FEW outsiders have had the privilege of meeting the nomads of Afghanistan’s Pamir Mountains.
First, political and geographical argy-bargy between the Russian and British empires redrew the borders restricting the herders’ traditional nomadic freedom of movement.
Next Moa’s closure of the Chinese border sealed the nomads into a part of Afghanistan where they were forced to adapt to a life at high altitude, surviving brutal winters at the outer edge of human habitation on nothing but their ingenuity.
Although summer brought pockets of lush grazing lands, life is hard for the tribe.
There is no electricity, running water is confined to the glacial rivers and all the transport is four-legged. Infrastructure in this area is nothing more than ancient trade trails, animal tracks and the odd rickety bridge cobbled together from fat branches and twigs. Ironically, it’s this trapped isolation that kept the region free from the recent conflict and the Taliban.
A route into the Afghan Pamir Mountains is now possible through Ishkashim (in the Northeast) to explore this previously inaccessible part of the planet, deservedly under consideration for World Heritage Site status.
It’s understandable that even the most adventurous traveller might be a little anxious about coming across some post-conflict hostility.
But those few who have made the journey only speak of hospitable, generous and humble people who welcome the intrepid with invitations into their cozy family yurts (felt covered tents) for warm freshly baked flatbread and mugs of hot yak-milk tea.
Afghanistan may have been through turbulent times, but deep in the Pamir Mountains it’s been business as usual.
With their woolly weather-resilient yaks, ready and able to take the load, the nomads will guide you along ancient trade trails into a part of Afghanistan few people see; a bewitching and largely unexplored land which is centuries away from the notorious headlines that have defined the country over the past decade.