Trekking in the Fan Mountains, Tajikistan
27.07.2012 - 31.08.2012 28 °C
The Fan Mountains are rugged, bare, remote, and so high (peaking at 5,487m). Glaciers drip feed gurgling ice blue rivers and stone cold, perfectly blue, alpine lakes. It is a spectacular environment; we spent four days hiking through it and it was absolutely fantastic.
We joined forces with a group of 4 Frenchies in their 50s and formed an expedition: 6 hikers, one guide, one cook, two doneky guys and 6 donkeys! It's true there were nearly as manys staff as hikers, but we organised the trip through a local, community based tourism, organisation. So we felt justified in the seeming excess as it provided some income to some locals that really needed it. Also, I've gotta say, it was pretty sweet carrying just a little day bag while our donkey carried the heavy load (that was a first!).
Our trail head started in the ridiculously friendly village of Artush. We spent an afternoon walking around the village the day before we set off hiking.We watched village life - donkeys baring heavy loads, house builders, water collectors, laundry washers beside a stream heating water in shallow pans to get those stubborn stains out. A local kid with a bit of english picked up on us pretty quick and insisted we come to have tea at his english teacher's hosue. Which we did. We walked through a gate, into a large veggie garden, and in the moments we walked to the house we had picked up a trail of 5 older women and many more children. We were sat with ceremony beside Nana lying on her death bed in the front room, and a spread of jams, nuts, fruits, breads and tea was set before us. A wonderful encounter, made all the better by Farsida, the beautiul intelligent young women, formerly an english teacher, who could translate for us. Her husband didn't want her to work once they married, so she left her job teaching english at a university to become a mother to her children in a remote (albeit beautiful) village. While he worked as a taxi driver in Moscow. Needless to say we were both incredibly frustrated on her behalf.
And then we walked. Up the valley past summer pastures where locals camp out in the warm months with their herds, seeking fresh grass. Everyday we climbed a pass, the biggest being 3,800m. Every pass required more than a 700m ascent. And every time we reached the top of the pass a new vista of even bigger peaks would unveil itself, along with even more peaks leading off into the distance. Every night we camped wild beside said beautiful lakes. We never slept below 2,800m. Hence each evening's swim required a good squeal on entry and much flustering to get out as quick as possible. Oh, but we were so refreshed when we did. It was a landscape I had never spent so much time in. The hills are barren as they are so high, which also means your views are always uninterrupted - no trees or bush to get in they way. Many a snow capped peak, waterfalls of rocks and a multitude of rock and alpine colours. Ahhh, it was incredible.
I write this in the courtyard of our guest house in Dushanbe, the capital. We are assessing our next move, made more complex by fighting in the south west of the country. But more on that, and the rest of this wonderful country, later.