Kalaikhum, Tajikistan: Children of Misty Mountains

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
Trip End Feb 06, 2014

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Flag of Tajikistan  , Khatlon,
Thursday, November 7, 2013

From Kulyab the cloud lifted and we were able to see for miles. Rocky mountains, grassy plains, pockets of flame trees, stoney villages, the snaking Pyanj River and Afghanistan but a stones throw away. Once meeting the Pyanj River, which acts as the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, we continued to follow it for the rest of the afternoon.

The road in parts was freshly laid and super smooth, other times a jumble of rocks where Ergash's 4WD came into its own. We've passed a few other vehicles of tourists and Ergash seems to know everyone. From what we can see, towns on both side of the river look very similar i.e. always nestled amongst pockets of trees, stone buildings, kids kicking a football, donkeys, cows etc etc. Only it's a well used road on the Tajik side and a lesser, sometimes footpath only track on the Afghan side. We stopped to take a photo and had a kid shepherd shout at us from across the river. If only we knew what he was saying. Crazy to think you can be so close to another country. Usually there's quite a distance of no mans land whereas here it's just a river. A very fast flowing river with rapids but it occasionally mellows out and would be crossable by a cold swim.

With such a breathtaking valley to gaze upon we spent the whole afternoon drive head pressed against the window. Photo opportunities were endless so we tried not to bother Ergash too often but did get him to stop on the odd occasion. We pulled into the guesthouse around 1630. Built on the edge of the river Sam and I wandered onto the riverbank to take some snaps and wave at the Afghans but were stopped by Ergash before we could even get close to the water. Once back at the guesthouse we asked him why we weren't allowed to walk near the water - "mines". Ah ok then, could have mentioned that to us before suggesting we go for a walk.

Deciding it best to take the safer option, we walked along a road, passed some kids mucking about on a billycart and a not so friendly dog. Opposite stood a girl waving us over. Not wanting to mess with Old Yeller we opted for the safer option and went with the girl who wanted us to come in for tea. Graciously accepting she then bought in bread, fruit and we were thinking - oh no please don't think we are going to stay here and eat a full meal. Then another person came in and another and another and before we knew it we were having a right old party. One girl spoke quite good English so acted as a bit of a translator. With brothers and sisters there we in turn showed photos of our families - hear that Howards and Bridgers you're now Tajik A Listers.

The girls loved Sam and kept wanting their pictures taken with him. They were all fascinated with his blue "glass eyes". Even the Mum enjoyed a good chuckle at the festivities and photos being flicked through on the iPad. It was a really fun hour but with our dinner set for 6pm back at the guesthouse we had to excuse ourselves, much to their pleadings of "no no you must stay here, sleep here with us, please!" With an added tug on the arm for good measure. She and her brothers then walked us back to the guesthouse where we had a dinner of vegetable noodle soup before retiring to our cold room.

We now sit listening to an animal run back and forth on the ceiling. Sounds like a rat. Fingers crossed we don't wake to something dripping on us during the night. No showers here but electricity and they've bought in a heater so we might have a nice night in our prison bed singles.

Distance travelled (Dushanbe - Kalaikhum): 365km
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