The Wakhan Corridor Journey - Afghanistan to Pakistan

The Wakhan Corridor Journey - Afghanistan to Pakistan

Wakhan: Trekking from Sarhad to Kashch Goz

After months of planning and anticipation, we were finally on foot heading to the Little Pamir. Our journey was to the headwaters of a major river, so we thought we would just follow the river up valley. We soon realized that wasn’t the case.

West of Sarhad the Wakhan River was braided into many channels, filling the wide valley. East of Sarhad, the river emerged dramatically from a deep gorge. Two routes led east to the Pamir, a river route and a high route. Both bypassed this first gorge and crossed two mountain passes before descending to Borak at the confluence of the Borak and Wakhan rivers. At Borak, the two routes diverged. The river route continued through the Wakhan River gorge, but in midsummer, the water was so high as to make the river route nearly impassable. It would be possible to scramble up and down steep ravines to avoid the high water, but local people preferred the high route as easier and shorter at this time of year. We would follow the high route, which certainly wasn’t shorter according to our maps and crossed two more mountain passes en route to the Kyrgyz settlements in the Little Pamir. Nek Bakht (“fortunate”) Shah, who was taking two yaks to his family’s summer settlement near the Little Pamir, accompanied us. One of his yaks would carry our bags.

Our first day was unexpectedly strenuous. Leaving the river valley immediately, the trail ascended and crossed Daliz Pass (4,267 meters) — really two distinct passes — which we took to calling Daliz Saddle and Daliz Pass. Daliz Pass itself was a broad meadow carpeted with wildflowers and offering views to the north side of the Hindukush Range. We descended from the pass and traversed into a deep, birch-filled ravine called Shaur to camp. What it lacked in level ground it made up for in mosquitoes. Our grassy campsite adjacent to a clear stream seemed pleasant nonetheless.

We climbed out of the ravine to traverse level pasture occupied only by marmots, although several huts showed Wakhi herders occasionally used the pasture. From high above the river, we could see the confluence of the Borak and Wakhan rivers. Our descent, dotted with juniper, led to a wooden footbridge, one of only two in the Little Pamir, which spanned the blue waters of the Borak River just below the mouth of a narrow gorge.