I had hoped we would get to Khorog yesterday, but we are progressing slowly as the road conditions are so bad. Today we had 163 Kms to go to reach Khorog, which we did at about 15.30. The road was better, in parts today, and we actually spent some time in 5th gear! When it’s bad, it’s very bad though. It is a bit like State HIghway 1 after the Kaikoura earthquake. Huge deposits of rock and shale bought down from the mountains by the snow melt. The road abuts the very edge of the river, so is easily damaged from both sides, and permanently in need of repair.
When we were parked under a tree having lunch, we looked up and saw a Hyundai Terrican coming up the road. It was Valentine and Deedrah. We were just outside a village called Rushan. They are taking a different route to us, up the Bartang Valley. They have more time to spend here than we do.
Once we reached Khorog we had hoped to get our Wifi sorted. The card we were given in Khujand is not working. We think we may have used all the data already. So, first stop TCell. No good! It’s Saturday and it’s closed and we can’t purchase a top up until Monday. There are a number of guest houses and B & B’s in a Khorog, so we pick one and I go and ask if they have a room. No, they are full. Next question “Can we pay to use your Wifi?” The owner is a lovely girl who speaks fluent English. We agree an hourly rate of 10 Somoni. We get chatting and it appears the lady is a Chinese teacher and speaks about 5 languages. Running the B & B is more lucrative though. She invites us to come back and have a shower later, when there will be hot water! We thank her and give up trying to upload photos to the blog. It can be a very time consuming process when the Wifi is so slow.
Now we are camped about 20kms on from Khorog in the Wakhan Valley. A few meters away from the raging river. First rule on where you pitch your tent? Not beside the river in case the water level rises unexpectedly! Beggars can’t be choosers though. There is so little space to pull off the road in these steep sided valleys. We are just across the river from Afghanistan. A mere stone’s throw away. Let’s hope there is no minaret too close to wake us at 4am again in the morning.
It’s the following morning and I will add a postscript to yesterday. There weren’t minarets, but our night was disturbed. Dennis was sleeping soundly, I hadn’t been able to get to sleep because of the river noise and the very strong wind rattling the tent. I was suddenly aware of men’s voices and torches being shone at the the Land Rover. I have to say I was concerned. Dennis woke and there was a loud banging on the side of the Land Rover. Dennis stuck his head out of the window and aggressively asked what they thought they were doing. He was rather taken aback to be confronted by at least 6 military men with rifles! A conversation of sorts followed, as there was no common language, but it was made very clear we had to move. We understood enough. They were saying Afghanistan and the Taliban were just across the river. At that time of night the Taliban were the last thing on our mind, but we rapidly dressed, took down the tent, and threw everything into the back of the Land Rover. The 6 military men sat on their haunches holding their rifles in front of them, watching us. We hot footed it out of there, wondering where on earth we would be able to park at 11pm. A few kilometres further on we pulled off on the side of the road. There was not much traffic, and we didn’t put up the tent. Locked ourselves in and managed to get some sleep.
Just to add. There is no feeling of insecurity here. The border with Afghanistan in the Wakhan Valley is actually open and you can get a visa to go across. Afghan traders come across to the Tajik side for weekly markets. However, I am sure no chances are being taken, especially with tourists and the soldiers were only doing their duty in moving us on.