John and Lisa's Most Excellent
Wakhan Corridor Adventure
Good friends, John and Lisa, were some of the first tourists in the new millenium to have a Wakhan Corridor adventure.
They chartered a private plane...
...then spent a week hiking up the Wakhan.
Read on to hear an amazing story...
Ever since I was 18 I’ve wanted to go to the Wakhan. I associated the Wakhan Corridor with romance, excitement and mystique.
John gave the trip to me for my 60th birthday party. People in England sent money and cards and helped us pay for the Wakhan Adventure last fall (2009).
We developed a well-thought out plan (we thought).
A driver would come from Faizabad and meet us at the Piggush Airport, the first airport in the Wakhan. It's only been open a month, and is really just a road flattened in the river bed.
We were to be flown by Tim up to Piggush. The driver was supposed to bring the matches, gas cooker, and things we could not bring on the airplane.
He was supposed to bring fresh fruit and vegetables because there are no shops, literally no fruits and veges in the Wakhan. Except the tiny bazaar in Khandut there would be no bazaars up the valley, and certainly no fresh food in the Khandut bazaar.
The driver works for Great Game Travel as a cook. He would meet us and spend all 10 days with us. We had planned to go as far up the valley as we could go in that time. We were going to pay him $100 a day for him to be our driver, guide, cook. etc...
He said since it was 10 days, he’d only charge us $600.
Our doctor friend up in Kipkut told us to get a bunch of food in Faizabad and bring it up. Our driver agreed to bring it all.
And about our well-thought out plan? The plan didn’t work.
Tim flew us in low through the Panshir Valley. The light was beautiful, wind conditions were good, and we snapped breathtaking gorgeous pictures of the valley.
We had to go up to 15,000 feet to get into the Wakhan Corridor, but we didn’t need oxygen. Peter was fine even after a heart attack 3 years ago.
After landing, the airplane had to be turned around to take off again. Tim sat on the tail and the people turn the airplane around. Off he goes, and we were left in the middle of nowhere, with all our provisions.
We sat there for 4.5 hours, in the middle of nowhere.
Oh the people were friendly, donkeys were going by. Then a Toyota corolla turned up, from the wrong direction. The driver hopped out and said he’d come to take us.
We replied, "No, no, our driver should come from the other direction."
And the driver shrugged, "Oh no, he couldn’t come, he told me to come.
Eventually, we believed him and loaded up the stuff we'd brought for our friends working up the valley who are building the second airstrip. Somehow, we managed to get our stuff, and the stuff the driver brought into the corolla.
We finally began our Wakhan Adventure!
Four minutes later, the car sank in the river.
The water was pouring in the back, the driver leapt out of his window onto the bonnet, and I’m stuck in the back with water coming up to my seat. I cannot get out, my camera fell in the water, and the water keeps rising. I begin to panic, yelling at my husband to rescue me.
Why is he taking so long? I wonder/ I discover that he’s taking his socks off so that he doesn’t get them wet...while I’m panicking.
My yelling finally induces my husband to open the door downstream so that the water will keep going through, and then he got out and helped me out. We got all the luggage out. The driver got his stuff out. The driver put this head in his hands while watching his engine get covered.
You see, you really ought to hava a four-wheel car in the Wakhan. In exasperation, we asked our driver why he brought a corolla?!?
Finally a car came, and tried to pull us out, but their rope broke. The next car, a 4-wheel vehicle, came with a metal steel toe rope and finally pulled us out.
We paid another $100 to the driver of the 4-wheeled car to get us to the next village, Khandud. We sent our driver back to Ishkishim with the first car who had tried to help us and get us another vehicle.
Neither of these drivers were from the Wakhan. So the guy with 4-wheel drive took us to a town, Khandud.
We discover we have paid a $100 to go one hour’s worth of driving.
Then he couldn’t care less...he got to the main street, and dumped everything out, and tells us to get out. He demands his money. We now have 60 people around us listen to us complain about $100 to go one hour.
He left, and we asked "who can take us to Kipkut?"
No one could. It's a 3-hour drive from here, and no one could take us and get back before dark. But then a man with a really kind face came up to us and spoke, "I have a friend with a nice shop. You can put your stuff there, and come stay at my house."
It was night fall, we have a huge pile of stuff, what are we gonna do?
Continue the story of the great Wakhan Corridor Adventure on Page Two
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