A Visit to Tashkorgan… a peaceful Tajik town
Staying long in the hostel in Kashgar, I met a very strong heart, solo woman cyclist from Spain. From the look of her eyes, I could sense that she’s a tough and strong-hearted woman. She’s probably around my age and must have so much experience living on the road. All the information is kept in her eyes and I could read them. Shes heading the same way as I am, towards the Irkeshtam Pass, to cross into Kyrgyzstan. Ironically, shes heading to Spain as well, to her home. But shes kinda rushing, since she plans to get back home to Spain by Christmas this year. She traveled from Thailand with the combination of bicycle, bus and train, been traveling for some 2 years, working a while in Australia to fund her travels. She told me about her horrible experience camping alone in the wild in South China. She felt paranoid since sometimes people have been disturbing her while camping alone at night. Bad experience sometimes can give us 2 things, it can make us even weaker and more afraid about our surroundings, or it can make us bolder, tougher and even more badass. Its all up for us to choose, its all in the mind… its all in the internal, not the surroundings… not the external. The surrounding is the external universe that can be sensed with our 5 senses, nothing more. Its just like watching a movie in a cinema, which we can sense it with 2 senses, sight and hearing… but this physical world, is with extra 3 more senses. The real one is the internal, all inside our mind, inside us. After our 5 senses get the information from the external, it got into our mind, and the real processing happens there, and its up to us to decide whats good and bad, its up to decide on how to react, its up to decide on how to take these information to shape our character… we humans, are in full control. That’s the beauty of us humans. We are the best of creations…
So I asked if she wants to join me to cycle at some kilometers between Kashgar and Tashkorgan. So after some research, we then decided to take a bus to Tashkorgan from Kashgar, and ride our bikes back to Kashgar. Kashgar’s altitude is about 1000m and Tashkorgan sits at 3200m, which is about 2000 meters higher. So riding from Tashkorgan to Kashgar, the gravity will be with us, will become our ally. But we had to fight the strong headwind, cyclist’s worst enemy, coming from the north! We then took 6 hours of tedious bus journey from Kashgar to Tashkorgan. There were countless of police checkpoints on the road. In the bus, the road looks flat, only one big climb in a mountainpass near the end. But most of the time, I was asleep during the bus journey, so that I don’t see the road and the cycling journey back to Kashgar would be a surprise. The road looks bad most of the time, but I felt relieve that I’m using a good thick tyres on my bicycle, so that I could fly through the almost 300km of bad gravel roads here. Once we reached Tashkorgan, we stayed in a cheap hostel next to the bus station in the small town.
Tashkorgan is the last town of China before entering Pakistan, via Khunjerab Pass, the highest border crossing in the world, which sits at 4700m altitude. Once I was in Tashkorgan, I wondered why people here are wearing winter clothes. It is summer and it was so hot when I was in Kashgar. Me and the Spanish had a tea in one of the shop near the hostel. And only after a few minutes, I felt weird, I felt that the cold air got into my bones. At first I thought I was sick. I then realized, that I now sit at 3200m altitude, the air is always cold up in this attitude, doesn’t matter whats the season. Hehe, so ignorant of me. No wonder the local people here were looking at me too, puzzled with the way I wear. Probably just like the Inuit people will puzzle to look at me wearing only tshirt and short pants in the Alaskan Arctic. I still remember the Norwegians were laughing at me while I was wearing only tshirt and short pants, walking around town when it was -8c in Northern Norway. I told them I felt hot at -8c, since I was sleeping in the forest inside my tent at -30c almost every night for the past one month, and that time, at -8c, I really felt nothing. They said I’m a crazy Malaysian. The weather is cold here in Tashkorgan, it could freeze at night and early morning. I was surprised, since Kashgar is about 45c and only 300km away, it can be subzero temperature at night. I spent most of the time indoor on the first day, since it was cold and the weather was quite bad, so I took the opportunity to write my travel journal. In beautiful places, I often get fresh ideas to do my writings…
The next morning, the clouds came in, dominating the sky, but the sun was still able to shine. I then went out to a small Tajik village in a vast grassland to the east of the town, which is only some 15 minutes walk, near the base of the Kunlun mountains. People here are very friendly, living a slow paced of life. They walk slower, they talk slower, they take their time to smile and laugh, no rush no stress, since there are no job interviews to prepare, there are no important meetings to attend. All they care is to protect their herds and prepare themselves for the cold long winter here in the mountains. Only the blowing wind is rushing here. The rest is slower. They felt happy when I snapped their photos, followed by laughters when seeing themselves inside the screen of my camera.
