Our accomodation was very nice -even arriving late Abrahim was able to negotiate the owner down from $15 to $10 US which is normal price, esp w/ little dinner. The place is a museum house, beautiful...reminded me of Chinese Tibet house inside. All wood carved, open room w/ carved beams, paintings. We hiked a little way towards petroglyphs before setting out on the road...the kid 'guides' were not really helpful mostly pointing out lots of graffiti along the way, ha! The town w/ wonderful tree-lined streets is in a most picturesque valley - THE MOST PICTURESQUE we've seen! Green, 2 major rivers coming together(Pamir & Wakhan=Payanj), one from Afghan(Wakhan) and one from Hindu Kush mtns(Pamir).
We drive on a single lane, gravel road passing agric fields where women & kids are harvesting wheat./grains w/ sickels which they bundle w/ stems in small bunches and line up in 'stacks' in the middle of their fields. Very neat and tidy. We look up at Abrashim Qala - the silk fortress of Zong guarding this area from Chinese & Afghan invaders - high up on a hillside...a long hike we forgo.
Saw a houpoe bird, Mari was very excited since it supposedly is in many parts of Africa but never spotted there. A beautiful bird, long beak, crown, stripped wings.
After confluence of 2 rivers we can see Afghan villages on the other side. On our side rock walls everywhere - plenty of raw materials! Driving by huge/wide mud flats - sediment - an aluvial plain. The river seems to gave a great amt of this sediment which looks to have laid down/brought down recently by flood? runoff?...a grey cement color to the water now. Deep gorges all along the Afghan side, rivers bringing even more sediment from snowcapped mtn peaks towering up into the sky...awesome! We saw Bactrian Camels on Afghan side!!!
Everywhere it seems kids, women are working carrying sickels. Now at Yang village - saw tomb & house museum of Sufi mystic, astronomer/musician Mubarak Kadam Wakhan(1843-1903). His stone solar calender & plenty of artifacts, his grandson was our guide spoke some English. After a fantastic 6 km switchback climb in our Russian jeep past terraced wheat fields up up up to Yamchun Fort...most impressive I have seen - huge views, very big ruins, walls double and watch towers!
Then on to Bibi Fatima hot springs, named ofter Prophet Mohammeds sister:
42396 odometer. It was women first in a very natural setting/pool then the men for half an hour. On way down we stopped at Talip's friends for lunch...delicious potatoes, fried egg, cucs, apricots, apples, bread & apricot jam & tea cookies candy,,,yum! Plus they handed us the rest of the apricots & apples we were unable to eat at lunch! Met brother, 2 sisters, mom, and babushka - 88 yrs old! What a family and what great hospitality...
The earth is slow doing its work but it's nothing if not persistant!
For a short segment (after our return down switchbacks), the road was paved bu now back to single lane gravel, pretty smooth other than a few washboard segments. The valley is surely blessed w/ water - slopes on Tajik side heavily terraced high up w/ all kinds of crops. After 1993 when Soviets pulled out this area experience close to starvation since they had become so dependant upon Russian help(oil, fuel,food, practically everything). They only produced 15% of their own food. By 2006 they were producing 80% of their needs much due to the help from the Agha Khan, the 49th incarnation of their living God(Ismaili religion-a Sunni offshoot of Islam), and his foundation.
Now intermitant paved near/thru villages where willow & Lombardy-type poplar line and shade the road. They have planted great numbers of new trees which they protect w/ the branches of a thorny bush which grows plentifully around here(so goats won't munch them!).
Suddenly our side changes w/ big rocky cliffs & boulders lining the roadside - one place water is coming down thru a crevise where at one time it was so high it washed away part of the road(very narrow indeed!). At odometer 42422 - a long gorge where river is 1/3 - 1/8th of prev width - heavy rapids for 2-3 km.
Terracing now seen on Afghan side, boulders on our side polished by wind blown sand. Heavy winds here pick up sand from an immense sand bar in the river and create a sandstorm in the river bottom! One lane road now pretty much all paved.
Clematis seemingly covers every bush. An indication of how little traffic is driving on this road...we surprise a dozen boys sunning/drying themselves naked lying on the surface of the road...they jump up and scurry off to the side covering themselves w/ one hand and waving w/ the other...we were all laughing as we passed.
Come to 3rd century BC fortress up on high rock plateau - occupied even now by Tajik military so we can't go see it . The thorn bushes I mentioned are around agric lots like fencing as well as atop stone walls to keep goats in their places. River narrows again into canyon & rapids just 15 km from Ishkashim. At 42462 odometer we arrive in Ishkashim, 5:45 the Wakhan regional center & largest village. We stay at Hanis Guesthouse - on floor & bfast $10 US. We go up the street for dinner at a cafe but there is nothing for vegies, I have soup, Mari her beer, and Bon a Pepsi.