TAJIKISTAN, toward the peaks of Pamir
— text and pictures by Roberto Calcagno
While looking for a voyage’s destination I normally choose according to two variables: mountains and oddity. The more the locations are unknown and mountainous the more they attract me, and Tajikistan had all the perfect characteristics!
Having a friend from Pamir gave me the excuse to get up and go, in search of one of the vastest and most unknown mountain ranges on earth. Pamir is a sort of appendix of the Himalayas. If you decide to go trekking, hiking or climbing in this place forgotten by man, you’ll have to prepare yourself for self-sufficiency. Water is scarse and the villages are all situated in the principle valleys. Going into the higher mountains therefore implies intensive logistics.
When I travel I don’t feel like preparing anything in particular. I have given up on multi-day “expeditions”, limiting myself to roaming around the rugged Pamir mountains, enjoying the locals and taking random day trips.
The hospitality of the Central Asian people is famous (just ask Marco Polo!), and there wasn’t a day when I didn’t receive an invitation to a local person’s house, for a Plov (rice with yellow carrots and spices) or for a place to sleep.
Tajikistan has mountains that surpass 7,000 metres, among which is the famous Lenin Peak or Ibn Sina Peak (7,134 m), and offers majestic and uncontaminated landscapes. It’s a perfect mix of Tibet, Mongolia and Karakorum.
The highest and most remote inhabited village is Murghab, not far from the Chinese, Afghan and Kyrgyzstan border. In Winter the temperatures fall to even -50°, and the only source of heat available is yak excretement. Nonetheless, it’s still possible for the 8,000 inhabitants of Murghab to reach the “capital” of Pamir, Khorog, within hours and in any season. In fact, annual rainfall is so scarse that even in Winter at 3,000 metres you won’t necessarily have snow. This is actually a big problem seeing as all water derives from glaciers and as we know, due to climate change they are melting. The future of Pamir will also depend on the possibility of procurement of a water supply.
My name is Roberto Calcagno and I have been a Nature Guide since 2010. Originally I was a telecommunications engineer but, knowing that I felt no passion for what I was doing, I always searched for a “plan B”. Seeing as the mountain was my first passion I did the Nature Guide course and through this discovered the wonders of nature from a different perspective, one which I had never considered as an excursionist. I created the website www.trekking-alps.com to promote my business as a guide, and it went better than I expected. After three years, I went from being a part-time Nature Guide to quitting my job as an engineer and I dedicated myself to my real passion: nature and the mountain in particular. Moreover, since last year a new business has taken over my life, as I am renovating a farmstead in Novaretto in low-lying Val di Susa, transforming it into a Bed and Breakfast. / www.trekking-alps.com
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