Here is the video summary of Day 7.
This is Day 7 of our Pamir Highway trip, read about the whole trip here.
We set off from Khorog at 9. There is an Afghan Bazaar that takes place on Saturdays in Khorog. It had shut down in recent weeks due to high Taliban activity across the river but Abdi told us it was back on today. Our itinerary had us returning Shokh Dara Valley and Abdi was hoping we’d forgo the drive for the Afghan market.
Where the Wakhan Valley route hugged the Pamir River and offered views of the Hindu Kush, the Shokh Dara was further inland and hugged the Shokh Dara Mountains with views of Engels and Marx Peaks. It is less traveled and more rugged with tight hairpin mountain turns and few river crossings. There is a third route even further inland along Gunt Valley that travels in the same direction of the Wakhan Valley and Shokh Dara that is a paved highway. Abdi was hoping to entice us with the Afghan market so he could avoid the tough Shokh Dara drive. We felt bad telling him no, but felt it was only fair as it was the agreed upon route and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see this less traveled route.
We are so glad we stood our ground!!
While the Wakhan Valley drive is breathtaking and heart in mouth exhilarating- we both feel that the Shokh Dara was much more majestic.
Imagine if the Grand Canyon had a road that ran along the bottom and next to that road was a large gushing river and a green valley sprinkled with rustic villages and herds of sheep, cows, and donkeys grazing along the road.
It is a long drive from Khorog to Alichur but the scenery along the way is worth it. We read that there is a scenic hike just outside of the village Durum to the village Durum- Kul. Abdi had never been and stopped along the way asking for directions from villagers. When we finally found the path, Abdi told us we didn’t have enough time to hike but he’d drive us up.
As he ventured up the tight mountain road he seemed worried about the conditions so we told him we didn’t need to get up to the top. We had him pull over so we could hike up a short way to an over look.
We were stuck until he found gas. We saw him walk up towards the top.
We spotted a building with several cars back down at the village and decided to walk down and try to bring up gas. The only thing we found was the fact that the gas is in fact at the top of the mountain.
At this point we’ve fully embraced the Pamir pace and took the time to explore the village. We met a young child and played with him for a while until he decided a fun game would be for him to pretend to throw large rocks at us and laugh as we ran away. Thankfully Abdi drove down not long after this started and we were on or way. We stopped along the way to have a picnic lunch in a field and stopped often for photos.
The rest of the drive was just spectacular and we think even the short video we put together doesn’t do it justice. The landscape changed from Grand Canyon- esque, to desert mountains, to green pastures, and then rocky rivers some above 14,000 feet in elevation. Along the way we had a clear view of the Marx and Engels snow capped peaks.
Masera Lake was a sight to behold.
Abdi and Jesse got out a few times to move small boulder out of the river so we could do the river crossing one was near Masera Pass . We understood why Abdi wanted to take the paved road but were so glad we stuck to our itinerary.
The last place we had to cross was a river near the main road connecting to Alichur. The river was too deep to cross but there was a half broken bridge to drive over. Abdi piled rocks up to get on the bridge and like a movie somehow got over it as this video shows. Abdi then drove the remaining 50 feet to the road and yelled “FREEDOM!”
The rest of the drive which included going over a 14,000+ foot pass was relevantly not that extraordinary compared to what we saw earlier that day. We got to Alichur around 7:30 and stayed at a homestay that had 2 other Americans from Kentucky we had seen when they were unconscious 2 days earlier outside the hot springs, sleeping after lunch. Quan had taken a photo of the unconscious father/son and we showed the pic to them.
We had passed Alichur on our way to Khorog and saw it as a small town without much to offer. Inside the homestay we found a warm environment and a really nice family host. After dinner we walked out to look at the stars. Given the limited electricity in Alichur the stars were epic. Shortly after going out we saw a shooting star and both started jumping up and down with excitement like children. It was a great end to a great day.