Tajikistan Trips

Down and out in Tajikistan

Yair Shafir

Tajikistan

After spending approx 1.5 months on the roads, trails and jailoos of Kyrgyzstan - I came to Tajikistan a little bit tired, exhausted and with somewhat 'lighter pockets'. By then, I have already experienced some episodes of traveler's diarrhea, getting ridiculously sick while trekking around Kyrgyzstan's Arslanbob and worst of all - my 'trusty' backpack's suspension system completely fell apart while I was literally out on a limb in southern Kyrgyzstan mountains. Despite this grim introduction - the moment I stood against this massive wall of mountains that separates Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan, known as the Alay Pamir range - I knew I was heading for the right place. Tajikistan - which has been a dream of mine ever since I pitched my tent on the footsteps of Muztagh Ata, a mountain located about 100 miles to the east in neighboring Xinjiang - was becoming a reality. The sight of 6-7 thousander mountains soaring against dry, desolate deserts is too epic to explain in words. That sight was what drew me in to Tajikistan in begin with and that's also the picture that was left engraved in my head, long after I returned home from the Stans.

There's more to Tajikistan than that, obviously, which is what this post is all about. Most of my trip was focused in the Pamirs, the remote mountainous region found in eastern Tajikistan. Many people choose to cycle the Pamirs or traverse it by a hired car. I opted for going by a mixture of hitching, hiking and the occasional marshrutka (officially - a shared taxi. practically - an old guy passing by in an old private Lada car). As a part-time backpacker, part-time student, my budget was very limited (and that's an understatement) - but even if funds are not a problem for you, I didn't came across too many opportunities to throw your cash around anyway. Tajikistan is not a very hard place to travel in my opinion, and non-trekkers can enjoy this country too, no doubt. However, moving around from place to place is not always easy, the infrastructure is pretty much bare-bones, and the 'backpacker scene' is no where to be seen -  so in case you had Thailand in mind,  maybe you should save Tajikistan for a later time in your life. Far from being expensive, Tajikistan ain't that cheap either. The remoteness of everything here makes food, gas and everything else that needs to be shipped across the desert, somewhat pricey. All in all - I managed to wander around for a month, spending something between 600$-750$ (excluding my plane ticket back home).

The "high season" in Tajikistan is the summer months of July-August. I traveled during September & October so it's definitely possible to go there during the "shoulder season" but you should know you're risking having a few bad weather days. The biggest disadvantage that comes with travelling in October was the fact that at times, it seemed as there were no other travelers at all left in the country. That can make things difficult for you if you are traveling alone and you are looking for some trekking buddies to join you while you are 'out there'. Unless you are a super-hard-core-rugged tough guy (or your name is Bear Grylls), you would probably want to avoid the winter months - when roads become blocked with heavy snow and temperatures drop to absurd extremes in the Pamirs.

This post ain't going to focus much on the useful practicalities (visa, GBAO permission stamps, bureaucracy issues etc.) but mainly on the non-useful stuff  (e.g. my own personal experiences: getting lost in the Shokh Dara valley, getting bitten by a dog in Khorog, meeting a man that was injured by a mine in Javshanguz etc.). I will try to break my ongoing boring blabber with some pictures every once in a while to make things easier for you. Here we go.

#tajikistan #pamirs #budget