Khorog: Brushing Elbows with Mountain Tops
13 September, 2008, 03:34 am in "Tajikistan"
9.13.08 Khorog: Brushing Elbows with Mountain Tops
At the Dushanbe airport the airline wouldn't let people board the plane until they were sure the weather was OK in Khorog. I found this reassuring. The Khorog weather checking delayed the flight for about an hour even though the weather in Dushanbe was fine. The waiting room had a lot of people but most didn't seem to have any luggage. Then I found there were also people waiting for a flight to Khojand. When they called the Khojand flight, most of the people left leaving a much smaller group—most of whom had huge bags. There is a 10K free baggage weight limit which includes carry-on.
The plane had 17 rickety seats with fold down backs. The luggage was stowed in the tail which is also where we boarded. The boarding order was, “Ladies first.” There was a bit of a problem because someone was bringing a large microwave or TV and it had been placed on 2 seats. Since the plane was full the last 2 people to board had nowhere to sit. The woman who was sitting in the seat in front said, “Put it in the aisle and just sit there!” But, it was too big to fit between the seats. Eventually someone found a place for it in the tail. One of our bags was put in front and most of the space under the seats was filled with other items. Bags were also stuck in the aisle between seats and on people's laps. The plane took off sounding like a giant fly. Seat belts were optional.
We flew over some fields and soon were above foothills. Then we began crossing the mountains. First we were flying over them. We flew above a long turquoise lake. I think it was the Nurek Dam.
We couldn't help noticing the beautiful colors and textures of the mountains below us. Some were red, some dark brown, wrinkled or rough and dry like sun-bleached leather.
Red mountains between Dushanbe and Khorog
mountains between Dushanbe and Khorog
Then the mountains got higher and more jagged. Instead of flying over, we were often flying between them. Far below were river valleys, some with little villages resting by the river. More outlandish, were the occasional seemingly inaccessible village we saw perched up in the mountains.
The sharp peaks of the mountains approached at eye-level. Some were adorned with glaciers. From the plane, it looked like the wings were at risk of being clipped by the rocks. Beyond the snow tipped peaks were more ranges of snow capped mountains carved against the blue sky. As we passed one beautiful peak, we'd see another approaching. Occasionally the plane hit a little turbulence or did a startling little drop, but all in all it was a very calm flight.
Rowshan, deciding he wanted to take photos from the other side of the plane got up and leaned over the man sitting across from us to take the shot. Then he sat back down, only to jump up and try to take another photo from that window. Every time he moved back and forth I could feel the plane lurch a little so I played flight attendant and told him to please stay seated.
Slowly we descended into a river valley and smoothly landed. As the pilot got off, I think I heard him make a remark, a bit irritated, about the amount of weight in the plane.
We checked into the Pamir Lodge which is probably the first place we've been in Tajikistan where we felt really relaxed. The rooms were simple with futons on a raised sleeping platform. There is a big yard, water flowing through the property and mountains rising behind it. In front of the rooms is a raised patio.
When we arrived, the sun was shining just enough on our part of the patio that Rowshan could relax in it and I could sit in the shade. We ordered breakfast and then just sat and enjoyed the fresh air, peace, and feeling of being someplace that was nice enough that we didn't want to find somewhere else to be.
The lodge also has several sheep that have leashes but always manage to escape. One seemed to have a taste for tea and would wander around the patio searching for leftovers.
Sheep searching for tea
Rowshan and sheep
Even though Khorog is the largest town in the Pamirs, it still is very small. A turquoise river rushing through it. There is a park on the river and hopefully one day someone will open a nice teahouse there. The main street is easy to disregard. There are some businesses, a couple restaurants, some tour agencies and several mini-markets. When we first drove down it and across the river, Rowshan asked where the center of town was, not realizing we had just driven through it. In Khorog, the best thing to do is look up at the mountains which tower above it, or admire the green trees that disappear once you get a couple km away into the hills.
We walked to the bazaar which was closing down and found a chaihane with windows overlooking the river. They were finished serving food so we just had some tea.
The kids in the town are friendly and often like to have their photos taken. In the center of town, there is a new park created by the Aga Kahn Development Network. At night it is lit up when the main streets of town are dark. During the day, everyone seems to be enjoying this pretty addition to the town.
One of our neighbors
kids rolling down hill