Day began early - 6 am - up we had gone to bus sta the day before and they had indicated we should be there about 7 to get transport towards Dushanbe. The homestay was less than desireable for $15 US, the meals were not what we'd come to expect and we had to remind them of our early departure. Carrying our bags down steep steps to the road was a bit much but we did make it and bus sta in good order. At first we got 'help' from the fellow who had the home stay(he came w/ us to bus sta for some reason, perhaps because our driver had told him to?!), a very small minivan, cramped, but only 80 som. After a bit of acrimoniuous discussion FMari went out in search of something better which resulted in meeting a local fellow home from school in NYC. Speaking English we were able to arrange a better vehicle but at considerably greater cost, 180 Som. Our seating was much more comfortable - one in front 2 in the next bench seat & 3 in the back. We get on the road at 8 thinking that the driver had decided to leave w/ our agreement being the 6 of us for price of 7! Taking off where the road left off yesterday...along the Pyanj River, now paved but bumpy from patching and many places where it has broken up completely(not just potholes). The driver is a race car driver wanna be as we find out. He has to pass every vehicle wwe catch and he is dogged in his pursuit. The ride is spectacular...we now find what was once incredible has now become ordinary! The rapids do not stop seemingly getting more and more intense and constant. We pass one section where I count at least 9 standing waves. The canyon continues for 2 hours with shear rock walls and towering, jagged peaks FI estim to be 3-4000' above us. On the Afghan side a path winds its way up and down slopes & etched into the cliff face. Once in awhile a wooden 'bridge' is suspended out from the rock across space. The geological forms of eons show themselves in layering and angular lines weaving up & down where uplifts have pushed the earth higher & higher. Colors of all sorts pattern themselves all across the rock faces. Every so often a spring appears high up in the rock where green springs out of the rock in a plethora of grasses/shrubs/hanging moss 'gardens'... the sensational beauty of it all surpasses anything I could possibly imagine.
Pamiri women wear colorful patterned sheath dresses to below the knees down to ankle length often w/ matching or contrasting pants beneath. Loose fitting they are usually covered w/ sequined sparkle patterns, the more sparkle the better especially more formal type ones. The casual dresses are a bit more plain but no less colorful. During our entire journey thru the Pamirs I have not seen one Tajik person - man or woman - who was overweight not even a little. They work to live and have seemingly in the last 12-15 yrs come up w/ a sustainable, cocreative lifestyle in this remote corner of Asia. Prior to this time Russia supported much of this region w energy, subsidizing food & fuel from w/out. Since the Russians have left the Tajik people w/ the considerable aid of their living god, Agha Khan, have forged ahead from near starvation at first (only 18 % of their food grown locally) to over 80% of their needs grown locally by 2006.
Their housing which is quite unique and has been around for some 2500 yrs is simple and practical as well as symbolic(see LP)
After racing for several hours the 2 Tajik women in the back have become sick so we stop to give them a break. We resume only to stop half an hour later for lunch.
Arr in Kalaikhum @ 3 pm...driver tried to charge us for 1 more person claiming we had agreed to this but the English speaking 'friend' had arranged it that we would each pay 180 somani/540 total. And if he got another for 7 in all we would only pay 135 ea, still 540! Driver insisted we go to the police which we did. The police officer resolved it by getting us to pay an additional 20 ea or 200 ea total which is what the price is all the way to Dushanbe!!! All's well tho since the officer showed us to a homestay nearby, which incl dinner & bfast for $9 US and he will pick us up and drive us to Dushanbe at 6 am for 120 somani which is what the English speaking fellow in Khorugh said it would be.