You can watch the video summary of Day 4 here.
This is Day 4 of our Pamir Highway trip, read about the whole trip here.
We left Murgab with the goal of heading towards Wakhan Valley and our first glimpse of Afghanistan today. We started the day with some roadside cheese:
Enroute to Wakhan Valley we asked Abdi to make a slight detour to a town called Bash Gumbaz, about 7 km off the main highway. We had read that there were Chinese tombs just beyond there that were worth seeing. As it turns it became a bit of an off-road adventure with Abdi driving through two rivers to get us to the tombs.
Once we were back on the main highway we made our way towards Alichur. When Abdi is on the road doing Pamir Highway tours, his wife and kids go home to Alichur to stay with her mother. We were heading to their yurt just outside of Alichur for lunch!
We pulled into a yurt village right by a river, mountain views, and a bevy of goats and cows sprinkled across the surrounding valley. We met Abdi’s wife, her brother and mother as well as his two kids. They served us a lovely lunch of flat bread, something that tasted like potato lasagne, fresh yogurt, and two types of butter. Given the abundance of goats surrounding the yurts we believe they churn all of their dairy products. We ate inside the yurt which was beautiful and watched as Abdi played with his son Daniel and daughter Rayana.
Abdi had brought some treats back from Osh including a giant bag of puffs for Daniel. We have never seen anyone love puffs as much as Daniel!!
We wanted to give Abdi time with his family so we went on a walk in the pasture surrounding the yurt. We watched the goats graze by the river and saw a large loom on the field where Abdi’s mother in law was weaving a beautiful tapestry, one of the many we saw decorating the yurts.
The family gave us a warm send off and refused to take any money for the meal. We had read about this in the guide book and were prepared, we insisted saying it was thank you gift. We gave Daniel a new jar of Nutella and hoped that he would go to town on the Nutella like he did with the puffs.
As we left Alichur we started seeing the hints of the high altitude desert we had read about on this section of the drive. Shortly after we spotted a large lake in the distance from the highway. Abdi pulled the vehicle off road and drove us up to Salt Lake Sasako also known as Smelly Lake. We didn’t notice any smells when we pulled up, as we had just visited the Great Salt Lake in Utah we were also surprised not to see the swarms of gnats we saw in Utah. As with everything we see here, it was surrounded by mountains and had visible salt deposits at the waters edge.
From there we headed to Bulunkul, an end of the world settlement with a pretty stream that runs through where animals graze and kids play. At the end of the Bulunkul village road is the park entrance to Yashil Kul, which means “Green Lake.” As it is Tajik Park you need to purchase a permit to enter. We had read that the permits were only sold on Khorog or Osh, but Abdi found a yurt that sold them to us for
There is a 20KM drive around the park with various biking options as well as a hot spring on the southern side. It would be worth a night stay to explore some of these options, but for us Bulunkul was just a pitstop on a long driving day.
Alichur and Bulunkul are both square in the middle of the Pamir Highway route between Osh and Khorog. As a result they are the least developed as evidenced but the toilets we found in both. Toilet in general along the Pamir are typical squatters but in Alichur and Bulunkul we found the outhouses the most unsavory as the holes dug below were relatively shallow and only a narrow plank of wood separates you from other people’s deposits. We would highly recommend waiting to go outside of these towns and along the side of the road in nature.
After some more driving we reached a gate for Hargoosh pass, which is the start of the famed Wakhan Valley. This is the section that captured our imagination when planning this trip. The Pamir Highway also known as the M41 is called one of the most dangerous roads in the world. The hairpin mountainous turns on the Wakhan Valley earns this name.
It seemed like a mountain mosaic comprised of lush green hills, craggy slate cliffs, glimpses of red rock stone, and glimpses of snow cap peaks. We even saw a caravans of camels just across the river in Afghanistan.
Even from the passenger seat the drive is terrifying- tight turns on gravely potholed roads hugging the cliffs edge, but the views are epic. Abdi has about five years of experience driving this so we were in safe hands. His experience also enabled him to barrel down the road at breakneck speeds. The bumpy ride is not for the faint at heart as it is about an hour of getting tossed around. You are rewarded with jaw dropping views at every corner. We hope the video from today does it some justice, we both just felt that this was once in a lifetime.
Langar is a lush green town and thus far the most influenced by western civilization place we’ve stayed. We stayed Homestay Davlahoor which is at the very end of the town road to the left just before the river. For the first time we had western toilets, a hot shower with a shower head and some of the best meals we’ve eaten so far.
We went on an evening walk around the village before dinner and found it a charming friendly town. You’ll spot children and women herding goats, men and boys moving loads around town with a mule, and very friendly locals who all want to say hello.
There are also petroglyphs up high in the mountains over town as well as a camping spot that is a 4 hour hike above town. We decided that we would get up early the next morning to hike to the petroglyphs.