Drove from Khorog to Wakhan valley – part of the corridor that separates Pamir Mountains from the Hindu Khush and the place where the Imperial British and Tsarist Russia chose to draw the border between their respective empires. We decided to drive there more for the wild and untamed nature than for the history, and also because we assumed driving through the valley would be easier than going through the 14,000 ft pass. As it turned out, the roads were planned in depths of Hell and executed by the local corrupt politicians.
Mornings always start with a lot more energy – both mental and physical – so we drove in high spirits through bad roads dotted by tiny mountain-side villages separated from Afghanistan by the mighty Pyanj river. 1/3 of the way we stopped at the Garm Chashma hot springs which seems to attract Tajiks from all over the country for its healing waters. The locals were clearly unimpressed that we didn’t rub ourselves with the natural salts and dip in the hot springs.
Not wanting to smell like eggs until we got out of the valley, we smiled as we dipped our feet, took photos and started driving towards Yamchun Fortress. Getting up to Yamchun fortress requires 6kms of uphill driving through some pretty fun hair pin bends. At one turning, a jeep that was being crank started was blocking the way. After waiting about 10mins, we drove off-road over a stream to proceed up. A missed video op, but we were so concerned about clearing the stream in our tiny car that all thoughts of documenting it fled our minds. Yamchun is a 3rd century fortress and provides stunning views of Wakhan valley. As the day dragged on and roads got worse, our energy level dipped. The high points were when we encountered locals. A local store owner greeted us with a huge warm smile and gave us lentils for free because we only wanted to buy a handful. The kids are always fun, but we quickly learnt NOT to hi-five them as we drove through slowly, because, in their excitement, they slap your hand hard enough to sting 😂 plus, of course, there’s the relative velocity, which mysteriously doesn’t seem to affect their hands. I never saw anyone rubbing the sting off their palms in the rear view mirror, but we were always staring at reddened palms after hi-fives 🤔
When the road veered off towards the mountains (away from the valley) towards M41 through the Khargush Pass it got a LOT worse. Washboard roads with no traction and steep cliffs. The vibrations from the washboard roads were teeth chattering and simply horrendous for the suspension. That forced us to drive at 40-60kmph, but the lack of friction on dirt made the car careen and fish tail wildly. Then there were the rocks and potholes. About two each every two seconds, despite steering to avoid them. The choice was only between hitting the small rock or big rock, or dunking Harriet into a big pothole or small pothole – there was no road or even flat dirt anywhere.
We finally stopped to pitch our tent and cook some dinner at 11500 ft. Which of course took longer than we wanted because we were too exhausted for patience, plus of course, Physics at high altitude.
Help children in rural India have fun figuring out boiling point of water at 11500 ft instead of doing the back-breaking work of arranging matchsticks in a matchbox for 12hrs/day. All it takes is $20/month. Can you be someone’s fairy godmother? Donate at http://happyharriet.co