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PAMIR ALAY - paradizo di granito

Pamir Alay, Asan-Usan, Ak-Su (Kyrghistan), 1-28 August 1996

Our expedition | The Pamir Alay and the Asan-Usan region | Brief history and the current situation
Getting there - The climate and the people | Resources

Getting there

The best place to depart from for Pamir Alay is Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Lufthansa (from Frankfurt) and Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul) offer direct flights from Europe. If you trust the airline companies of the post Soviet era, then flights via Moscow can be cheaper: the cheapest flight from Moscow to Tashkent costs around US$ 350.

A visa is necessary for both Tajikistan and Kirghistan.
Colour Map Pamir

Map Pamir Alay There are two ways to get to the Pamir Alay valleys from Tashkent. The fast option is to fly by helicopter (US$ 2000-2500 return, max. capacity 30 people). Alternatively, drive overland along the fascinating route through the villages in Tajikistan and Kirghistan (2 days) and then continue on foot for a further 2 days, accompanied by Kirghisi shepherds and their pack horses. This second option can be organised with the travel agency mentioned above.

A bloody civil war was raged in Tajikistan until a few years ago and at present a precarious armistice holds out. Apart from the frequent police checks, the journey through Tajikistan to the Pamir Alay tends to be free of problems. Look after all documents which must be consigned or compiled at customs offices, and be particularly careful when declaring foreign currency.

There are no amenities in the Pamir Alay valleys. A well stocked base-camp, with all the gear necessary for an expedition, is therefore indispensable. The "agents" charge US$ 40-60 per person/day, but it may be worth trying to barter. Included in this price is the transport overland from Tashkent, the provisions and all the costs associated with the running of a base-camp, from the kitchen to the sauna. The cost/person varies according to the size of the expedition (the larger the expedition, the lower the cost). Although the organisation covers all the logistics, we nevertheless recommend you take your own tents, for comfort's sake.

The climate and the people

As Central Asia is an enormous continent, its climate is not influenced greatly by weather changes from the sea. The temperature range between night and day and summer and winter is fairly small, and this area does not receive much rainfall. Summer can be extremely dry; July and August are characterised by clear, cloudless skies and alpine temperatures, making these the best months for climbing.

The local people are generally very welcoming and so too are the Kirghisi shepherds who live high up in the valleys. Of Mongolian origin, they have interpreted the Muslim faith in their own "liberal" way; women are not obliged to wear veils and they have a high status, contributing actively to the family life. Their way of living is connected more to the unwritten laws of nature than to the rules laid down by their religion. Their livestock, the yaks, are free to pasture in the valleys in summer. These and hunted marmots constitute their diet, in winter too. Their genuine hospitality is exceptional and visitors arouse great curiosity, especially in women and young children.

"Sovietisation" is scarcely evident in the mountain villages, but it has left behind some traces in the cities; apart from statues of Lenin and other obvious external signs, it is clear that these people are in the middle of an uncertain period of change. They are struggling not so much with economic difficulties, but with the substitution of the old ruling class, of Russian origin, with the new local bureaucracy. Hopelessly disorganised and at times both arrogant and corrupt, the new governing body still has effective police powers. This is one of the most evident and worrying signs of their difficult transitional phase.

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