Dara from our Australian office recently got the opportunity to travel from Bishkek to Dushanbe on Dragoman's Tajikistan Explorer tour. Check out what she got up to below.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Had our group meeting at 10am where we met the group coming from Uzbek and Turkmenistan. Checked into our room and then had a free day exploring the city. Beautiful and quiet city full of trees and parks to explore. Took a taxi to the main Bazaar where we marvelled at all the cheap local bread, spices, meat and fake branded clothing. Had a group dinner at a local Kyrgyzstan restaurant and tried our first Langman (noodles and meat dish).
First big drive day to Toktogul Lake. Went over a 3,000m pass where it snowed on us while we waited to enter the only tunnel through the mountain. We had a truck lunch at a little view point on our way down the mountain just before it started to rain. Wild camped at Toktogul Lake where it was so warm we almost had a swim!
Woke up to an amazing sunrise. Packed up our tent, had eggs and beans on toast for breakfast before heading off by 7am for a full day drive to Osh. We followed along the beautiful blue Toktogul Lake reservoir for many kilometres until we arrived at our hotel in Osh in the afternoon.
Today we had a full day in Osh (the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan). We had an included tour to Suleiman’s Mountain and then had a short walk to an amazing panoramic viewpoint of the city. The rest of the afternoon is free so after fuelling up on a delicious coffee, we hit the main Bazaar market until our feet hurt. Stopped at the supermarket to stock up on snacks for the next few days as we won’t be in any big cities again very soon.
Today we woke up early for a big drive to Tulpar Kol Lake. We drove over a 3,600m pass and this is where the sighting of snow capped mountains began. We followed an amazing snowy mountain range as we dropped of our truck at lunch time and took small vans up to our Yurt camp at Tolpar Kol lake (3,600m). After settling into our yurts, we packed our day bags full of water and snacks and did some altitude trekking to Lenin Peak Base camp. I left my mum at the base camp and hiked for another 3km to get a panoramic view of Lenin Peak (7,128m) and its glacier. The hiking got harder as I got to 3,900m. Got back to our Yurt camp at 6:30 for a short rest before our dinner was served.
Another early morning which was perfect as we all slept on and off because of the altitude last night. Full drive day as we crossed the border into Tajikistan. We had lots of stops along the way as we went past Karakul Lake and over our highest pass of 4,655m. We made it into Murghab by 6pm with enough time to have a short walk around the odd city and shipping container market before we had dinner at the hotel and hopped into bed. It was our second night of sleeping at altitude as Murghab is 3,600m above sea level.
Today we drive from Murghab to Langar. We had a nice little truck lunch stop at the turn off of the Pamir Highway to the Wakhan corridor. We got our first glimpse of the Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush Range. We then followed the Pamir River all the way to Langar and started continually to the left in awe at the fact that we were looking right at Afghanistan just over the river!
We had some free time this morning in Langar to walk through the tiny town or you could hike up to see some petroglyphs. Today was our second day of following the Afghanistan border but the river was now the Pamir River we were following. To our left we kept seeing the Hindu Kush Range sneaking a peak through the mountains. We only had a short drive today so we stopped a few times to visit a prayer house, a Buddhist Temple, the Wakhan House Museum and a Fort whilst still arriving into our guesthouse in Ishkashim by late afternoon. We all discussed how the trip is meant to be all about Tajikistan and yet all we can do all day is stare across the river and wonder what everyone on the Afghanistan side were doing and loved getting them to wave at us from the truck :)
After a great sleep and a lovely little relaxing morning we had a late start and left Ishkashim at 9am. Still following along the Afghanistan border, we watched the Panj River continually changing from narrow to wide but always flowing rapidly. We wanted to make a spur of the moment excursion to an Afghan Market on an island in the middle of the river but it happened to be closed today. We arrived at our hotel in Khorog by 3pm and could finally access Wi-Fi to contact the outside world. Most of us had dinner at an Indian restaurant down the road before heading home to have a nice relax on our hotel beds!
We had a full free day in Khorog today. As it was a Sunday, there wasn’t much open but we took advantage of the beautiful sunny day and a few of us caught a taxi up to the highest Botanical Garden in the world. They had an amazing view of the city and the beautiful river flowing through it. We caught a taxi back to town for lunch and then stumbled through the gorgeous Central Park and found a local handicraft store which was open, yay! I am still in awe of the colour of the rivers here. They are so picturesque compared to our murky brown rivers in Australia. After a relaxing afternoon at our hotel and again stocking up on snacks at the supermarket we found a restaurant on the river for dinner and had a lovely meal after a really nice relaxing day exploring.
