The road to Gharm from Dushanbe divides naturally into three parts: good, bad, then good again.
From the capital to Obi Garm, the spa town, the road is paved, has guard rails, and is generally quite civilized. Once you get beyond the Obi Garm town limits, however, it is a different story. Pavement gives way to dirt gives way to mud. And pot holes, don’t forget the pot holes. There are also, in fairness, quite a few stones along the route, ranging in size from pebble to boulder. Complicating matters, or maybe simplifying them depending on your point-of-view, are the sheer drops from the edge of the road into a stunning gorge through which the Surhob River flows. No guard rails, remember.
Then there are the mud- and rock-slides that apparently occur with regularity to block the way. This leads to back-ups until the road can be cleared.
And sometimes, vehicles, like say our Prado, doesn’t wait for the blockage to be removed.
Sometimes on the rough part of the Dushanbe-to-Gharm road, streams decline to respect the boundary between nature and man.
The bad part of the journey lasts for 55 km, or an hour and a half. On the way out to Gharm, I was in the way back of the SUV, so this wasn’t super-fantastic. But eventually, you do clear the mountains and come into the Rasht Valley proper, which is where Gharm is situated. And once you do, the dirt track miraculously transforms into an shockingly straight piece of tarmac all the way to Gharm town. Thank you Chinese development aid! (Well, it’s actually loans and most of the work is done by Chinese convicts trying to reduce their sentences through labor so not too many local jobs are created and who knows what the PRC will ask for when Tajikistan defaults on these loans as is probably inevitable, but hey, this was supposed to be a light little travel post, so I’ll leave it to someone else to cogitate on these issues.)
Just before you reach Gharm there’s a natural spring, a place for travelers to sip some water and be refreshed before traveling on. We took the opportunity to pose as a group, the sistrabrathood of the trip to Gharm for buzkashi.
Now, for the buzkashi.