We had been on the road for six days, had endured cold days, some of which with snow, had endured sand and dust blowing straight through our old, open Russian jeep, had slept under quite primitive circumstances, had not seen a shower for a week, and had not been online for the same amount of time. Consequentially, Murgab had slowly gained importance as a destination, and we had visions of a town with all the extras - expecting something the likes of Khorog at the beginning of the Pamir Highway.
After driving a spectacular off-road drive from Keng Shiber, the last stretch of the Pamir highway seemed a breeze, until we were stopped at a checkpoint. In a distance, we saw quite a cluster of houses, and calculated that that could well be Murgab. Then, we found out that the president of Tajikistan had just left. After all the rumours about his visit, about the possible restrictions for traveling (some even suggesting the entire GBAO region would be closed off), and changing itineraries, it now turned out that he had decided to visit this very day. When a helicopter took off and flew away, the guards were quick to open the gate for us, and soon thereafter, we were in Murgab. After installing ourselves in a homestay, we soon discovered that yes, there was a bathroom, but with erratic warm water - the only chance of having anything but cold water was to put a water boiler inside a large container and wait. I was happy to be able to wash some clothes though. No internet - and actually, virtually nothing open as someone had decided that because of the visit of the president, people could have a day off.
Still, we walked down to the main drag of town, and found some of the containers holding the stalls open. After having seen some men with the remarkable white embroidered felt Kyrgyz hats in the days before, we now saw many in the bazaar of Murgab. Winds were picking up, sending dust through all the streets, and the clouds high above us were getting darker. The more we walked, the more attractive houses we discovered - I continued the exploration the next morning, after most of my newly found friends had left on a long ride back to Dushanbe. The bright, early morning shed a perfect light on the houses, and offered a fantastic view of the 7546m Muztagh Ata mountain in a distance, reminding me of the closeness of China. For a while, the wind and dust had settled, and I could walk around the town that now was waking up, and remarkably more vivid than the day before. But I was on my way north, and it had by now become clear that there was no public transport to Kyrgyzstan, and that even here, in the last town before the border, people did not have a clue about the current situation, as I heard many different opinions. I stayed a little longer - and left this wild-east town that afternoon.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Murgab (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 Murgab. Read more about this site.