Sunday, 30 October 2011

A short walk............

Paperwork in order we retraced our steps back down the Wakhan to the valley Raig Jurm. A valley which would give us access to the high mountains of the Hindu Kush on the Afghan/Pakistan border. Our donkey men were waiting for us as planned at the head of the valley. The two men expertly loaded the donkeys (no chance of the loads falling off in the first 10 m like in Tajikistan). Soon we were heading up the dusty trail. We had walked all of about 100 m when the men insisted on carrying our bags. They wrestled James's rucksack off his back, and mine as well, and carried them for the rest of the day.

When I had initially planned the expedition in the Wakhan I had imagined that any valley we chose to explore would be remote and unvisited. I couldn't have been more wrong. As we hiked into Raig Jurm we could see paths, stone shelters, field boundaries and an irrigation system. Although their was no one living in the valley at that time, it was clearly regularly used for grazing and had been farmed. Our donkey men were certainly familiar with the area and lead us to a good spot for lunch.

Our donkeys ready to go

We opened a can of tuna for lunch and stretched out in the sun. Raven's circled overhead. The huge skies of Central Asia stretched north over the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan delineated by the Oxus River which flowed from the Chinese border to the east, whilst the Hindu Kush and Pakistan lay to the south. And out of all the vastness the Raven got a direct hit on me. A brown stain streaked down my T-shirt, a stain so stubborn that it never did come out in the wash and the T-shirt was retired after the expedition.

After lunch we continued on a little further but conscious of the amount of ascent we were doing, and with James feeling a little under the weather, we found a flat grassy spot to camp.

The following morning we had luckily anticipated that the Afghans would be up at 5 am and although we were virtually packed up by 6 am they were still waiting for us to finish so they could load the donkeys. Then we were off at the same blistering pace as the previous day. Up the valley fresh water gushed from the valley side. This was not like any spring I had ever seen before, it was like a river exploding from the side of the valley; a torrent of white foaming water. Above this we crossed to the other side of the valley and the men pushed the donkeys up a steep moraine to a sheltered spot above the river. They sat down to wait for us and would have gone further if we had wanted but this was a perfect spot for a base camp so we unloaded the donkeys, paid the men and were left in the silence of the Afghan Hindu Kush.

Heading up the Raig Jurm into the Hindu Kush.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Becky and James,

    How come I never clicked through from the Facebook links to your blog until today? I just read your last few posts and realised that you have just arrived at part of the world where I have been!

    When we recruited for the South African Expedition, we must have shown you slides or video of the 1995 Trip to Pakistan. We jeeped and trekked from Gilgit to Chitral through the high passes of the Wakhan corridor. I can't recall any village names now except Hunza, where I do remember eating delicious apricots fresh from the trees (it was August) and being greeted by villagers who gave us chicken. After weeks on dahl and chapatis the food obviously stuck in my memory!

    We arrived down in Hunza after climbing a modest peak a day or two from the village. Not technically difficult as I remember, but on a warm sunny day, the snow bridges and crevasses were creaking rather ominously by midday.

    These are things I had forgotten until today when I found your blog. Now I'm going to go back and read the rest! I am sure you are having the time of your lives. Enjoy, and maybe we will get to meet up to hear your tales when you are back?

    All the best,