May 11, 2013
Since all three of us had gotten in late, we were a bit slow getting ourselves started. We we were told that the Afghan market in Ishkashim would finish between 2 and 3, so we had time to take care of some business. Sjoerd needed to get more local currency and Max really needed to update people on Facebook. Despite trying two cards in two locations, Sjoerd wasn’t able to get the money, and Max needed more time than anticipated to update everyone. So, it wasn’t until 11AM or so before we headed off.
It’s a good thing we found the one driver that treated his minivan like a rally car because we got there ahead of schedule- unheard of in this part of the world. It was about 1PM, but all we could see were shoppers and merchant heading for the exit. I don’t know whose decision it was, but the market was over. Who cares, right? Well, this market is once a week and it offers the opportunity to mingle with Afghan citizens and merchants on an island in the middle of the river separating the two countries.
Just as Sjoerd had managed to talk us onto the island for a ‘We were here’ moment, there was a disagreement with the driver over the cost of the drive and even that chance disappeared as the border guards padlocked the gates to the bazaar. Bummer. Maybe next year 🙂
We walked the rest of the distance to the town and dropped packs in a cozy homestay before having a walkabout town. The town felt a bit deserted and eerily quiet for a Saturday afternoon, this included the restaurant that we found. We started with the predictable soup, tea, and bread, but we were still hungry. Overly eager to please us, but without a printed menu, the waitress called a friend that knew English to tell us what they had. That amounted to fried eggs and ‘sausage’. We all ordered a ‘portion’ and waited anxiously to see what would come from the kitchen. What we got would have fed and NFL lineman. 4 fried eggs and 6 hot dogs. We bust out laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I was the only one who managed to finish this, but none of us would later want dinner.
Since the river, being a border, had magnetic powers, we walked closer, looking to find a vista to relax and enjoy the late afternoon hours. Rather, we found a group of children and teenagers playing soccer. Sjoerd, being an avid soccer player was in seventh heaven. Max and I preferred to watch until the chill in the air and the wind became uncomfortable as dusk became nigh.
When Sjoerd returned to the guesthouse, it was well past dark, but he had found someone willing to drive us through the Wakhan Valley. So, we formed a negotiating strategy and went to meet him. Public transportation would, of course, be cheaper, but the valley is only dotted with small villages, so hired car is the only way around. We came to agreement on the price, which would include two days of driving to link us with the Pamir Highway. We would begin at 8AM.