm. A nice leisurely 8 hours travelling. As soon as we dropped off all our gear most of us headed into the bazaar for shaves and shopping. Carpets, horse saddles bags and scarves seemed to be the favourite purchases and now there is a severe shortage of those items in town. Then back to the guesthouse for a lovely farewell dinner and sad goodbyes to our local staff: Gorgarli the guide, Sheriff his assistant and Aziz the wonderful cook. We cross back into Tajikistan tomorrow where we are all looking forward to hot showers, different food and most of all a beer… or 3!

Ade - back in Tajikistan (14/08/2009)

It's been a hot and dusty day but we have arrived in Khorog just a few hours away from the Tajik-Afghan border. We were all up early this morning excited and apprehensive about crossing back into Tajikistan, but everything went well and we think we were the biggest excitement the border guards had since our crossing 2 weeks ago. After breakfast we packed 2 minivans with all our belongings - old and new - and headed to the border. The Tajik-Afghan frontier is not just a political border but a geographical one as well, as the Panja River separates the two countries. The actual immigration and customs posts are on an island in the river. Once we arrived at the Afghan immigration, the ladies were invited inside and offered seats while us blokes had to wait outside in the dust and heat. It took a while for all the passports to be checked and stamped and after a quick peek into a few bags we walked across no-mans-land into Tajikistan. We were met by Shargaf, our Tajik agent, who helped us go through the paperwork and passport things before jumping into our new minivans and heading off to the Tajikistan town of Ishkashim, for lunch and yes a well earned beer. Two and a half hours drive and we are in Khorog, showered and relaxed and looking forward to an Indian curry and few cold ones. Two more days drive to the capital Dushanbe before the group head home.

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