Walking around the grassland, it feels a bit like in Kyrgyzstan, except that these people are no Kyrgyz, theyre Tajiks. They look a bit like Afghans, darker skin, bigger eyes and sharper nose but they yurt looks the same like the Kyrgyz. The grass is so green and fresh since its summer and the flowing water in the river is so cold and fresh, it looks untouched. For nearly an hour, I was lucky to be able to witness a beautiful scenery when the sun is giving its magical light in the grassland, making this place looks so magical like a fantasy movie. The ray of light that managed to shine through the thick clouds made me feel like as in I’m walking in heaven. Sometimes I closed my eyes, letting only 4 of my senses to sense this peaceful place. Concentrating only on the fresh air, the cold and the sound of the surroundings, without looking at anything. Then sometimes, I opened back my eyes, concentrating only on my sight, ignoring the rest of the senses. “It’s a beautiful world”, I told myself, smiling, satisfied…
After an hour walking around here, the thick clouds started to cover the sun, and suddenly, I felt like I’m in another different realm. Only in seconds, everything turned dark and blue. It was amazing. Raindrops started to hit my face but I kept walking slowly, trying to keep my pace here with the locals, tried to walk as slow as them, tried to talk and smile as slow as them. No rush even when smiling, even when speaking out word by word, really living the now… really in control… really feeling the world and the universe with all my five senses that is borrowed temporarily to me by the creator of the universe. Its amazing to see how the environment here shaped their lives… how they depend so much of their herds, the mountains, the grass, the flowing water on the river…. Its amazing to witness both worlds. In our world, I see 8 years old kids walking around town holding an iPad and know how to use it well, but here in this world, I see small kids walking with their donkeys, totally in control and know how to handle their herds well.
After half a day of walking around the village under the mountain, I walked back to the town, searching for good Tajik food in Tashkorgan. According to the locals, this is the only place where the real Tajik live and practice and keep their culture. In Tajikistan, the culture has been Russianized. They are more Russians compared to Tajiks there, except maybe deep in the Pamir Mountains. Here in Tashkorgan, they speak pure Tajik language, living the pure ancient Tajik life, and their culture is still very strong here compared to anywhere else even in Tajikistan. I could see they still wear their traditional clothes here everywhere in the town. This town is really desolated. The nearest town is Kashgar, some 300km in the north. 100km to the south is the Khunjerab Pass, the gate into Gilgit-Baltisan of Pakistan. People here are really isolated. There is a border crossing into Tajikistan not so far from here, many truck drivers are passing that road to get into the Tajik land. But as far as I know, the border is closed for foreigners, only the locals can pass through. Weather here keeps changing, it will rain for 5 minutes, and the sun will shine for another 15 minutes, before another 5 minutes of rain comes. Maybe because this place is sandwiched between 3 great mountain ranges of the world, The Pamir, Karakoram and Kunlun.
I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website.
It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable
for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
“dia tengah kira duit… kot.. haha” :-P
Always enjoy reading your travel blog of the amazing places you visited. Great work!
Epic stuff as always. Your photos are brilliant I will never miss one of your posts, brilliant stuff. I hope one day I can get to Tajikistan, it’s one place I really want to go.
I love this.. Share lots of picture of the local.
Love the photos bro!
love the photos so amazing and beutiful..
I am really amaze with your travelling stories and all the videos and photos.. wish that one day I could follow you cycling around the world…enjoying and embracing Allah’s creations. But I am too old to all that stuffs…so thank you for all the stories, videos and photos, cause evertime watching it, reading it and browse throuht it, I felt like i have already been there… I am proud with you and pray that may Allah always protect you and be with you along the journey. CONGRATULATIONS! ☺
Such very beautiful photographs. Thank you for sharing them.
Asalamualaikom selamat menyambut ramadan, saya baru mengikuti perkembangan anda selamat berjaya.
alhamdulillah…it’s really amazing….wish i could be there sometime someday..y allah…thank alot for sharing….oh allah..plz protect n paved him in his journey.
Very interesting story but those people of Tashkurgan are misinformed about the culture of Tajikistan )) Tajikistan is a home for all Tajiks around the world and of course, the center of modern Tajik culture… and the ancient culture is kept in Samarqand and Bukhara
Enjoying your story much … thanks for sharing