September 29, 2010

Visiting hot springs Garm Chashma and little hike

Garm Chashma mineral rich water makes funny formations. It looks like something from alien movies. And in a way, it was. More about the hot spring bath after our hike...

When we arrived to Khorog we had no specific plans in our travel itinerary. Years of life in Central Asia have taught us that plans will change million times and flexibility is a virtue. So we were very flexible and just plain happy to be alive after our monstrous 24 hours road travel.

But we knew of some hot springs up in the Pamirs and were quite interested. We decided to visit Garm Chashma and at the same trip hike a bit in the mountains. Our wonderful host family advised us where to get taxis. The place is about 46 km south of Khorog in the Wakhan Valley. Marco Polo traveled the valley AD 1274 ( As we had million kids with us, half of us sick and tired, the "hike" was a very small walk through a village and up a hill.

Actually traveling with children should be honored in its own post, but let me just say that they can have some hilarious comments. We were praying for our trip in the car and in the middle of "Andy's" mom's prayer my son said loudly "I will marry Andy". His mom stopped the prayer and laughing quietly said "Hopefully not" to me.

As you can see, the mighty 10 minute walk on a village road has done it to my 4-year old.

There was a very pretty brook.
This is a good little bridge.

We decided to stop here, where the views were great, for a picnic.

Would have been great to visit the snow topped mountains, too!

Children playing with water.

Men planning conquering the mountains.

Family picture, again.
Boys decided to dam the stream.

Important part of the picnic: the food. We had ordered a shop to boil some eggs for us the night before, and we just picked them up in the morning. The price was the same as fresh eggs. Central Asia is nice and hospitable in things like this. Then we had Russian sausage and cheese plus some tomatoes and green peppers to eat with Central Asian bread, non.

Suddenly I got hungry.

This is a funny little cave I saw on the road. Looks really spooky, actually. We did not visit it.

Guess what? The hot spring is near! You can smell it! The water has sulfur in it and it smells like...sulfur. The formations look like giant monster tentacles to me.

It was ladies time to bathe in the outside pool and we headed up a little hill to find this pool behind a wall. There were some local women bathing there. And they did not wear swimming suits. But do not fear, we did. We, the brave, Northern, Finnish people who spend all our lives going to sauna naked carefully covered ourselves. Somehow swimming outside in a hot spring in our birth suits did not feel comfortable. But local ladies were very comfortable and even commented on our swimming suits. 'You don't need to wear one!' 'Oh, yes, I need to!'.

The views were quite something. I mean, look at the water! It is basically steaming! And it was HOT!

The water was flowing down from the top. The pool water was really warm, but you could still swim in it. I read somewhere that the pool water is +38- +50 degrees Celsius. Wow.

THIS water is HOT!

We turned nice and pink after soaking in it for awhile.

The pool water was nice milky colored. There was white mineral clay that the women were getting from the walls and rubbing it in their skin. It is believed to have curative characteristics.

After this we felt ready to go home and sleep. But there was the ride home. Even though the kilometers were only 46 something, it took couple of hours in the car. The roads are not very good.

I was fascinated by the Afghan side of the river. Those little paths up there are the main roads!

We saw people and villages and it is such a different world out there. A stone throw away.

But Garm Chashma is a place worth visiting, if you happen to be on that side of the world!

September 26, 2010

Khorog - a town in Pamir mountains

I have so many pictures from our trip! I want to share more about our home stay, but it needs to wait for its own post. But here are some pictures from the town of Khorog, the new park and Botanical gardens.
Khorog is a peaceful town of about 27000 inhabitants. Like everywhere in Central Asia, animals roam free also in the towns. This couple is going shopping.

We walked to the town centre.

Kids were energetic and we took lots of video. For grandparents!

This is a new town park. It is really nice. Real lawn!!! Big trees, and fun things for children to do.

The park is built by Aga Khan foundation.

It has lovely amount of room to run and play, even a little pond to swim in.

Missy is posing.

Then we took a minibus to the Botanical Garden. The entrance fee for foreigners is 3 $. The minibus took us all the way to the garden (usually you have to walk the last 0,5 km, but maybe the driver felt sorry for the million kids we had with us. )

The views were great, this is towards the town.

Pretty flowers and lots of fruit trees.

We found fallen pears and took some...little sour but a nice snack.

Apples look gorgeous! And so does the fruit.


This is the second highest botanical garden in the world. I do not know where the highest is.

Busy little bee.

A gardener came to greet us and showed us more fruit trees. He really encouraged us to freely take the fallen fruit, but we just took some to eat right there and then.

Little rest time in the orchard.

Family picture!

We had one or two colder nights, and the result was beautiful snow topped mountains around us!

September 25, 2010

What is happening right now

I am wearing... A local Central Asian dress, it is light green with blue tulips. I love tulip patterns in dresses!

I am listening to... Computer humming. It is late and everyone else is in bed already. I took a nap earlier... I do not have time to listen to music much.

I am reading... I read "Keep a quiet heart" devotional by Elisabeth Elliot nowadays. Then "What your kindergartner needs to know" for schooling ideas. And Amy Carmichael's "If" for quiet, short moments behind the locked door.

I am looking forward to... Going to bed soon, and checking on all the sweet sleeping children before that!

