The short video summary of Day 3 is here.
This is Day 3 of our Pamir Highway trip, read about the whole trip here.
We both woke up around 7:00 AM and had a good breakfast of 2 egg with flatbread (flatbread has been a staple on every meal we’ve had since entering Kyrgystan). Abdi came by around 9:00 AM to take us to exchange for Tajik money and then to Pshart for our hike.
He first took us to a bazaar with a surprisingly good exchange rate however we could not exchange money because we had $20 US bills and not $100’s (it is much better to bring crisp $100 bills when exchanging money in Central Asia).
We were planning to exchange $300, the general rule in Tajikistan is to have $20 per person per day. We were spending 7 days in Tajikistan, for the 2 of us that came to $280 with a $20 buffer.
We then went to the bank in town which could exchange $20’s however the electricity was down so they couldn’t exchange the money (our home stay had its own generator but electricity is generally very sparse in Murghab).
By then we were fairly annoyed, Tajikistan has no ATM’s on our route and Murgab was the last place we could exchange money for several days. We had planned to exchange money in Osh,Kyrgystan however Abdi had told us it was better to do this in Murgab. We knew he was from Murgab and most likely wanted us to do the exchange with one of his friends. If you are entering Tajikistan by land it is better to exchange money before arrival).
Abdi took us back to the bizarre to a different booth and it was again a failure. Quan expressed her disappointment that he had told us to wait to exchange money and now we were in this situation, and we also let him know we had been patient the prior 2 day as he ran several errands leaving Osh and on the way to Murgab.
A tip we would give for others traveling in a developing country is that there is a fine line you walk with the relationships you build with your tour operator/ driver. Even if you do strike a friendship, you should always be on alert that you don’t get taken advantage of and don’t be afraid to express disappointment when things veer off course too often. Thus far we had been very flexible with the errands Abdi needed to run, we admired his entrepreneurial spirit and were happy to go along for the ride to see village life. The money exchange was a final straw for us because we conceded to waiting until Murghab so his home town where his friends would benefit from the exchange, and were now faced with the possibility of having no local currency for the next seven days.
Our talk seemed to do the trick. Abdi understood our frustration, got on his phone, and random people kept coming to our car over the course of about 10 minutes. It felt like a scene out of a movie random people endlessly counting money and finally we had exchanged our $300. We thanked and shook hands with Abdi and started on our way to the hike.
We then drove the 45 minutes to Pshart. There is a hike in Pshart that rises to 4731m to the Gumbezkul Pass which is hiked with a guide. It’s a one way hike 17km /10.6 miles that travels from Pshart Valley to Madiyan Valley passing an elevation of over 15,000 feet. Those that attempt the entire hike get dropped at Pshart and have their driver loop over to Madiyan for the pick up. We elected to hike by ourselves in an out and back loop for 4.5 hours where Abdi could wait for us at a yurt camp at the base of the Pshart side. Pshart was a lush green area surrounded with snow capped peaked and red dirt mountains with colorful mineral layers, some of the nicest mountains we have ever seen.
If you would like to do the entire hike, we would recommend sleeping at the yurt camp in Pshwart, hiring a guide (and a driver to bring you back) and getting an early start.
The hike starts with about 45 minutes of relatively flat path through a lush green valley next to a snowmelt river that splits into several tributaries. The views are unbelievable. All around you are green pastures with rolling streams, looking ahead you see snow capped peaks, to the left rocky ridges that climb up to the sky, to the right green hills spotted with cows and yaks, behind you the valley with the yurts growing ever smaller with the the colorful rainbow red mountains looming above.
The hike starts at 13,500 feet which is the elevation of our home stay. There appears to be a trail on some of the path but as we found out there really is not much of trail which is why a guide is required to do the entire hike. After hiking about 20 minutes it started to rain and then hail. It was fairly miserable and we wanted to turn around but are glad we didn’t as after about 15 minutes it stopped and the sun shined once again revealing the majestic mountains framing the valley.
We were surrounded by a combination of desert looking red dirt mountains, a lush green valley and snow capped peaks and we did not see another person on this hike. Along the way we also spotted beautiful mountain wild flowers growing out of dirt and rocks as well as a unique orangish red moss formation that grew on the rocks.
We are from Colorado and have been treated to some amazing mountain views, Quan has hiked the Himalayas and Jesse hiked the GR20 in Corsica and neither of us have seen such a display of nature’s beauty in one place. This was perhaps the best hike either of us have ever done.
We made our way back down to the valley, and in the valley we got hit with another 10-15 minute hail storm. We couldn’t care less about the hail this time as we had smiles on our faces from our incredible surroundings the past 4 hours completely devoid of other people. When we got back to the home stay at 4 pm, we changed out of our wet clothes. We were exhausted and passed out for the rest of the night, with the exception of a 20 minute dinner, which was noodles, meat and our beloved flat bread!
An amazing hike and about 12 glorious hours of sleep- this was for sure the high point of the trip thus far!