Vrang – Langar (Vakhan Valley, Pamir, Tajikistan): The Buddhist Stupa, Petroglyphs, and Amazing Pamir Hospitality
Русская версия After several days travelling in Pamir, this time we only had to cover 15-20 kilometres from Tuggoz to Vrang: a small distance compared to the previous ones and taking into account the previous difficulties with transport.
Hitch-hiking at Pamir
We started to walk, yet, trying to hitchhike. The first driver offered the price of 80 somonis (10 dollars), the second – 150 somonis, and we were very much surprised: how the people giving away their last food for the guests ask for such large sums from the fellow travellers. After all, giving a ride in the direction you are driving to is easier that providing with food and shelter. Two other cars were full, and when we only had 8 kilometres left to walk, a 4WD stopped to offer a free ride to us. To our surprise, he turned out to be a Dushanbe taxi driver, driving us for free. Moreover, it turned out that he was a nephew of the cousin of the physical education teacher who had treated as with tea several hours before in Yamchun. The driver drove us to his aunt’s house where we were offered a lodging.
Even though we showed up like a bolt from the blue, we were immediately treated with tea and water-melon. Then they brought more food: potatoes, sausages, two salads and home-made kefir, this was too much! We had an interesting talk with her husband Abdullah about the weather, former USSR, the Ukrainian revolution, and Lukashenko. Another important topic is Aga Khan, talked about in every house. As other dwellers of Pamir, our Vrang hosts turned out to be simple and hospitable, and we are very happy that we got to know them.
We got a separate room to sleep, food and tea for breakfast. The hosts were surprised: why we were drinking tea instead of shir-chai – the tea with milk, salt, and butter. In Pamir, they traditionally have shir-chai and bread breakfast, since such food provides with energy for several hours of work.
In Vrang, we climbed to the 4th-century Buddhist stupa: the local kids showed it to us. One boy spoke quite good English and told us that stupa is a part of the huge Buddhist monastery complex, which cannot be excavated due to the lack of money. There is also a rumor that one of the locals found a well-preserved statue of Buddha here and sold it at some auction for a large amount of money. Finding a Buddhist structure in Pamir is amazing and proves how diverse the religion has been here: currently it is mostly Muslim, yet, some centuries ago, they were even Zoroastrians.
An ancient graveyard:
The view from the Buddhist stupa hill on the village:
When we descended the hill, one villager immediately invited us to have some tea. The new friend offered to buy sulphurs collected around the stupa ruins (appearing due to geothermal activity): the locals often try to sell them to the tourists. We refused, but bought the handmade necklace from his wife to support the family in some way.
Then we walked a bit more around Vrang:
Yet, we had to say goodbye to this village to reach the Langar – another village at the end of Vakhan valley. We picked up our stuff from Abdullah and his family (left some money to compensate for their care, since the food is quite expensive for the locals) and they gave us a one-kilometre ride to the main road. We walked for about two kilometres and sat under the tree, dying from the heat. However, we did not sit for a long time: a car with two elderly men stopped soon and we bargained the ride of 40 somonis for 30 kilometres. On the way, we had a brief stop and they even treated us to a water melon. The mineral water of the spring at which we stopped painted the rock with unusual colors:
One of the multiple fortresses we encountered on our way:
Reaching Langar, we first tried to visit the local ethnographic museum which was, unfortunately, closed.
Then we returned to the sign of a homestay we had seen on the way, at the entrance to Langar. The price of the homestay was 18 dollars per person – higher than in many European hostels. We decided to rely on the hospitality of the locals, and soon met a man who invited us to stay in his house. He showed his place to us and we went to the shop to buy food. There are three shops in Langar: the first one was closed, the second one was rather empty, and in the third one we bought sausages (25 somonis per kilo), cookies (17 somonis per kilo), a large bottle of lemonade (9 somonis) and some other, minor stuff.
Our new host showed where the former Soviet military place had been based, guarding the “gate” – the valley leading to Afghanistan and Pakistan. We talked about life with him and his neighbours, and again it turned out that it is quite hard for them to survive, and the major source of income is children working sending money from Russia. All imported goods are extremely expensive, the locals are waiting for Ishkashim airport and a border pass from Afghanistan to open near Langar to serve for the road Pakistan – Afghanistan – Pamir. They have been waiting for it for a while, and now, as they say, they hope this will ever happen rather for the sake of their children, since our interlocutors’ generation did not believe it would open soon.
In the afternoon, we decided to take a nap, since the sun was extremely strong; it was only in the evening that we decided to climb the hill to see petroglyphs. First, we walked along the street, then the road went up and finished: we had to climb through the stones.
We would have hardly found the way, if the local boys had not showed it to us. They were jumping around like small mountain goats, while it seemed to us that the road will never finish.
In fact, it took us 40 minutes to walk from the main road. On our way, we encountered many colourful Pamirians:
The views were also great:
Reaching the petroglyph site, you realize that you may spend the whole day here finding more and more new drawings. Even the locals told us that every time they come here they find something new.
Surprisingly, next to the ancient petroglyphs the new “masterpieces” appeared.
The descend was easier, but the possibility of falling was higher.
All we wanted after several days of rambling in Pamir was shower, and our host even tried to find a car to go to the hot springs, in vain though. The boys, Victor and Mark (a Spanish travelling around Pamir with us), bathed in the cold mountain stream, and Nastya got half a bucket of warm water. This was the best shower in her life, and the water was even enough to do some laundry. After such trips, you start to appreciate the simplest things. Then we were having dinner and talked with our hosts. Along with the usual topics for conversation, we learned something about the local wedding since our host’s son was supposed to marry soon. It is usually in the house of the groom that half of the village gets together for the wedding: while some eat in the biggest room, the others dance outside. The wedding lasts from three to seven days, the hosts cook the best food, and this, obviously, demands a huge amount of money.
The hosts found a neighbour who agreed to give us a ride to out next destination – Alichur, which made it easier for us to get to Murgab, and then – to the Kyrgyz town of Osh. We were looking forward to this next day trip, and this was not in vain: the road turned out really wild and different from the variety of landscapes we had seen in Pamir.
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