Bartang: A Walk in the Bartang Valley
17 September, 2008, 04:23 pm in "Tajikistan"
Even though the trail head to Geisev was only about 10 km farther, the driver refused to take us beyond Yemts. As he disappeared back down the road, Rowshan and I thought for a minute. The high mountains cast shadows so even though the sun wouldn't set for a while, it wasn't too hot. We decided to walk. The road had very little traffic so we were able to walk in peace admiring the stark rocky peaks rising from the smoke colored river. Occasionally, our view would shift as we went around a bend revealing a glacier capped peak. The predominant feature of the mountains along the road are the rock slides which cover their sides up to the road (where its been cleared) with scree and large boulders.
Along the river it is mostly just sand and rocks. We came upon a herd of goats and sheep grazing. I wondered what they were finding. A little further up were some scraggily brush with purple flowers.
Goat in the Bartang Valley
Mountains of the Bartang Valley
About an hour up the road we came upon a village, an oasis of green and man-made order against a backdrop of wild rock. The village, Bagu, was a small gathering of stone houses shaded by trees, many of which had ripe walnuts in their branches. The space not taken up by houses was made into fields for growing vegetables and grains. As we entered the village, we saw 2 women carrying bags. One invited us for tea.
She led us to her house which had a lovely tea bed set over a water channel which had been built so it was raised and the water flowed out in a little waterfall. Behind the waterfall, jars of preserved vegetables were stored in this natural cooler. All around were trees and flowers. Ayim Bibi introduced us to her husband, Raxmat. Their daughter, Nur Bibi, appeared with hands blackened from peeling walnuts. Rowshan, perhaps because when he was a child, his hands were often blackened by walnuts, related to her immediately.
Tea on the tapshan
Rowshan shares a video
We had tea and they suggested we stay the night since it was getting late for walking to Geisev. We agreed, insisting we pay the equivalent of what we would pay in a guest house. Then Raxmat took us for a walk around the village. At one point had been the village leader. He showed us a guest book, perhaps from the office. Most of the entries in English were from aid groups. We walked by the new school and then watched a man threshing wheat using a team of 2 oxen.
Raxmat's brother joined us and we gathered apples and pears from a tree by his house. We also ate some walnuts from a tree conveniently growing with a large stone at its base, which served as a nutcracker.
Back at the house, we had a delicious dinner of potatoes, vegetables and pasta. Another neighbor, Abdullah, joined us. Soon the men were talking about how all men are brothers. They also talked about how during Communism, 3 religions: Sunni, Shia, and Ismaili, were able to live together but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they all started killing each other. Since they were smoking, I took a fresh air break (even though we were outside). The mountains glowed with a strange light against the dark sky. It turned out to be from the rising moon which though obstructed from view by a huge mountain, still cast its glow on the mountains making the rocks look like snow.
Since the night was a little cold, we slept in the house instead of on the tea bed under the stars. A bit of a wind had picked up and some of the cold air made it through or around the wind break and trees. Their house, though from the outside it looked Russian, was a typical Pamiri house with 5 columns representing the prophets Muhamad, Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussein. You could wear your shoes into the middle area but took them off when climbing up to the higher platforms-- each meant for a different group: women, the Halif, men, and musicians. In Raxmat's house the Halif's place was occupied by books including some Persian poetry as well as Persian and Arabic lessons copied by his father. A little later in the night, we watched the moon rise from behind the mountain.