Here is the short video summary of Day 5.
This is Day 5 of our Pamir Highway trip, read about the whole trip here.
We left at 6:30 to go on a hike in Langar to view the Petroglyphs. There are apparently 6,000 petroglyphs written on cliffs surrounding the town however we had heard that the view from the top of the hike was the main appeal. We realized the start of the hike was much farther than expected so we hitched a ride in the back seat of a land cruiser with local Tajiks.
The hike to the petroglyphs was up a hill past a school and through a village where everyone said hello as we passed and we said hello back to them and to the herds of goats that went by.
Climbing the mountain we passed a cemetery and then reached what appeared to be the petroglyphs but as expected the view of Afghanistan from those cliffs were the highlight.
On our way back we hitched a ride with what turned out to be 2 Dutch men who had managed to rent a car in Osh (they mentioned that it took tons of research in advance to find this person who is not on the internet). With their help we arrived back at the homestay just in time for breakfast.
We left Langar around 8:30 and after an hour drive we reached Vrang which involves a 15 minute hike and is the spot of a Buddhist stupa. This is a hot tourist stop on the Pamir Highway so the village kids have learned to make the most of this. When we got out of the car 2 kids met us one of whom was about 6 years old and the other who couldn’t have been more than 2. The 2 year old kept yelling “HELLO! HELLO! Do you have any money?”
The 6 year old decided for us that he would be our guide to the stupa and his 12 year old sister came along as well. He started to lead us up a rocky cliff until we heard Abdi whistle and signal us to take the gentler path to the right. The path was a narrow dirt path that hugged a small stream along the mountain. Along the way you see apricot orchards below, goats grazing along the path, and more amazing Afghan mountain views.
Similar to the morning, the stupa was not the big attraction, but the views of the Valley below and Afghan mountains looming above were the highlight of the hike.
As we descended the kids picked fresh picked apricots for us, and Abdi told us not to drink water for an hour or we would have an upset stomach. We’ve had incredible luck with no stomach issues so far and didn’t want to test our luck by not listening to him. We gave each of the kids some money for their help as we admired their entrepreneurial spirit. The two year old wasn’t yet old enough to lead tourists to the stupa but given his personality “HELLO! HELLO! MONEY! MONEY!” we knew he’d be a star when his time came. We gave him some stickers and chocolates we had which seemed to make him happy.
After leaving the stupa it was about a 45 minute drive to our next site the Yamchum Fortress built in the 12th century. Pulling in we saw our Dutch friends again. It was a very impressive structure but as the theme of this section of the road the views of the Afghan mountains were the main highlights and these were the best views we had seen in the Whakhan Valley.
From there it was a 15 minute drive to Hotspring Fatima. This is a natural cave with waterfalls of hot water running down stalagmite rocks. There are two sections of the hot spring. One is an intimate under ground cave with seats from natural rock formations, several stalagmite waterfall faucets drop into this cave. The other section is a man made sauna where hot spring water is routed in.
Once inside there is a small changing room and no clothing for bathing. As a result there are designated times for men and then women for the cave. When we arrived it was the Women’s turn in the cave. There were a lot more women than men as being in the hot springs is known as helping women have a baby. Entering the caves was a surreal experience for Quan.
The women in this regions all are typically covered head to toe. Even when interacting with them at home stays they are typically more reserved. In the intimacy of the caves women young and old splashed around happily, giggling as they moved from stalagmite to stalagmite that gushed with spring water.
After a period of time it was time for the men to have a turn. After all the ladies cleared out Jesse, Abdi and a group of 4 other men went into the cave. Quan waited outside with a queue of new ladies who had just arrived and were waiting for the cave to switch back to women. The women had a ton of questions for Quan. Two of them spoke really great English and helped translated. She learned that the word for wife is Zanak and for husband is
After leaving the hot springs we went to lunch for some amazing Plov. We sat outside with incredible views of the Afghan mountains and laid down there and we all took a short nap after lunch. A Tajik tradition that goes straight to Jesse’s heart.
Following lunch we went to Namadgut a fortress built in the 2nd century BC. It’s currently being used as a military post. The views from the top are supposed to be incredible however soldiers wouldn’t let us to the top as they were carefully monitoring a corridor on the Afghan side that leads directly to the Hindu Kush mountains and all the way to Pakistan and India. We were there was an increase of Taliban activity just across the river so we were not allowed up to the fortress.
When we left we arrived in Ishkashim, which has one traffic light, the first one we had seen in a week. It’s a small town but as we are traveling down the Whakan Valley, it continues with the theme of each town being more developed. We then made it to our homestay and we were exhausted and ate dinner and passed out for the night.
[…] Pamir Highway Day 5: Langar to Ishkashim […]