Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Wakhan Valley

When the flood subsided and the river ebbed from the tarmac road, we force fed the Niva low-grade benzene, barely flammable, and migrated south to the Wakhan Valley.

The Wakhan valley is the vale for the dale; the Hindu Kush (Killer of the Hindus), an impressive range of imposing jagged giants cutting through the east of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Shrouded in permanent mist and coated in impermeable snow, these fossilised rocky crags stretch 7000m above the sea level from which they were original buried.

Apart from the stone ruin of the Khakha fortress, still carefully patrolled by the Tajik military, there is nothing of note to visit because whilst you are there, you become part of the spectacle. After 50km of scenery gazing we ascended towards the Yamchun Fort until the low octane fuel spun the wheels no more, and a welcoming weather worn lady beckoned us to her home stay.

Gushing from the huge fissures over the home-stay are the Bibi Fatima hot springs, spiritual waters that rejuvenate baron wombs, akin to an IVF clinic. We struggled up the ever steepening goat track to the steaming entrance and were divided by sex. The ladies stripped to their travel worn underwear and soaked in the luxuries surroundings of the new refurbished spa room, whilst hefty naked local women chanted and swayed to awaken the spirit of the stork. Meanwhile yours truly was marched over a rather unsympathetically designed stark concrete bridge to a grotto. A rickety door, a slippery floor, and a dark chasm of blackness and steam, it seemed more akin to Tajik ghost train than a relaxing therapeutic experience. Inside voices echoed from the dripping walls, and figures could be seen splashing and wallowing in the murky water. Stripping to what I considered a respectable level, I entered my watery grave only to be grunted at to remove my offending items to reveal my other offending items. Unabashed I strode in and scolded my feet in blistering heat, and politely edged my way to the far side of the pool at which, having seen enough of the my intimidating stature, my fellow bathers up and left, leaving nothing but ripples, and silluettes of their hairy backs.

After ten minutes of simmering at gas mark three, I rejoined the lobster brigade somewhat redder and hotter. We aimlessly descended the track in the moonless night, only to be met by a barrage of flashlights wielded by our rather concerned landlady who thought she’d lost her charges to fertile waters of Bibi Fatima.

Your reversing light seems to be out......

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