On August 26th, having failed to find a horse or a donkey in the last small settlement we visited, we set off for the last Kyrgyz village with about twenty kilos each on our shoulders under a violent snowstorm. After twelve miserable kilometers we found – by mere luck - the village of Kash Goz behind a hill on the mountain side; here we re-organized and prepared to leave the region.
On the way in to the Pamir we had crossed three high passes and several Wakhi villages; now instead we planned to get to Sarhad-e-Broghil - where we arrived in our four-wheel-drive - on a more straightforward route along the Wakhan river, a tributary of the Oxus. This trail runs up and down on the edge of a deep canyon and for three days there is nothing but a rugged labyrinthic landscape; there are no settlements on the route. It is the fastest (but more dangerous) way to reach the Little Pamir or, in our case, to go back to the Wakhan; during winter Kyrgyz and Wakhi traders usually walk directly on the frozen river.
After 250 km of hike we silently agreed that none of us had the strenght to walk seventy kilometers more, with heavy backpacks, for the next three days. It took us the whole afternoon and the following morning to come to an agreement with some very reclutant Kyrgyz about the pack animals we asked for. By 11.30 of the 27th of August we were ready to take on the river route with two horses - that we would alternately ride to avoid walking twentyfour kilometers every day - and a donkey to carry what was left of our supplies. Two Kyrgyz (with their horse and a lot of opium) came with us to bring back the animals at the end of the journey. None of us had ever ridden a horse before, but despite a few scares on the narrow and exposed trail we made it safe to Sarhad-e-Broghil in three days. On August 31st we were back in Iskashim after the usual 210km drive across the Wakhan corridor, and six days later we finally made it home.
The numbers of the journey: 26 days in Afghanistan, including 420km of 4x4 drive, 310km of exploration on foot, only 400$ budget each + 150$ for Afghan Visa (to be added to the 11.500km journey by train and bus from Italy, but that's another long story).
The reasons of a journey like this are obviously different for each of us; they ranges from sport to spirituality, from science to geography, from photography to anthropology, from simple curiosity to a basic need to experience a genuine adventure. I honestly feel that this journey has been a great success to me, as my main goal was to be able to find a pristine population living unspoiled by western culture as they did a thousand years ago and, for a few weeks, experience a time travel myself. Besides the costs, the decision to avoid the help of a local guide is still a debated question on our minds: with him we surely could have learned more about those tribes; without him, on the other side, the adventure rised to another level of challenge, as we were forced to interact with the cryptic population for all our needs, a difficult and unavoidable task that unconsciously brought us closer to their lifestyle. Without a guide able to understand us, an umbelical cord to the civilization, the outside world becomes a vague dream, as we find ourselves alone in a distant space-time. It may not be the right choice for someone but, at the time, it was the right one for us.