Afghanistan Takes The Prize
This is where we camped. It’s our first night on the Wakhan corridor.
Let us zoom in. This narrow stretch of land lies between Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. What we can see over the river Panj is surely more charming than what we have going on on our side.
And it’s not what we would have expected to see. Afghanistan is the most beautiful country we have not visited, of course, we are only talking about this bit of Afghanistan. So instead of packing our bags and continuing our journey, we linger for hours, unable to help ourselves from staring at the curious life-show beyond the water.
The village is so close. Less than 50 meters separate us from another life, another era. On our side there are still bits of tarmac and soon we’ll reach a big town, Khorog,. On the Afghan side we see dirt roads zig-zaggingup and down the mountain and dung fires. As the sun starts illuminating and warming up the valley, the village wakes up. Other villagers show up, walking impetuously from some neighboring settlement. The women wear long purple dresses. The men have their heads covered in turbans, and they are wearing long shirts, wide belts, baggy trousers and vests. It feels like looking back a few centuries into the past. We wonder if the older man who is being invited by that women to enter inside the house could be some respected relative. or if she is cooking for him a welcome meal. We wonder what those two men who have stopped their donkeys on a trail are debating so passionately. The entire mountain is blanketed in gardens. Terraces bear golden crops. And further up there is the blue deep sky, where peaks impossibly steep are powdered with snow.
Unfortunately we do not have a double entry visa for Tajikistan, otherwise we would try to get a permit and cross on the other side. We spend our riding day gesturing to the Afghani and gawking at the fabulous landscapes that follow the mighty river.
As we cross into another GBAO district, the Wakhan starts really flexing its muscles. But sand it’s my prime territory, and Ana is quite entertained by my drills.
After we cross the sandy stretch and the river Panj, we meet a nice bistro owner who feeds us fresh milk, fresh kaymak and hot bread. The protein load keeps us pumping until we hit Khorog.
We pass many cyclists: Japanese, French, German, Ukrainian, and even 3 Polish riders on 1200 GS, Super Tenere and 990, who may I say have not chosen the best bikes for the job. Actually after Khorog they ony made their way to Ishkashim, then they turned back, exhausted and pissed because of the hard off-road.
Khorog is the main hub into the region, where all travelers meet and where the last proper shopping and the last arrangements can be made. Around us, just bare rock. In stark contrast to what we will experience beyond this town, the roads are mostly paved and in good shape. But Ana is spent. She sits on the platform of the only gas station in town. I promise her a hot shower and a full tank tonight. But tomorrow, my darling…