After returning to Dushanbe for a few more days the guy I met in Mashad and I part ways and I head further southeast on my own. I want to spend some time in what is usually referred to as GBOA, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. This mountainous area is known for its rugged roads and isolated villages, and that is exactly why it’s a huge draw for tourists.
The first leg goes smoothly, I even get a ride in a shared taxi van. The driver offers to take me all the way to the regional capital Khorugh, but I only take up half his offer and ask to be let off where the road south takes a turn east and starts following the Panj river and the Afghan border in the tiny town of Kalai-Khum. The road is too beautiful to travel down in the dark. Also, with the poor road condition, the lack of lighting and the unpredictable traffic I reckon avoiding being in a car at night is a pretty sensible move.
The next day the views only get more spectacular and the road gets even worse. Based on where I’ve traveled I’m beginning to suspect there’s a strong correlation between terrible roads and amazing views. But it could be worse: looking over to Afghanistan on the other side of the river there only occasionally seems to be a road. And while the villages here have electricity that doesn’t seem to be the case of the other side.
Khorugh is an interesting town, though it only has 28,000 inhabitants there is no bigger place around for hundreds of kilometers. There’s an army base, some government things but since the region is largely Ismaili the Aga Khan’s money is also a lifeblood, funding several NGOs and a new university. The town also has the only hostel in the region where I not only run into a bunch of people I’ve met in Dushanbe, but I also spend an hour or so talking to a German motorcyclists who I’ve run into on three separate occasions in the last two days. The town itself doesn’t have much to offer apart from a nice park and a museum which is unfortunately closed but is supposed to house a piano a bunch of poor Soviet soldiers had to lug over the mountains in order to bring some Soviet civilization to the Pamir mountains.