Where to pick up? Recovered from my illness, I had spent the previous day catching up with Nico in a shared taxi to Khorog. The journey, a fifteen hour extravaganza, left me feeling fairly ropey, and it was only after a lie in that I felt ready to tackle the Pamirs. In a spur of the moment decision, Nico, James and I decided to tackle the Wakhan Valley, an alternative to the beginning of the Pamir Highway. The Wakhan Valley was once a hub of Silk Road activity, and is covered with the ruins of old forts, hot springs, and even a Buddhist stupa, from the days when Buddhist missionaries ranged the Pamirs. We had been told by various people that the Wakhan, although challenging, was stunning, and well worth the extra effort. In any case, net altitude gain was more gradual than the alternative, and having suddenly arrived at altitude, this could only be a good thing for me.
So down the Wakhan we went. I lagged behind, stalled by various problems of increasing indignity: a flat seemingly without cause; something completely unprintable (you can ask me in person if you’re desperate to know…); and a broken flag holder. Delayed by an hour, all thoughts of getting to hot springs for the night (our original plan) were dashed. I caught up with James and Nick, who had already pitched tents on stony riverside beach in the shadow of the Hindu Kush, and were trying to teach 20 Pamiri children rounders. We washed and cooked with this audience, who eventually persuaded Nico to hand over his phone number, and proceeded to drop call him incessantly.