One Wild Journey, One Crazy Couple, One Life to Live
I dejectedly turn to face the path in front of us and mentally calculate the estimated hours it will take for me to burn to a crisp. I figure I am good for about three hours. I have nothing in which I can carry my water, but have noticed lots of tributaries crossing the path along the way and know that Juma does not carry water, so I am not as worried about that. “Let’s go! I have three hours to enjoy”!
The plant life in the mountains is incredible. I can’t help but wonder how ANYTHING can grow in such a desolate place, but here are flowers, succulents, and little bushes (these are, of course, the technical names for the Wakhan flora). I stop to take a few photos of some flowers and catch a glimpse of what looks like a large stuffed animal. The gopher sees me out of the corner of his eye and skedaddles, followed by about six mini stuffed animals. It is rare to see any wildlife in Afghanistan, as any animal is hunted mercilessly. I am momentarily awestruck – by a gopher family. Of course most people who come to the Wakhan are secretly hoping to see a Great Marco Polo Sheep or the elusive snow leopard, but I am satisfied with my gopher-sighting.
As we walk the ever-escalating path, I even encounter some wild horses and feel like I am 8 again and reading Black Beauty, which was my (and many a little girl’s) favourite book. The scene is reminiscent of the ‘pleasant meadow’ of Black Beauty’s life as a colt. In the midst of the wild horses, we stop for lunch. It’s picture-perfect. Juma starts a fire for tea and I unpack my nuts and raisins and a few raw food bars from my daypack. It turns out Juma loves the Trek bars and I have to dig in to my pack again to feed myself.
I decide to splash my face in the river and can already feel my skin tightening across my forehead. I ignore it and head back to camp. Juma is sleeping. I settle into my book (Hunger Games) and wake him up an hour and a half later. He does not seem the least bit concerned that we are sleeping the day away. The mountains continue to grow and the path continues to shrink as we walk on. It seems every time we reach a summit, the path plummets back down to the river. From my vantage point, I can see it also climbs back up again on the other side.
Finally, after over eight hours of trekking through some absolutely stunning mountains and valleys, we reach Borak. I look around and am sorely disappointed. There is only a trickle of a river and the view of the valley is obscured by some ugly scrub brush. There is an old holding pen and the ground is covered in sheep shit. I give Juma my best ‘really? Isn’t there somewhere better to stay’ look and amazingly, he understands. On we trek for another hour until we reach the river valley. Here the river rages past us and we are welcomed by a sandy flat area blanketed in trees and vegetation. There is a perfect clearing for my tent and the view of the river and mountains towering above us is beyond words. Sunscreen or no sunscreen, this man deserves a tip!