It’ll take an hour or two to walk to the lake, but there is so little traffic here I guess that’s my only option. However, three kilometers down the road an old Lada stops and five guys invite me to squeeze in. It’s very cramped and occasionally a few of the men get out to give the car a shove to make it over a hill but I’m super grateful for the offer.
They bring me to a small village and point out a guesthouse. By now tourists have mostly replaced yaks as the former Kolkhoz’s main source of income. There are about a dozen houses, a volleybal field, a medical clinic and a school. Actually I happen to be around on the first day of school and I’m surprised to see Soviet rituals have survived. Neatly dressed students recite poetry and bells are rung.
After a day spent hiking past some beautiful mountain lakes and fields I decide to wake up early knowing it will be difficult to get back to the main road. But I luck out again when it turns out two Germans in the neighboring guesthouse somehow found out about me and offer me a ride.
On the main road again it doesn’t take long to find a ride: three guys in a small van who’ve hit the road early to make their way to a wedding. They invite me along too, the third such invitation I’ve had in Tajikistan, but once again I turn down the offer. Though it would undoubtably be interesting to attend a Tajik wedding, I think I would feel incredibly out of place and somehow obtrusive at a stranger’s wedding in my worn out clothing and overall foreign appearance. Plus I hate to dance, and that is pretty much an obligatory activity.
After being dropped off in Murghab I think about spending a day in town, but the place is bleak even by the standard of post-Soviet towns in remote locations and the tourist information office is closed so I decide to split. Not much traffic has any reason to head past Murghab to the border with Kyrgyzstan. And as it starts to rain about an hour later I change my mind. But as I pick up my pack a car stops and I get a ride from three seismologists, two from Dushanbe and one from Germany: perfect guides for a drive over one of the highest plateaus in the world.