On August 6th 2018, tired after twenty-nine days of train and buses through the middle east (a 11.500 km ride from Milano train station, Italy), myself, three friends and twenty kilos of food entered Afghanistan near the village of ishkashim. The goal was to explore one of the most culturally pristine areas of the world, where medieval tribes are still living a nomadic life as their ancestors always did. In order to reach this misterious place – the Little Pamir - we had to get to the end of the Wakhan Corridor – an adventurous trip itself – and walk for days across five-thousand meters high mountain passes.
It’s a sixteen hours four-wheel-drive ride on the legendary Pamir Highway from the Tajikistan capital city of Dushanbe to Khorog, where the Afghan Embassy luckily granted our visa, followed by a four hours dirt road to the border. In Ishkashim, on the Afghan side, we spent half day trying to figure out permits, buy more food and find the vehicle we needed to get to the end of the Wakhan corridor, where we planned to start our hike.
The Wakhan Corridor is the last tip of Afghanistan in the east, a narrow strip of land bounded by huge mountain ranges. It was created as a buffer zone between the Russian and the British empires, but the valley has been an ancient caravan route for two thousand years and was crossed by Marco Polo between 1271 and 1275. Besides snow leopards and other Himalayan creatures, it is home to about ten thousands Wakhis, a friendly population of farmers and transhumance herders. Many seven-thousands meters peaks surrounds the Wakhan and separate it from the rest of the world.
It takes two days to drive the 210km dirt road to Sarhad-e-Brogil (if the road is in decent conditions and the rivers are not too deep). Sarhad lies at the end of the Wakhan corridor where the Hindu Kush, the Pamir and the Karakoram meet. Our first plan was to buy a donkey to transport our food, but soon we realized that none of us had any idea about how to take care of it. Renting one in each village (for about 5$/day) proved to be the easier option, as the owner was always coming as well to bring back home the creature on the following day.
On August 8th the four of us - accompanied by a donkey with no tail and its owner, a young Wakhi from a nearby village – started the long hike to the Little Pamir. We decided to take the mountain route – slightly longer but safer and more interesting - and then walk back to the civilization by the more straightforward but dangerous river route.
By the end of the first day of walk we had realized that the journey was going to be much more difficult than we expected.