We had been recommended by a few other travellers to check out a place called the Bauteng Valley, which is a few hours north of Khorog. We still had one more day with our car and driver, so this is where we decided to go. I guess you can spend a few days hiking around this place, but we figured we had enough time for a day trip. It was hard to get much information on the place online, but we mostly knew where we were supposed to go, so we hit the road. After three hours of driving, mostly on a dirt track running along a river, we arrived at a cable bridge crossing the river. Apparently this was our stop!
We got all our gear ready and apprehensively crossed the river. The hiking was gently uphill and after about 2 hours we found the first village, if you can even call it a village. It was a collection of about 10 homes, with two tables and sitting areas for tourists to grab a meal. And that is exactly what we did. We had the usual tea and bread as well as a nice noodle and potato soup. One of the men spoke some English, so it was pretty easy to order.
This village is also next to a picturesque lake, so we attempted to take a dip. Of course the water was insanely cold, so about 30 seconds was plenty. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to explore the area more, because there is supposed to be another village and a waterfall further on, plus much more good hiking. But we had our driver waiting, so we decided it was best to head back before it got dark. We scrambled down, crossed the bridge, and our driver Bobish was waiting patiently for us. Later that night we took him out to the Indian restaurant in town (as it was our last night of him being our driver) and dined on something other than Pamir food, thank god.
The next day we organized a shared taxi to get to the capital city of Dushanbe, which was going to be another long day on the road. There are just such few good transportation options in Tajikistan! The roads basically just follow wherever the major rivers are, following along their meandering paths. There were two possible roads to get to Dushanbe, but we had learned the one we wanted to take was closed, so it would be the long way for us. We didn’t get into Dushanbe until 11pm, a solid 17 hours after we had left Khorog. Yikes.
After so many straight days in the car and on the road it was finally time for some rest! Besides picking up my Uzbekistan visa, I had absolutely no plans. We ended up going to a rooftop hotel pool one afternoon and then just wandered around the downtown area at dusk when it cooled down. Dushanbe is nice for walking, it’s got lots of parks and tree lined avenues. It’s a surprisingly green city, given the rest aridness of the rest of the country.
It was here where our group started to break up. Caitlin, the American girl was flying to Kyrgyzstan, and Shaz wasn’t feeling well and would stick around here for a bit. The rest of us (Joe and Stas, both Brits) would travel north to the last place on our list for Tajikistan: The Fann Mountains.