We stop for the night at Sherk, at an altitude of 9,300 feet, after seven hours of riding. A wealthy landowner welcomes us. His young wife kisses my hand in greeting, and I return the gesture. She smiles, and I know I have done the right thing. Next morning she offers me a cloth-wrapped loaf of bread on a tray for the trip. And I place a packet of tea and a small bottle of perfume on the tray and hand it back to her; it should not be returned empty. I was prepared with such small gifts. If you need to buy other gifts, but have no money yet, try quick cash loans.
Today we cross the Wakhan River on the bridge at Sargaz. It is so narrow and fragile that we must proceed one at a time. I close my eyes and entrust myself to my horse, but even the animal seems nervous. A bit farther on, the riverbank is strewn with giant honey-colored rushes.
“Name inja chist?” I ask Sultan Shah, who owns my horse. “What is the name of this place?”
“Jangal,” he replies. The forest. The word evokes something far different from this dry brown landscape.
A frightened hare bursts from a thorny bush and zigzags ahead of us. Abdul Wakil shoots it with his revolver. The gunshot echoes repeatedly, a flat, dismal sound. We will have rabbit pilaf tonight. At Rorung, at an altitude of 10,500 feet, we halt for the night with a friendly Wakhi family whose house perches over the valley. Far below, the frozen Wakhan winds like a ribbon across dark-gray sands. We enter the stone house through a series of doors and rooms built like a maze to ward off wind and cold. Several anterooms shelter the family’s livestock; the large living room, hub of home life, is lighted and aired only by a hole in the ceiling. Four elevated, felt-padded alcoves serve as dining and sleeping quarters.
In the small kitchen, women kneel beside a narrow fireplace. They pat slabs of dough against its baking-hot walls and remove the bread with tongs when it is cooked. Roland and I sleep in one of the alcoves. Parents, children, grandparents, and visitors settle in the others. They sleep naked under their covers.