Like so many places in the world, much of the joy of the Tajik Wakhan is from the great people I met along the way. At the Ratm Fortress, just beyond the farthest one can go on public transport, I met this awesome family.
I think I started interacting with Maria and Nikita by asking for directions to the fortress. Whatever it was, they jumped in with not just directions but an impromptu guided tour. Showing Maki and I the way, the girls would stop to pick a flower or offer a tasty edible root freshly picked from the ground.
As we climbed up to the fortress itself, Maria and Nikita ran off to play over the ruins as I (typically) spent way more time taking photos than I can reasonably justify.
They didn’t seem to mind, though, and as we all sat on a boulder perched between the fortress and gorge below they even snapped a few shots of their own.
Back towards the road, they invited us in for tea and bread. We hung out, talked (Pantomimed? I’m pretty weak on Russian, after all.) with their dad about hiking, and laughed as the youngest sister mugged for the camera.
At the time, the whole experience was a beautiful brief look into a life very different from mine set upon the backdrop of this decaying Silk Road fortress. Now though? I barely even remember what the fort looked like, but these girls and their happy laughter still rings in my ears.