Osh, Day 11 (740km)
The Abdirahmanov dynasty are a well known family in this part of the world. They have the third biggest flock in the region, enjoy luxuries like jam with their bread and live well for nomads. They have a crystal white yurt, the interior covered with Shydraks (felt rugs), carved wooden doors and fur lined clothes. After a long day of shepherding, milking around the family yurts, the sun began to set over the jailoo once more and a boy mounted a horse to fetch the herds from the high pastures. I was keen to help after failing so miserably at milking a mare and proving I was physically uncapable of hauling water from the nearby stream at this altitude and so volunteered to go along to help.
The family seemed quite surprised at my request; why would i want to go and fetch the sheep, it was a job for boys! Eventually they agreed though and a horse was saddled for me. Yet it seemed that i hadn’t volunteered to help, but infact volunteered to fetch the sheep.
‘But i don’t know how to round up sheep’ I complained. ‘I also don’t know where the sheep are, how many of them there should be and which ones are yours’.
Sultan was quick to dismiss my concerns ‘You will know. Don’t worry’ with which he pointed up the mountain side in the direction of the sheep. I trotted off into the hills for a baptism of fire in shepherding sheep with a lame horse (a bad workman blames his tools).
The sheep safely in their pen for the night and the clouds turning pink over the lake, Sultan showed me the marks and wounds on the horses from wolf attacks only a week before. As a precaution now he sets chinese fire crackers off every night, throwing them overarm into the distance which reverberate around the quiet valley. We light gas lamps around the pen to further discourage Mr. Wolf from having a shashlyk party and go to sleep once more in the yurt.
From Song Kol it was a 400km slog over an awful road to the Uzbek town of Osh. Upon finally reaching tarmac after riding on appauling gravel roads, i found myself averaging over 35kph due to the ease of my new passage. I now sit at the head of the Pamir Highway which i expect to complete by early september. Expect the next excert from the town of Khorog, at the end of the highway and the Wakhan Afghan valley. With the grace of god the 4500m passes will be beaten, as they say in these parts inshallah.
See you in a fortnight!