After having traveled intensely in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with lots of driving and very interesting historical and cultural sights, in a generally hot climate, I was quite desperate to just hit the mountains and hike. So it was that I decided to go to Penjikent, the most convenient base for exploring the Fann Mountains. I was on my way east and did not have time for extensive treks, so I settled for visiting the Marguzor lakes. After an early and solid breakfast, I was on my way to the mountains at the break of the day. The drive south from the highway to the lake area, was so beautiful with the mountains, trees, snow at higher altitude, that my desire to go hiking was increasing by the minute, and I became desperate to get out. The valley narrowed; we continued driving the gravel road that was skirting Shing river coming down from the mountains and from the lakes I was about to explore. We passed the first two, small, lakes, and then the driver parked our iconic Lada Niva close to the third. The water here was still very quiet, of an amazing green/blue hue, the sun was shining, and ahead of me, I knew, were four more lakes. I told the driver that I would walk all the way to the last lake, and started hiking.
The valley here was still quite narrow, the lake squeezed in between the two steep, rocky sides. Hiking in this part of the Fann Mountains is pretty easy: the main trail is the unpaved gravel road that the scarce cars use as well. The road took me a little higher, so my view of Gushor Lake got always better. When I reached the southern side of the lake, and looked back, I stood still for a while to soak in the pretty sight. But then, I turned around as I had some climbing to do before reaching Nofin, or the fourth, Lake. I met two shepherds, and then, the lake opened up right in front of my eyes. Bigger than the third lake, Nofin has a different colour. Less transparent than the third, greener - and as I was walking the shady side of the lake, I had the best view of the other side of the lake which was basking in the sun. Brown-grey slopes rose out of the green water, but at a few points, brilliantly green trees were adding an almost magical touch to the scenery. The water was still very quiet, and the reflection of the scenery made the views even better and more intense. After crossing a river, I reached the end of the lake, and it was then that I saw a van, stuck in the muddy road. They had overtaken me before, greeting me from the car. But now, the Tajik youngsters were all on the road. With some, I had a nice talk, before continuing my way up. The lakes are all strung together on the Shing river, and the distance between them actually pretty short. After following the river for a while, crossing a small mountain village with houses made of adobe and rocks, and another meeting with the Tajiks in the van, it did not take long before I reached the smaller Khurdak lake, the fifth in the string. Notably smaller than the fourth, the fifth gave me an even more isolated feeling. After a while, the van with the Tajiks came driving by, the youth inside shouting and waving at me. But walking was so much nicer here than being in a car, I was happy to be on my own feet! The grayish fifth lake - sun was disappearing from the sky and clouds were gathering in all directions - was passed quickly, the climb to the sixth lake, called Marguzor, was quite steep but offered great views of the valley behind me and the river below - meandering through the green valley bed.
Just before reaching the sixth lake, the van had stopped again, stuck on the road, and the Tajik students were now convinced that walking was the way to go. I talked to them for a third time, and we decided to walk together. The sixth lake is the largest, and the walk here was a memorable one again. The grey of the rocks, the green of the lake, the rocky mountains all around us and the water that looked like velvet - I was hardly watching my step because my eyes were always fixed on the scenery. We had to cross another wide river before we ended up at Marguzor village, where we had a cup of green tea. Now, the sun had definitely gone for the rest of the day - or so it seemed - and I knew I did not have much time. So after a short break, I continued the way to the seventh lake. The distance was longer than I expected, and I was walking at full speed - I could feel this to be a race against the clock because of the weather. I also very much wanted to go for a swim in the lake. When I reached its shore, I was surprised to find a transparent lake in which I could clearly see the stones on the bottom of the lake. But the water was not of any remarkable colour - just translucent. There was a small path leading right next to the lake, which meant I was walking much closer to Azor Chasma, as the seventh lake is called, than the other lakes. Here, no cars could pass, and I walked all the way to the end. There, I found a few rustic houses and enclosures for cows. I crossed the Shing river, which looked much more modest here than a few lakes down, using a few tree trunks, and was invited over for a bowl of fresh kefir by a group of boys and girls. One of the girls was even so kind to point out the cow that had given the milk to make this delicious yoghurt. After a small show in which the girls dressed up in beautiful clothes, what had been hanging in the air, happened: the first raindrops were coming down. The kids disappeared in their houses, I prepared to hike down. Within minutes, rain was coming down like crazy, thunder was roaring around me in the mountains, and I knew it was time to go back to the car as fast as possible. The driver was waiting for me at the sixth lake. But what before had been streams coming down the hills, now quickly turned into wild torrents of water, and crossing them was getting difficult. What a difference in a matter of perhaps one hour! I made it safely to the car, even though I was thoroughly wet and cold - fortunately, I had kept a dry shirt for this occasion. We quickly started going down, as this weather would be no good for the road either, and we gave a ride to the attractive Tajik girls who had not made it to the seventh lake and had to walk back to their van. They were very joyful, singing out loud in the back of the car - and when it was time to say goodbye, one of them was telling me in her limited English that she loved me. Leaving her behind with her friends was a tad more difficult now - but I really had to go back to Penjikent, while they would all stay in the mountains. The drive down, with the mountains covered by a threatening dark sky, was again great, and when I finally reached Penjikent which was actually all sunny, I felt very satisfied after a long and healthy day of hiking in the Fann Mountains.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Marguzor lakes (). 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 Marguzor lakes.
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