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Posts Tagged ‘mountains’

The center of Gharm

Gharm is nestled in between the mountains, 200 km east of Dushanbe and essentially half-way down the Rasht Valley.  The town is known for being conservative, both socially and religiously, and for being independent-minded.  Most of the worst fighting in the Tajik Civil War in the ’90s took place around here, and the area is still only tenuously under the control of the central government.  This lack of actual control may be the reason for the ostentatious displays of state authority all across Gharm, including the de rigeur and ubiquitous photos of the President throughout the town.

At least the backdrop is nice

Although the town center was relatively bustling when we arrived just after noon on Friday, it was because the shops and offices emptied as the men (and it is only the men) walked to Friday prayers.  The mosque on the edge of town was perhaps the nicest building in the settlement, with a burnished dome but no minarets.

The mosque in Gharm

With all the development problems in the Rasht Valley and Gharm, it was disappointing to see how much money was invested in religious structures rather than into people’s lives.  Gharm was not the only town I’ve seen where tens of thousands of dollars were spent on a religious building while people within a stone’s throw didn’t have enough to eat.

After we poked around for a hour or so, we saw pretty much all there was to see of the sights of Gharm.  We were ready to get onto the road east of town and head to the buzkashi match.  But that had to wait for Saturday.

The road to buzkashi . . .

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I’m going to go a bit out of order, and instead of writing about the waterfall and pond near Iskanderkul, I’ll show you something from the hike we did the next day on Sunday.  Our guide, Dilovar, grew up in the region surrounding Iskanderkul and now lives in a small village called Saratok (or perhaps Saratag, it’s unclear to me how it’s actually spelled or pronounced as I saw several variations while we were up there).  Dilovar took us through the countryside and to an oul.  This is where people from a village come in the summer to live, and it is located near the summer pastures of their livestock.  It looks like something out of the Middle Ages, plopped into a gorgeous mountain setting.

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After a decent night’s sleep on a springy bunk, which was a change of pace from the brick-hard bed at my apartment, we were all up early.  Luckily, so were the people running the camp on the edge of Iskanderkul, so we hustled over to have fried eggs and hot dogs for breakfast.  No vodka, surprisingly.  We all then headed down to the lakeside to see the view in the morning.  It was pretty cool.

View across Iskanderkul at 8 am Saturday morning

View across Iskanderkul at 8 am Saturday morning

Then I turned to my left and took another photo.

Looking to the left, here's the view

Looking to the left, here's the view

According to the guide book, there was a waterfall nearby that the locals called “Niagara” and which was worth checking out.  We asked at the camp’s store/restaurant and they pointed us in the right direction, and as we headed into the hills towards the waterfall, I turned around and saw the following view of the approach to Iskanderkul.

Looking down on the lake to the south

Looking down at the lake on the way to the waterfall

Pictures of the “Niagara” waterfall and “Snake Lake,” a pristine pond shrouded in reeds and home to ducks, tomorrow (or the next day).

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This was taken by my predecessor in Dushanbe, so there’s not as much snow on the mountains now as there was then, but, you get the idea.

The view out of my office window

The view out of my office window

Pretty sweet, huh?

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This reminds me of where 95 goes from Attleboro into Pawtucket:

Tajik road along the border

Tajik road along the border

Riiiight.

So is everyone getting the idea that Tajikistan has some pretty impressive mountain scenery?  Thanks to Sophie who suggested in a comment elsewhere on here that I check out the gallery on the website for the Roof of the World Rally, which I did and on which I found this cool photo.

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One part of Tajikistan I definitely want to explore at some point in the next year is the Pamirs.  Those are the mountains that span almost the whole of eastern Tajikistan along its borders with Afghanistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan.  The old Persians called the Pamirs “the roof of the world,” and they are stunning and stark.  The cyclists’ blogs I highlighted before all have amazing shots of the mountains (particularly on A Long Ride Home), as does Tajik.info, which is a web gallery of Tajikistan photos.  Here’s a few samples of the Pamirs from Tajik.info:

A public park in Khorog on the edge of the Pamirs, which are in the background

A public park in Khorog on the edge of the Pamirs, which are in the background

The Pamirs from the air

The Pamirs from the air

There’s lots more spectacular photography from Mikhail Romanyuk on Tajik.info and you should definitely check it out.

Edited on 2 April 2010 to remove dead photo link and resize Pamirs mountain photo to fit the column width.

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