|Up at 7 brkfast of porridge & tea and on the road in the 1st vehicle by...which just happened to be going to Sost(8 am). The driver went to Aliabad where we parked waiting for it to fill(15 in all), leaving at 10 and arriving in Sost at noon thirty. Still no Alam Jan so we ask where to wait for 'bus' to Chapursan and basically it was right whre we got off. At 1:30 Alam Jan magically appeared, cking to see if all went well and asking if we want lunch, the bus is not lvg for awhile. We have milk tea(we really only eat 1-2 times a day). At 3 a red jeep pulls up and driver motions for us to get in/load up...Alam Jan was waiting also to make all's well, seeing us off(he later passes us on his motorcycle as we approach Zood Khun (or spelled Zuudkhan in Greg Mortenson's latest book, Stones into Schools).
The following from Lonely Planet:
"At Zood Khun, accommodation, trekking information, yak and jeep transport and more can be found at the Pamir Serai guesthouse run by the redoubtable Alam Jan Dario, horseman, musician and ambassador of Wakhi Tajik culture. As the operator of Pamir Trails (www.pamirtrails.com)this website address is incorrect, see one below for correct address, Alam Jan Dario runs cultural and adventurous treks on foot or horseback into the valleys and over the passes of his spectacular homeland."
Visit Pamir Serai
After 15 passengers = 2 babies smash into the jeep we ride 10 min out of town only to extricate ourselves in order to sign the police register before heading up the valley. The men & women 50/50 talk w/ each other most of the way...very un-Muslim in our experience, altho the women do wear traditional dress &scarves. The road is narrow, single lane gravel the whole way...much of the time we are only a foot or 2 from a steep precipace. The road winds considerably on its narrow shelf following the river - first right next to it then up up & high above only to have the river come up to us again. The road is not particularly rough - many places deep powder dust - not like in the Pamirs/Wakhan. We 'pass'/edge by at least 8 tractors hauling wagons loaded w/ burlap bags of potatoes(we find out later this is Chapursan valley's main cash crop). This is surely harvest time - piles of bags by the 100s are stacked along the road in different places all the way from Karimabad to Sost. Also we see hay/fodder-they harvest the vines and left overs from potatoes/tomatoes piled high on their traditional flat topped rock houses. Our drive takes us 1 1/2 hrs before we reach the first village and here we begin to see the rock walls in profusion - I think mostly to keep livestock out of their gardens/crops, not so much to delineate properties. Along the KKH the terracing is extensive so I did not notice rock walls as much, but here in the Chapursan valley rock walls(no mortar) are everywhere - not as many poplars or willows tho.
We see great big yaks as well as sheep & cows. The people along the way seem to chat w/ each other at every stop to let folks out/on jeep. Later, Alam Jan tells us the jeep is their communication link, no phones here, and the messages get around very fast since while walking no one ever seems to pass another w/o greeting, asking about their health and that of the family, and finally, asking to join in a cup of tea! Even if they see each other every day! Arriving at the 'last stop' as one passenger put it, alongside Alam Jan's place - he's down by his house waving to us. It's 6 pm, 3 hrs to get here from Sost(180 r.=$2.50 US)and Karimabad to Sost 2 hrs.(150 r.=$2 US) to the end of the line...transport in this manner by public bus is certainly reasonable. If we had hired a private taxi it would have been 2500 r.($33 US) and not nearly as interesting!
Once inside Alam Jans place Haji Bibi, Alam Jans wife served us milk tea - I drank more tea in 4 days than previous month - and we chat.
Alam Jan tells us how he got into the LP...basically he payed the 2500 r.($33 US) for the taxi hire to Zood Khun. His brother is Operations Director for NGO Central Asia Institute started by Greg Mortensen of Bozeman (read book: 3 Cups of Tea) Visit CAI Web Site. This year Alam Jan has had 90 tourists visit, last yr 140. Alam Jan thinks because it was more difficult to get China visa he has seen fewer tourists. He finds most who come arrive from China whereas tourists coming from the S. are on their way out and have little or no time left on their Pakistan visa. At dinner we met his brother, Sarfraz Khan, who had just come from a polo match...they have them every 3-4 days now that harvest is over. He just happened to be here(it is a rough and tumble game, his hand shows it where he once fell from his horse and broke fingers), travels in Kashmir, Pakistan, and Afghanistan for the CAI keep him away alot. He jokingly says he would like more children but is not home enuf(he has 2 by first wife and 7 by present wife)...we 'jokingly' say he should stay at 7 since it is a sacred number to Ismailis!
Visit Chapursan valley
Got up to tea...went to Alam Jn's brothers where we met his family & other workers, had brkfast(eggs, fried bread & tea). Spent the day walking around...literally...the village, reading, and enjoying the people who greet us, shake our hands, and generally make us feel welcome. In the eve we go to Mohammad Hussein's house(he was the one who first invited/encouraged us to come when we were on the bus to Sost). He was not home but met his wife - she runs the clinic attached to her home, 5 yrs ago was trained by CAI for 6 mos in Islamabad. She now has 50 'clients' who she helps, since the clinic opened infant mortality has dropped over 50%! She introduced her 5 children, the 3 yr old was the entertainment being unable to sit still as 3 yr olds do, ha! Very fine family as we have seen in all cases here! She served us pasta and delicious yogurt before we returned to a huge dinner at Alam Jans...3 kinds of potato dishes, naan, Hunza bread, turnips, & tea!
Stayed indoors as the weather turned overcast,windy, & cold...played cards w/ Alam & daughter, Sabrina (Up!)
The people always greet each other in the most typical Muslim manner, 'How are you, how is your wife, children, etc. and then always end w/ 'Let's go have tea!' which sometimes they do. And this happens every day many times w/ the same people. Alam says there are 300 people(60 houses) here and most are related. In this far off corner of the world, high in the mtns (3300 m.) the people talk of the past season harvest, chores, ideas for next season, livestock, or when tourists are here, about us or perhaps as this is the month of marriages and one is in just 10 days this is the subject. No talk of politics, economy, or the chaos which swirls around them 'outside' their valley!
Alam Jan arranged w/ Adin Asan to drive us up t Baba Ghundi after brkfst. We left at 9:30 w/ Alam's nephew, Ajazz, ad Zueb Asan(Adin's brother). Took one hour on a very rugged road, many times just over river rocks or in the wash of the river. Below Ishgu glacier the road had been completely destroyed a yr ago in one place, it was the roughest, driving thru part of the river even. Baba Ghundi was much more developed than we anticipated, apparently Alam Jans father had been given property near the shrine by the last Hunza king which he cherished. Often his father stayed in the small 'house' he built there and gave Kirghiz travelers/traders from Afghanistan a place to stay or at least tea. They have many friends in Afghanistan so now that Alam has built a wall around the place(2 years to do) many of the traders prefer to stay there rather than the place closer to the shrine.
After tea we enjoyed a fine walk in the sunshine, however it turned windy so we left at 1:30. On the way back we stopped at Adin Asa's parents place(where he and 7 brothers 3 sisters grew up). Parents - dad, Mohammad Asan; mom, Sultan Nasab - invited us to tea and we spent a very happy time w/ them taking pics & learning more Wakhi words....
Adin had brought them sugar, dried soup mix, and apples. After leaving we passed the legendary Dragon Lake where supposedly Baba Ghundi slayed one! Back at 3:30 a great time had by all!!
An aside: Pictures of locals...it seemed they would be smiling but the second they knew a picture was being taken they became serious. It was always difficult to make a picture of them smiling! Don't know why!