Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nan, kefir and choy – a trekking adventure in the Afghan Pamirs


Tonight in the tent, I'm reflecting on the awesome moments I've just lived in the past few days. It's hard to find words to describe my emotions.

We've been trekking for two days. The scenery is breathtaking. Walking is a bit tricky in places, especially when crossing rivers, but fortunately, the biys are always here to give us a hand.

Duct-tape plaster on a blister

The old Russian map - our only guide to find our route - shows some pastures. We see smoke in the distance, then a few herders' huts, 3-4 yurts, some yaks, goats and horses. It is a wakhi mountain pasture village. I get closer, a young child starts crying and runs to hide. I didn't know I was that scary! Note for a future trip: bring comb and mirror... We are invited to share 2 big bowls of kefir (some sort of goat yugurt), some salt yak butter tea (a foretaste of Tibet) and nan (rond bread similar to that found in India and in the rest of Central Asia). We offer some biscuits. It's the beginning of a long photo session. It's funny, but everywhere since we arrived in Afghanistan, people have asked us to take photos of them. They seem to love it. They also take photos of us whith their mobile phones when they have one.

Tea break

Au centreChoy and nan in a herder's yurt

These encounters are so far from the traditionnal images of Afghanistan we get in Western media! Even if the conversations are limited to the few tajik words we've learnt (both languages - tajik and farsi/dari - are similar, and Ricky with his tajik phrasebook has become our official translator), we learn a bit more about the lifestyle in the area which seems fairly similar to what I've seen in Ladakh or Tibet.

Yak caravan

The scenery is absolutely stunning. We climb up the last pass in snow. From there, the views on the Hindu Kush are beautiful. Pakistan is just a few kms away as the crow flies, a few days' walk via Broghil Pass. But the area is off-limits for foreigners.

Hungry mosquitoes as we climb the last pass

4790m, almost the altitude of Mont Blanc !

I really felt like living a unique experience. Considering the circuitous formalities, the complicated access and the political situation of the region, I don't think tourism is about to thrive in the coming years.

A few portraits of people we met:



Here is also Pierre's photo album:,

and Ricky's journal: Around Tajikistan in 60 days


  1. Wonderful photos!
    I cycled Qinghai - Tibet in 1990...reminds me of the old days.

  2. The mountains look spectacular and the portraits are priceless. Truly a one of a kind experience.

    Oh and the river crossings do look scary.. i cant imagine myself crossing them.