From majestic snow-capped peaks extending in all directions to seemingly endless grasslands where nomads tents and sheep number in the hundreds, Taxkurgan is at a land stood still in time.
This a small outpost high in the mountains where the air is thin and bitter, the mountains jagged and white and the wide plain lush and green. The streets are simple here, consisting of unassuming houses, some established as restaurants and hotels. Take a road east and an ancient structure appears - the stone fort of old, an ancient fortress of the Silk Road where caravansary and merchants rested and traded. The history is immense, evidenced by its ancient appearance and crumbling façade. This was the same fort Marco Polo described in his famous travel book eight-hundred years ago, and remarkably the same Ptolemy of the Roman Empire wrote about nearly two thousand years ago. Scant information is found about this fort, other than it being in an exceedingly strategic position in the Pamirs and having been destroyed, yet rebuilt, on multiple occasions. Taxkorgan, as unassuming as the town may be, holds a vital piece of history to the Silk Road.
Surrounding Taxkorgan are endless grasslands dotted with nomads tents and livestock. The grasslands are interrupted by numerous streams rolling along the contours, perfectly providing a perfect source of fresh water for all the creatures who live here. The yurts are decorated in many colors, curiously warm compared to the outside cold, and smell of freshly made naan and milk tea. The people who call these yurts home have been welcoming strangers for a long time. Not quite Tajiks, and entirely not Chinese, these locals of Taxkurgan have a mixed and debated lineage. Most agree they are of Persian descent, and were ancient nomads who settled in the high plains of the Pamir Mountains. They could be called Sarikoli, or Pamir Tajiks. One such nomad we met, an old man with an English hat, baggy trousers, and long coat, called himself Bage. His shy puppy went by Ruckece. Together, they formed a hospitable team, characteristic of these Pamir Tajik locals.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
Taxkorgan is a small Silk Road outpost high in the Pamir Mountains and on the Karakoram Highway. We reached it by bus from Kahsgar, totaling 6-7 hours.
Traversing the endless grasslands flanked by snow-capped peaks outside of town was special. We followed streams and maneuvered paths, getting lost in the beauty.
Nearing dark, we escaped into the endless grasslands where we ended up conversing and making friends with a nomad. He invited us into his yurt where we shared tea and we set our tent right beside the yurt.
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
It may be time to toss those frozen coats and thick boots - the roads ahead lead to some hot places.
You are faced with choosing the traditional route to buzzing bazaars of Kashgar, or take an entirely different route into wild India.