The Panj Drift: Hitching The Tajik Borderlands

Patrick Pittman
Sep 10, 2019 · 33 min read
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Photo: The Wakhan Corridor, Gyula Simonyi

A short walk (and hitch, and roofrack ride) in the Wakhan Valley

Harvest time in Tajikistan. Here in Langar, a town at the eastern end of the only habitable road in the Wakhan Valley, it’s proving difficult to find a drink. The glacial flow down from the twin mountain peaks named for Engels and Marx in the range above usually provides more than enough water for the villagers, but somewhere up there the flow’s gone filthy. In the street-level drainage channels, bearing signs for whichever donor countries helped put them there, the water runs a murky, unpotable grey. Locals tell me that they’ve taken to walking several kilometres to the neighbouring village of Zong, where the water’s still drinkable, cramming enough for their families on the back of a donkey or into a Lada. There’s talk amongst the NGOs operating locally of running a pipe from Zong, but that’s for next year, and nobody can say what will happen with the melt by then.

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Photo: Gyula Simonyi
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Photo: Gyula Simonyi
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Photo: Gyula Simonyi
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Photo: Patrick Pittman

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