Up where the shepherds work
Quote of the Day: I think I saw olives in the market…or maybe there were just very small apricots… Newly-arrived Mercy Corps intern
With the combination of great weather and energetic hiking partners, this weekend we explored the hills surrounding Garm. First we clambered up Safed Kuh, a long sloping hill just on the edge of town that culminates in a face of limestone rock facing the river Suhrob. We met up with the leader of one-week summer camp (sponsored by the US govt) who had taken his charges there for a morning of basic rock climbing. It was hot with almost no shade, but the kids were excited to be there and experience something new. We helped entertain them as they waited their turn on the rocks – our interns taking the chance to learn some Tajik, and forcing the students to remember their English.
Today was a bigger challenge, a set of hills rising about 800 m (2500 feet) above the western edge of Garm. Partly we were able to follow a shepherd’s trail, other times we went almost straight up the face of the hill. After almost 3 hours of climbing, we reached the top, an alpine meadow filled with blue and yellow wild flowers, and with 360 degree views of snow-capped peaks and the winding Suhrob. It was Austria…or maybe Switzerland. The final 30 minutes of the climb was through alpine wild flowers in an array of colors, mixed with herbs that smelled strongly of oregano. After napping in the sun, we headed back down, this time better able to see the zigzagging cattle paths that lead off the hilltops. A herd of 120 cattle had been along our path on the way up, and soon after had made their own descent to the town. The shepherds see very few hikers on this hill, and were friendly and curious. One even offered to trade his shoes for those of our British intern, who was on the lookout for a sturdier pair. We descended into the town with a rain and wind-driven dust storm at our backs and dark clouds over the mountains, a late afternoon storm about to begin.