Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Driving in Tajikistan along the border to Afghanistan

Wow! What an adventure, you might say. And I can tell you it's an adventure driving three and a half day along the border to Afghanistan, but not the way you might think. It isn't a risk or adventure concerning security. While you might be shot down or your car explodes elsewhere in Afghanistan, this region is safe. It has been like this for most of the time. The adventure lies in the landscape.
Please have a look at a map and you see that the border lies, where Hindu Kush and Pamir meet, and you may understand that this isn't a region to wage war. In the Hindu Kush peaks reach above 7000 m like Tirich Mir (7708 m) and in the Pamir region peaks reach up to above 7000 m as well like Ismoil Somoni (7495 m). There are only small stretches of arable land in the valleys.

The Pamir region is called Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) in Tajikistan. Tajikistan has about 143,100 sq. km and the GBAO makes about 45%. The population is 7-8 millions, but only 230,000 (or around 3% of the whole population) live in this region. 

We were driving along the Pyandzh River, which also is the border. Sometimes it's so close, that you could throw a stone across the border - which you better don't do! We were taking the M41 (Pamir Highway) from Kalaikhum till Khorog (2100 m), then went on Southwards to Ishkashim and then Eastwards along the Wakhan corridor till Khargush, the North-East across the Nayzatash Pass (4314 m) to Murgab (3576 m), which means being back on the M41 or Pamir Highway. Then we were heading North across the Akbaytal Pass (4655 m) to Lake Karakul' (3914 m). And then driving onwards to Say-Tash in Kyrgyzstan.

The roads are mostly without asphalt. The road conditions on the side of Afghanistan are even worse. They have to fight constant landslides. And most of the road doesn't lead to anywhere safe the next village. An exception is Eshkashem, which connects to Feyzabad. There are eight border bridges, which open on Saturdays for border markets. Most villages on the Afghanistan side are without electricity; I've seen one village with electricity from Tajikistan and one with a small water power plant. Some villages or homes have diesel generators. But most villages didn't show signs for electricity.

 First glimpse of Afghanistan

A village in Afghanistan


Tajikistan on the left side, Afghanistan on the right


One of the eight border bridges

A small water power plant


The pyramid structures are hay for the Winter


School girls going back home (long way)


Hindu Kush


Heave ho! One could hear the workers repairing the road


 Peak Ismoil Somoni and Karakul' Lake


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