Our homestay was OK - very skimpy tea & old bread(naan) breakfast. Our driver was very helpful getting us to registration but there the woman wanted copies of passports AND copies of Tajik visa & permit. It took us considerable time locating a working copier, we also needed $15 US plus 26 someni(Tajik $$) to cover registration charges. Since we had no Tajik $$ it ended up $23 US total and they also needed a photo...basically, it entailed making another 'visa' which they give you as a small document showing you registered - A MUST NOT LOSE ITEM! No stamp on passport. They took one person at a time and it was 15 min each time. Our new driver to Khorugh is Talip(altho at the time we were told to just call him Misha). It is a very good looking Russian jeep and w/ Sharshems help plus an interpreter he found we arranged the trip for .55 US/ km plus $10/ day for the driver. Sharshem also helped us find a fellow in the bazaar to exchg $100 US for 340 somani. We'd paid our new driver $440 the full price plus his $10 a day fee. Went to META office where they had no maps for sale, only tourist souvees so we took advantage of our last potty stop and left. Murab is at the end of a huge marshy/meadow valley w/ beautiful stream, mtns all round...we followed the stream & meadows 18 km out of town, past the police check point where we encountered K & T (as it turned out, until we got to Penjikent!), and then Mari remembered she had left her coat back at the homestay! At 42014 by the odometer we left and then left again at 42056 at NOON, not the early start we had hoped for.
Now up to higher plateau - dry, barron, desolate. Narrow w/ tall peaks in all directions, some w/ snow. Road is very bumpy, uneven but few potholes, the only sign of civilization is the straight line of power poles marching down one side of the road and even these disappear up over a crest in their arrow staight way as we/the road weaves back down along the river bottom and green again. This up & down continues - dry plateaus to green river bottom...we pass/are passed by several other tourist jeeps/land cruiser going each way. The valley narrows & begins the climb, craggy eroded peaks on both sides. Then on into another wide open barron valley w/ smooth rounded mtn slopes both sides.
Suddenly, a single yurt appears in the middle of the valley where a wide green area(springs no doubt) - as we pass I see the Tajik man squating along the roadside rolling up what appears tyo be a wet hide, most likely some critter he just butchered and the highway surface is the smoothest/cleanest spot? to do his work?! Another wide valley - this one very green and quite long, trucks parked alongside the 'meadow' harvesting grasses from the marshy area. Saw 2 marmots and yesterday we saw snowshoe rabbits...the only 'wild' critters around I guess. Road along this stretch is more broken up w/ potholes as well. We see a dog herding yaks, valley dotted yurts - Alichur Valley - very rich green, large (100 +) herd of yaks and even larger (200 +) herd of goats. Went by a beautiful blue water spring feeding a substantial body of water(not really a lake tho). Power poles keep stringing along this stretch of the thoroughly bumpy road. Reach Alichor at 1:45 now deciding we will go to see Green Lake then onl to Bulunkul for eve. and ON. Driver fills gas here...see pic of disposable diapers!
Just outside Alichur we climb a hillside and can look back at the Alichur Plain...a thin green spring creek snakes its way out into the tan barron wasteland, a lone yak grazing below us on its banks. The small village w/ its backdrop of salmon tan grooved mtn slopes makes a painting of solumn beauty!
We turn off onto 16 km of gravel/dirt road to 'end of the world' village of Bulunkul where the regular homestay is full...we opt to drive up to lake Yashilkul(Green Lake 3734 m.) for photo op. Now back on gravel and on to Langar. We see from high up the pencil-thin black highway coming up the valley we just traversed. Almost immed we turn off onto an even, more gravel/rugged track up another valley - dry sandy, alkaline(salty white deposit on the surface).
At this point the 'road'/track is very rough, rocky terrain. We pass by several lakes and even think we pass K & T going back(this we confirm in Penjikent later) but too quickly to be sure. Several very large goat herds along the road, heading now directly towards the tremendous view of the Hindu Kush - closest we come to Afganistan at this point. Another green ribbon of grass parallels the road w/ its bubbling creek down the length of another very narrow valley(just the creek and our track really). Goats, sheep, donkeys & a few cattle...we pass 2 family compounds in 10 km. Leading into Pamir River & Afganistan we stop at last ck point 77 km from Langar 5:15. Road now parallels the river. At the ck point I witness Kodak film given as a bribe! Other bribes along our journey included: melons, sugar, milk, water, cigarettes, honey, vodka, as well as money.
We continue on but see on the road an American(actually from Spokane) hitching - Abrahim teaches English in Almaty, speaks Russian, and had traveled extensively in CIS countries during the past 4+? yrs. He wants to start a tourist business because of the outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities here which are largely unknown/unreachable right now due to lack of expertise. He came the rest of the way to Langar w/ us and ended up in the same place for the night. A very interesting, informed and helpful(translating for us) fellow. Now...2018...much of what he told us, Putin would take over, the oligarchs would run the country, and because Russia has huge oil reserves and other resources but little population, Russia would come back to control much of the area and "Make Russia Great Again"!! The scenery is wild, incredible, totally captivating - beautiful, awesome in so many respects. We could see Pakistan mtns. in the distance as we approached Langar. Fantastic agric. terracing along the Pamir River. Odometer:42323