After a nice sleep in Khorog we set off at 8am for a full day’s drive. Today the roads had gotten bumpier, narrower and busier. We had a whole flock of sheep and goats pass by, a funny moment where we got to watch 6 vans reverse back on a narrow road to let two massive trucks past, and to drive such an unreal, crazy, narrow road right on the edge of the Panj River, all while staring over at Afghanistan wondering where their roads would lead to. It was our third day of following the Afghanistan border and we have realised that for a Tajikistan trip, our focus has been very much on Afghanistan lately and we have forgot what country we were travelling in! We arrived into our guesthouse at Kalai-Khumb at 6:30pm. We ran to the supermarket to get some cold drinks and then all sat down for dinner together at 7:30 for some soup and the Local rice dish Plov.
Woke up today to some beautiful weather in Kalai-Khum. We set off at 8am after taking a touristy photo with the I-love-Tajikistan sign that was down the street. Today was our last day of following the Afghanistan border as we peeled away from the Panj River towards Kulob. The roads were surprisingly good and we even got to a road with white dotted lines on it which we hadn’t seen in awhile. After only a few hours’ drive we arrived at our hotel in Kulob at 1pm. A few of us set off down the street to the town’s bazaar and explored a little. Found a local take away place selling hot dogs in a sandwich and chicken toasted wraps for lunch. The 36 degree heat finally got to us and so we set off back to the hotel going via a local convenience store for some snacks and lunch for tomorrow and our upcoming Fann Mountains Trek. We then went for some dinner at the hotel restaurant followed by an early night ready for the big drive day tomorrow.
After a beautiful breakfast in Kulob (scrambled egg with herbs and hot dogs pieces) we set off at 8am towards Iskanderkul Lake. It was a very warm day so all windows in the truck were open which was perfect! We got to go through the ‘Death Tunnel’ named by tourists because it’s 5.1km long and there is no ventilation in it - what fun! We stopped a few times for some great views of the mountains and blue rivers before arriving at Iskanderkul lake at 5pm. There were some cabins to upgrade to for those which didn’t wish to camp and those that did set up our tents. We then got into cooking our Lentil Curry for dinner and whilst it cooked, we sat on some swing chairs and looked out at the beautiful turquoise and water surrounded by Rocky Mountains.
This morning I woke up to help cook breakfast at 6:30am. We had some scrambled eggs on toast. We packed all our gear into the truck’s back locker and then had free time until 10:30am. We took a short walk to see a waterfall which was incredible! The viewing platform went over the waterfall so you felt like you could jump into it. Once we walked back to the lake, a few of us went swimming in the ice cold blue water before drying off and jumping on the truck. Only a few hours’ drive later we met up with our drivers and parted ways with the group which were not doing the trek. Our drivers took us to our guesthouse for the night, stopping along the way to see a museum. Once at our guesthouse we took a walk around the village and got to speak with some of the local children. Now we have some chill time before dinner and then our trekking in the Fann Mountains start tomorrow.
Headed off at 8am for our hike. 14km to conquer and most of it was uphill. We followed a beautiful river the whole way up stopping once for a lunch break. We put our feet in the water and it was freezing! At the top of the pass was Kuli-colon lake. We stopped to skip some rocks and then stopped at another lake for some to swim in. Finally by 5pm we got to the lake we were camping at and the views were spectacular. On one side, mountains more than 5,000mhigh, the other, a beautiful blue lake. Had some free time before dinner and then we had a fire and our porters sang us some folk Tajik songs. Snuggled up into our tents and got some good rest ready for our next big hike.
Woke up just before 7 today and it was only a little bit fresh outside. A little bit of ice fell off my tent as I unzipped it so I know it got quite cold last night.
We have breakfast and then set off for our walk at 8am. As we looked over the map with our guide we heard a rumble. A small bit of snow from the mountain in front of us had fallen off and was making a small avalanche. Was an amazing experience that our Tajik Guide said he had never seen happen.
From 8-1pm we hiked uphill. There were many breaks as we looked back to where we had come from. We kept watching the mountains for more avalanches and were lucky enough to see two more!
At 1pm we had made it to our highest pass of 3,800m and the rest of the afternoon was quite steep downhill.
We had a late lunch before continuing on and we arrived into camp at 5pm. Our tents were set up right next to the lake and a few of us took the chance to go for a swim. The water was freezing so we just jumped in and out and then quickly put our thermals on. We had a chilled afternoon and just chatted, patted the donkeys and took some short strolls around the lake. We had some Plov for dinner and then sat around a bit more talking about the funniest moments of the day before heading to bed.