After a night at the Garmchashma hot springs we cycled down to the Panj Valley again and continued to climb this valley along the Afghan border. Today’s destination was Ishkashim, a border city at the southern tip of Tajikistan.
Hot start in the day
Last night I spent in a tent around 200 m away from the Garmchashma hot springs on almost 2600 m. It was therefore obvious that I wouldn’t miss the occasion to warm up in the hot springs after a rather cool night in the tent at 6:00 while watching the sun rising from behind the tall mountain peaks in the east.
After a short breakfast, we descended again 300 m to the main valley where we followed the Panj River upstream.
Weather change in the afternoon
Having started the day with a cloudless sky, in the afternoon big clouds formed over the mountains, and every now and then some showers went down over the valley. While this is unpleasant while cycling, it is a great subject for pictures. And we were even lucky, it only rained during 5 minutes in total, all the other rain showers went down in other parts of the valley.
Staying with locals
After a few nights of staying in a hostel in Khorog or in the tent before and after Khorog, today we had the chance again to spend the evening at a local family here in Ishkashim. Ishkashim itself is not a pretty city and there are limited options for staying at hostels, so we were glad to find this option. And because the weather outside was rainy and stormy, we definitely preferred having a roof over our heads.
Just like in the other parts of the autonomous region of Badakhshan, we met surprisingly many young people who greeted us in English in the streets here in Ishkashim, as compared to the rest of Tajikistan (incl. the capital Dushanbe) where English is rarely spoken. The efforts of the autonomous region to teach English as a second language seem to work and opens the youth new possibilities e.g. for studying or working abroad.
One of these young people joined us tonight, she was the sixteen year-old daughter of our host’s neighbor. She was happy to practice her English with tourists like us, and because she spoke English, we learned also a few interesting things about Badakhshan and Tajikistan in general. And her English was very good, many Swiss at that age don’t speak English that well. When asking her however if she could also use her English abroad, she told us that she had never left Tajikistan so far, and actually even never went to the next larger city Khorog, which is only 100 km away. Nevertheless, she is dreaming about studying in Canada or working abroad as a translator in Dubai in the future, and I hope her motivation is getting rewarded in form of a scholarship. Because here in Ishkashim, there are no perspectives for young people like her.
Max elevation: 2634 m
Min elevation: 2313 m
Total climbing: 996 m
Total descent: -946 m
Total time: 08:26:44