I love Central Asia. I love hiking. I particularly enjoy the people of Tajikistan, whose hospitality and warmth to outsiders I’d rank amongst any other culture in the world. It should be no surprise, then, that many of my favorite experiences of 6 months in Central Asia involved multi-day hikes deep into the mountains where I met TONS of awesome people.
This, then, is one of those stories.
A trip to the Fan Mountains’ Seven Lakes starts, as with most Central Asian journeys, waiting for hours to pack as many people into a small car as the driver finds reasonable. Luckily, for this one, the cutest child in Tajikistan was mugging at me and playing hide and seek for most of the time we waited to leave Penjikent.
We did eventually hit the road, but didn’t make it terrible far before the engine overheated and we all spilled out onto the road for a bit of air.
Having waited a bit and poured some river water over the engine, our driver (not pictured) decided we could try again. This guy looks as happy as I felt to keep going.
Finally, eventually, we made it most of the way to the village I wanted to get to. By the time we arrived, though, there weren’t enough hours of sun left to hike to Marguzor village. So, instead, I stayed at a little guesthouse just down from the village bank.
In the course of exploring the village, however, we ended up meeting tons of people and even sitting for tea for a while with this family.
Who, as it turned out, happened to be related to the cutest child in all of Tajikistan! Laughs ensued.
The next morning, though: time to hike.
Up and past the big lake, to the village of Marguzor.
Past the village of Marguzor, to the field where little shepherdesses shepherd sheep.
Up to the last, huge, picturesque, imminently camp-able 7th Lake at the top. Why didn’t I bring a tent up here with me?!?!
Even at the lake, though, there was one family. The adults weren’t too friendly, but the kids were all laughs as I walked past and tried to speak a few words of Tajik to them. Mahn bourtka dam!
Sometimes, no matter how cool a country’s culture is, I need to get away from cities and civilization and into nature. The 7 Lakes make an excellent opportunity to do this, with a bit of hiking and giant beautiful slight snowy mountains and a bit of small scattered villages and people to try to interact with.
Sinead, the Aussie girl I was hiking with, agreed. We split up for an hour or two to take in the place, and while I went uphill for views from a fine sittin’ rock, she was brave enough to go for a quick swim. I’ll point again, here, that there’s snow on those mountaintops.
Though I’d planned the visit as an overnight, looking at maps of the area showed all sorts of potential for village-to-village hikes. Luckily the local mullah was kind enough to offer me a place to stay in Marguzor for the night, so I could start fresh to another village without walking up and down the road for two hours each way to get to the official homestay in the valley.
It was this experience, actually, that convinced me I needed to stick around Central Asia for a while and properly study Russian. Talking to these guys over the course of a few hours involved TONS of paging through my little Anglo-Russo dictionary looking for the right words.
And again, the next morning, up and up!
More villages, more friendly faces, and more time spent exploring a little further off the normal tourist trail.
Most folks were happy to see a stranger, though I did get the occasional look of surprise.
The hills above Marguzor and the Seven Lakes, though, were full of beautiful scenery.
Dotted with the most amazingly-situated villages.
And populated with unhesitatingly welcoming folks.
As I got higher and higher, the weather turned worse and worse. Eventually I ended up turning around and heading down to the homestay-village where I knew I’d be able to catch a ride back down the valley.
But, even without having made the arbitrarily chosen goal of the hike, the day was still an exceptional one. After all, often times the end point truly doesn’t matter as much as the destination.
So get out, have fun, and do some exploring! And if you need a place to do it, I can highly recommend all of Tajikistan and particularly the Fan Mountains.