Today I leave for The Pamir Mountains
I am heading overseas once more — this time to Central Asia.
Over the next month I will drive across Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, taking the Pamir Highway over the mountains to linger a little in Tajikistan’s south.
I have not been to this region before, so it’s a little hard to know what to expect. From what I gather, I will see the remains of the Russia’s hold on the region, communicated through brutalist buildings and burnt out industrial towns.
In Kyrgyzstan the country’s nomadic past still pulses beneath the surface. I hear that Tengrism — the loose collection of animist and shamanic beliefs which were once ascendant — is staging a comeback, albeit one that is highly politicised and potentially tied to the sort of ethnic nationalism that has seen the region erupt in violence in the past. These ethnic divides are widely cited as the major inheritance of Stalin’s rule.
By contrast, the Tajiks are said to possess a strong sense of their Persian heritage. Over the years this region has fallen the under control of Alexander The Great, the Tibetan empire, the Mongols under Genghis Khan and the Persian-Iranian Samanid Empire. It’s Silk Road history speaks of a melting pot of people and cultures, including the discovery of sculptures of the Buddha dating back to 300 BC.
I am particularly excited about the Roof Of The World Festival, in which groups from all over the region meet to perform traditional song and dance, in an effort to strengthen those cultures which are a risk of be subsumed by more prevalent groups.
It is pleasant to be travelling again. In the year since I arrived back from India and Nepal, I have struggled to follow through with the ambitions I formed while away. While this is to be a relatively short stay, I feel now more than ever that I need to make a clean break. I need the time and space to find out whether my hopes of becoming a writer will stand up to reality.
Arrangements still need to be made, but for now: The Pamirs.