Thursday, 20 October 2011 Hysteria Lane HQ

When heading into the mountains it is always a good idea to tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. We had tried to do this at a local NGO office in Murghab but after having to correct them over several days it was evident that they were completely useless. So, as the generator was spluttering at the end of the day, we fired off an email to our parents.

After 3 days of shuttling kit back over the pass we waited for the donkey-men to arrive to help us get the kit back to the road - with our fingers crossed. Amazingly, a donkey did arrive but only one, and was even 7 minutes early. We rearranged the kit for one donkey and carried large packs back to the Pamir Highway. Late afternoon, back at the yurt, our donkey-man was to drive us back to Murghab (probably the reason he had brought the donkey up the valley to collect us). He required a break to eat before driving us - for an hour and a half - and then announced that we needed to take a detour to pick someone up on the way. When we complained about this he said that his friend needed to get to Murghab as his grandmother was in hospital there, we didn't believe him but couldn't say no. For half an hour we bumped down a dirty track to a remote yurt to find out that the person had already left and then bumped back to the Pamir Highway. Continuing over the high pass it started to snow. This became a problem as the windscreen wipers on the ancient Uza we were travelling in didn't work. We crawled along at 10 mph with the driver trying to make out the road. Just after dark we arrived in Murghab relieved to be back to civilisation of sorts.

My priority was to let our parents know that we were back but that evening the phone wouldn't charge through the mains, so I got up early the following morning to put the solar panel out and got one bar of charge on the phone to fire off texts to James's and my parents and Mark also texted his Mum. Despite it being 4 am in the UK, Mark immediately got a text back from his Mum, before the phone ran out of power again. James managed to find a jeep to take us west to Khorog and we loaded our kit onto the roof and hit the road. 

Meanwhile, completely unbeknown to us, our parents had misinterpreted our sloppily worded email. Instead of needing to worry at the end of the 18th they had interpreted it to mean that they needed to press the panic button at 00:01 on the 18th. Hysteria Lane HQ therefore went into full panic stations with Acute Hysterics (my Mum) and Chronic Hysterics (James's Mum) at the helm, as well as contributions from Trainee Hysterics (my brother). Voice of Reason (my Dad), it appears, had been completely overruled.

When we arrived in Khorog that evening I thought I ought to get in contact by email too. All bases covered we headed out for a beer.

The following day, after picking up a new phone charger in the market and charging my phone, I had a rather curious text. It was from the embassy in Dushanbe asking me to contact them immediately. I phoned them straight away to have a very confusing conversation. It transpired that Hysteria Lane HQ had not received any of the texts and had raised the alarm with every agency they could get a number for, instead of trying to contact us. A helicopter had been scrambled and the hysteria didn't subside until it was reported that 2 men and a woman had been spotted safely in the valley - Hysteria Lane HQ stood down. Expect the reported people could not have possibly been us as we were on the road heading to Khorog at the time. They must have mistaken the 3 burly Tajik geologists and their dog, who had also been camping in the same valley, for us. Hopefully the fee for the helicopter paid by our insurance company will go towards eye tests for the crew!

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