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Tajikistan: Abrashim Qala

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Abrashim Qala | Tajikistan | Asia

[Visited: June 2010]

The steep climb to the Langar petroglyphs had taken time in the early morning, and after breakfast, we were up to yet another climb. The altitude was taking its toll on some, and in the end, only two of us started going up to Abrashim Qala. A local boy accompanied us to show the way, which proved to be quite straightforward anyway. A steep scroll up a gravely hill made us think about the way down, but that was of later concern. Quite soon, our newly found guide pointed out the fortress to us - and we realized that this would be a much easier hike than the one this morning. We crossed a green field with donkeys, and reached a quite wild stream coming down the water. Water was rushing down over great boulders - and we knew we had to cross this natural barrier somewhere. There was no way to avoid: we had to cross it in order to get to the fortress. We could only very well imagine how cold the water would be - and there was no way in which we could cross without taking off our shoes.

Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Hill with Abrashim Qala and mountains of the Wakhan range in the background

I decided to go for the shortest route, took my shoes and socks off, fastened my backpack a little tighter and secured my camera, and with my shoes in one hand and the other free in order to be able to balance myself, I stepped in. Always looking for the shallowest places, best protected against the force of the water, I progressed towards the other side. It was only halfway that the icy temperature of the water really hit me and made me go even faster. At the other side, I walked up on the grass for a while in order to get my feet dry before putting on my shoes again. From here, it was a short climb to the ruins of the fortress. Abrashim qala may not be of the same imposing beauty as Yamchun, but its location is fantastic at the confluence of two tributaries of the Pamir river. Walking over the rocky remains of what once has been a major castle against Chinese and Afghan invaders, where only the basic plan of the castle could be discerned, I soon reached the other end - this castle had apparently not been very big. From here, I just stood to enjoy the view over the mightily impressive and wild Hindu Kush mountains on the other side of the valley.

Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Abrashim Qala with views of the surrounding mountains

The boy who had shown us the way up suddenly seemed to be suffering some kind of belly problem and stayed behind - I decided to walk up the hill behind the fortress to get even better views. Indeed, after I had reached the top near what seemed to be remains of yet another old building and turned around, I was happy I climbed up to here. Added to the superb viww of the Wakhan valley was now the view of Abrashim Qala in the foreground. From here, it was even easier to imagine how this fortress was ideally located to defend a large area, with an unobstructed view of the valley that was not as narrow here as in most other places. The view from this spot was simply spectacular. The fortress, called Vishim Qala in Wakhi, had been a silk fortress of Zhong in the XX century. We still had a lot of kilometres to drive that day over the mighty Khargush pass, and therefore decided to return to the car again. Another time, we had to take off our shoes, wade through the ice cold water again, and walk down. The part we dreaded most was the gravelly, steep one, but we ended up just letting ourselves go, making sure to slalom in order to control our speed at least a little bit. The boy, who was feeling better, invited us for tea, his grandmother was insisting we stayed, but unfortunately we had to be wise and continued to our car instead. When we drove away, we realized we would not have such a good view of the Wakhan again.

Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Mountains with green valley and Pamir river with Abrashim Qala
Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Inside the ruins of Abrashim Qala
Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Afghan mountains with Abrashim Qala in the foreground
Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Abrashim Qala seen from the inside
Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Walls of Abrashim Qala
Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): Remains of Abrashim Qala
Picture of Abrashim Qala (Tajikistan): The stream we had to cross to visit Abrashim Qala

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