The winding road…up the valley

Today we decided it was time to head towards the mountains and explore the villages along the way.  There is one paved road from the center of town that winds its way up the valley towards the 12,500 foot peaks that surround Garm.  Up we went, passing girls carrying pails of milk, old men out for a Sunday walk, and women walking to and from their neighbors. We ran into a young friend who always seems to find us when we are out on the town. It’s the season of weddings and one passed us just after we started, five cars with horns honking behind the flower-covered bridal vehicle.  As we climbed into the higher villages, the vehicle traffic was less, and the donkey traffic increased.    Rows of tall poplar trees lined the road, part of “live fences” that farmers use to mark the boundaries of their fields.  The day was hot, but a swiftly rushing channel of water (that flows year-round from the mountains) next to the road provided a bit of cool under the trees.

A friend we met along the way

The higher up the valley we walked, the more invitations we received for “a cup of tea”.  It is traditional for Tajiks, especially here in the Rasht Valley, to make these invitations, but we knew they might not be prepared for guests, so we usually declined and kept walking.  Just as we reached the highest village, one member of our team had had enough and picked a large rock to perch herself and wait for us to return.  We returned after about 40 min and she was nowhere to be found.  Soon she emerged from one household arm-in-arm with four girls from the family.  She had been spotted on the rock and the family had actually started bringing her food there.  Finally the girls of the house found out she liked mulberries (“tut” in Tojiki) and brought her inside for the full treatment of fruit, bread, yogurt, Osh (Tajik national rice dish) and of course, tea!  Was great to see her enjoy full Tajik village hospitality before leaving Garm for Shaartuz next week.

The kind hosts

View from the highest village - "Halkaf"

Meanwhile we had pushed ourselves to reach the edge of the last village and the start of the final climb into the mountains, which is a hike for another time.  We stopped at one of the final bends in the road, gazing up at the narrow, grass-covered ridges of the mountains, whose chutes still contained sizeable amounts of snow despite weeks of hot weather.  A warm breeze blew up the valley as we gazed back to Garm and the Suhrob beyond.  Around us three youngsters from the village played on the rocks and splashed in the streams while we rested and took in the scene…

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