Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO)

Well here we are. The very last trip in Central Asia before we leave in a few weeks. Sean and I knew when we arrived we wanted to make the trip out to Eastern Tajikistan (aka the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) aka The Pamirs) since we arrived two years ago. And, of course, for one reason or another, we almost completely missed our chance as time dwindled down. Luckily, we managed to squeeze it in right before pack out.

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We originally planned a six-day road trip from Dushanbe to Murghab which would include the true Pamir Highway and the Wakhan Corridor, but due to the time crunch and proximity to our household goods (HHG) pack out, we decided to cut it down to four. Between pack out, leaving the dogs, and the stress of the bouncy roads/wear and tear on the car I was at my breaking point. Thankfully, Sean knows me well enough to know I needed to get it out of my system and just get in the car.

Though I am a bit sad we missed Murghab, I am glad we didn’t push it too much. Our first day was met with road construction that caused a five-hour delay in getting out to Kalaikhum in Darvoz – the extreme Western part of GBAO – and our first overnight. Then a full day of driving to Khorog. Then a full-day drive back to Darvoz. Then another full-day drive to Dushanbe. Two more days of driving might have made us both crazy.

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The problem with GBAO is absolutely 100% the poor road quality. The paved portions were wonderful and we actually had fun winding our way along the river. The unpaved parts were a complete nightmare. After six hours bouncing around in the car it gets hard to summon the strength to do it all over again. Luckily, this trip was – for lack of a better word – cool enough in my opinion to make it worth the crazy roads.

I mean, when else would we ever be this close to Afghanistan.

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Another redeeming part of this trip was the friendly locals in Darvoz and Khorog. GBAO has it’s own school system where students learn English from a fairly young age. Also, since they don’t get a ton of foreign visitors to practice on, we were a complete novelty. Kids popped out of windows, yelled from across the street, and at one point harmonized for a chorus of “HELLO!” that nearly knocked us off our feet.

The day we left Khorog we took an hour drive south to the Garam Chashma or hot spring, one of many in the area. When we arrived there was only about 15 minutes left for women so I ran in. This was good since 1) I only need about 15 minutes in 42 degree Celsius water, and 2) I had no time to be self-conscious since it’s done completely in the nude.

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Since returning to Dushanbe, lots of people have asked if we would recommend the trip. While the bouncy roads are not to be taken lightly, and if you think about it we drove for four days to soak in a spring for 15 minutes each, this trip was absolutely worth it in my opinion. It was a great way to polish off two years in this interesting region.

Travel Notes:

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