Outside my window... It is dark already. This window faces the courtyard entrance, and we keep our blue car out there. I cannot draw these curtains because my desk touches the window.

I am creating... I am making quilted pot holders for Christmas/New Year. Depending on how many I actually manage to finish my neighbors and friends will get one this year.

I am praying for... patience and joy to be with my children daily. And wisdom for some relationships! And healing for my tummy which is still complaining for the road side meal we had at the end of our Pamirs trip.

Thankful for... a supportive and helpful husband and three healthy, wonderful kids!

From the kitchen...
Tonight we had sandwiches. With choices of turkey and tuna. Then the kids had cold cream-of-wheat (baby) and rice-pudding (bigger kids) for dessert, sprinkled with vanilla-caramel-sugar.

How about you?!?

September 22, 2010

Travelling to Pamirs

So, we travelled to Pamirs last week. Pamirs are a mountain range situated in Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. It is called the Roof of the World, and its highest peak, Ismoil Sumoni peak, is 7 495 m tall.

We started our trip in Dushanbe where we had arrived the night before. From there you can fly to Pamirs or take the car. Flying would take 45 minutes. By road, we heard, it takes 15-20 hours. We chose driving because we were crazy because we wanted to see the landscape and experience the road travel. We decided to fly back after the trip.

We agreed to meet the drivers 5 am. It was still dark and the weather was cool. By 6 am we had loaded the cars and people (15 travellers and 2 drivers) and filled the cars with gas. On the road! The drivers smoked a lot. I guess it keeps them going without much to eat and drink, not to mention the lack of sleep. I cannot imagine driving 15+ hours myself!

The trip started. The landscapes in Central Asia are always very interesting. Very different from Northern Europe.

We took naps.

And stopped couple of times...mainly because of the police check points. They like to write down the passport details, so it would have been clever to have lots of copies with us. These kind of stops took at least an hour total of our drive.

A village in the morning sun.

The first break down. Our drivers were cousins, so they kept close contact with each other on the road. The Jeep was faster, but it turned around to help with the repairs.

It took awhile, but finally we could continue.

And then we were driving again. Kids had some books, they listened to mp3 stories, and played some, slept some and drove us nuts some. I had to explain many times that we would 'be there' only after dark, that we would sit in this car for a whole day and more. It is a looong time for young active minds and bodies, but they did great.

Dry hillside.

We had lunch in a road side tea house after the city of Kulob. They served all kinds of local soups, bread and tea. We had taken dry noodles for the kids with us, and the owners were happy to provide a bowl of hot water for them. We did not want to get a traveler's tummy right a way.
Again a stop and we had a chance to check if we are on the map yet.

My boy, the size of a truck wheel.

Happy travelers. My daughter is missing a sock. She stepped into mud and it got dirty.

Break down number two. While the drivers were fixing this poor wheel, we took a break eating apples and throwing rocks into the river. The fixing took some time. We took video interviewing people about the estimate travel time. The estimates were from 5-7 hours. I said we should stop for the night, because it is too long. How prophetic those words were! But we did not stop for the night.

The road to Pamirs is a narrow road, very bumpy. The higher we got, the worse the roads got. For the most part of the drive the river Panj marks the border to Afghanistan. The road is right next to a steep, deep river bank, and if you sit on the side of the river it sometimes feels like the car is just inches from falling to the cold fast running river. Maybe because it is.

At least our side had roads. The Afghan side had a path and we watched Afghan people walking, riding a donkey or occasionally a motorcycle through some pretty amazing and narrow trails between the rapid river and steep, tall mountains.

We had dinner in a small village called Kalay Kum. We debated whether to stay for the night or to continue on. It was 7 pm, and we had been on the road for 13 hours already. But we decided to continue on, because the drivers told us we would be in Khorog by midnight.

This is one of the many police posts between Dushanbe and Khorog.

After dark the drive got really tiring. I was nodding off, the kids were asleep. Suddenly someone shone a bright big light on my face and I opened my eyes, half asleep. In front of our car I saw two bright head lights pointing directly to us. As suddenly as it had appeared, the car driving towards us disappeared. This scared our drivers. They were getting tired. At midnight they requested a break. What could we say? We thought we would be in Khorog by midnight. But we were in a middle of nowhere, on a narrow, dangerous road with tired drivers. Of course we agreed on the break. They said they wanted to sleep for half and hour and got out of the car. The stop had awakened the kids, and I took the baby to lay on me, hoping she would sleep some more.

After two hours, 2 am, the drivers got back, shivering with cold. We continued driving, and as I was falling a sleep in 5 second intervals I was just praying the drivers would not fall asleep. And they did not. They stopped to wash their faces in cold creeks flowing down from the mountains, played music and kept their windows open. In the other car our traveling buddies talked non stop to their driver in order to keep him awake.

We were finally in Khorog 5 am, 24 hours after we had started our day. I was exhausted. We had booked Pamir Lodge for all of us, but they had only one room available when we got there. There was a home stay very close, where two more rooms were waiting. Our family got there. The owner was lovely and fixed us breakfast 6 am before we crawled to our beds.

I will write more about our home stay (picture above), Khorog and what we did in the Pamirs later. Right now remembering the trip made me very very tired! Yawn!