We spent a couple of days based at the Pamir Lodge in the town of Khorog, which is a small, functional town that marks the entrance to the Pamir Highway proper. Situated at 2200m above sea-level, and with a monument to the first vehicle to drive over the Pamir Highway, it certainly had the feel of the start of something big. The Pamir Lodge was superb, and everything an overlander could dream of, including a table tennis table (WIFFWAFF!!!!!!!!); cue much excitement!
It was here that we finally chose our route through the Pamirs. There are, broadly speaking, two main routes through this part of the world. The first (and the one we chose), is the traditional main road through the mountains, and is called ‘the Roof of the World’ road, stretching between Khorog and Murghab, over 4300m mountain passes. We chose this route over the more infamous and mysterious Wakhan Corridor for a number of reasons. The first, and possibly the most pressing on our minds, was security. Although we had met a number of travellers on route, both in Dushanbe and in Khorog who had just travelled through the Wakhan, we were increasingly worried about the growing Taliban presence in the area, including holding a number of checkpoint and chokepoints on the Afghan side of the border. Combine that with some time pressure on our visas, and the uncertainty of how the Beaut would perform at 4000m, and we chose the route we had always set out to achieve, rather than have a last minute venture into uncertainty. Our adventure is perfectly adventurous enough for us, thank you very much 🙂
We did have one little foray into the corridor of uncertainty however, with a day trip from Khorog to the hot springs at Garm-Chashma. Shared taxis always throw up unexpected pleasures (although Cobes again ended up with a wet bottom), and this one did not disappoint. Free apples, aggressive shouting by an enormously moustached man who spoke no English, and offered us shooting lessons (!), and discovering that the man in the front passenger seat was a Chemistry teacher resulted in this journey being one we would not forget in a hurry!
The springs themselves were beautiful, and almost unbearably hot. For once, the girls got the better deal with social convention, or perhaps were just more persistent, as whilst they were allowed into the main bathing area during their allotted hour, the boys were confined to a steamy, sealed concrete room containing an oversize bath. It was however, still hot, and at least had some degree of privacy. Little did we know that hot springs were to become a firm feature of the following few days! Also of note was a cafe serving arguably the best bread of Tajikistan so far, and a pool table that must have been built during Stalin’s era, and was very much made of concrete!