After crossing several high mountain passes, driving past mountain lakes, doing a stretch of the Pamir Highway virtually without seeing traffic, we entered a dead-end road. Yet another mountain pass over a gravel road took us to a wide plain, surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all sides, and quite soon, we saw a lake on our right hand side. Sooner than we had expected, our driver drove our old Russian jeep into a small cluster of houses, where we saw several people walking around. We had arrived at the settlement of Bulunkul.
The wind was causing doors to constantly slam, cords to rattle, and dust to blow through the wide streets. The few people we saw, walked with their faces covered as protection. I got an instant feeling of having arrived at the end of the world - and it felt very good somehow. I was adamant to get out, and after dropping our stuff at a home-stay, that is what I did right away. First, I explored the settlement itself, meeting a surprising diversity of people - ranging from dark-skinned people with eastern features to some who looked very Russian in appearance. In all faces, you could see the effect of the climate, the harsh environments they live in showed in the lines of their skin. In fact, this area is the coldest in entire Central Asia with temperatures dropping to below -60!
Since it was getting late, I decided to walk towards the lake that was visible in a distance. Solid mountains were towering high above that lake, which at around 3700 metres is quite high itself. I was so happy to be on my own feet after having spent hours in a cold car, that I walked as fast as I could to the shore. But as I got closer to the lake, the terrain got always more muddy and marshy, and I ended up making a loop - crossing several herds of cows and seeing and hearing lots of birds all around me. The light on the mountains was getting always more beautiful as I walked back to Bulunkul. There, I met several more people, got invited into one of their yurts, before it got dark and I returned to the home-stay for a hearty dinner. Yashil Kul, the main draw of the area, had to wait until the next morning, but I was very happy having spent some time in this remote, wild and raw settlement.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Bulunkul (Tajikistan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Bulunkul. Read more about this site.