Gorno-Badakhshan Photographic Adventure

July 8-29, 2006

9 participants only


Pierre Claquin and Pamir Voyages are proud to announce the first GBAO Photographic Adventure between July 8 th and 29 th , 2006.


" The Pamir mountains of Tajikistan are, without doubt, the least visited mountain range in the world, yet one which offers some of the most magnificent landscapes, picturesque rural scenes, exhilarating trekking and genuine hospitality not to be found anywhere on the planet ." (Peter Burgess in the section "Trekking in the Pamirs" in Robert Middleton's web site www.pamirs.org )


What is this adventure about?


It is for mountain nature lovers and photographers who seek a unique opportunity to travel to a mythical land forbidden to foreigners until recently. The adventure will associate wildlife observation, an exciting trekking to an earthquake-created high-altitude lake, and a lot of traveling (in air-conditioned four wheel-drive cars) through magnificent landscapes at an average of 10,000 feet of altitude. It will provide an opportunity to spend time with the resilient people of GBAO and to understand their way of life. It is for people in good health (because of the altitude and because of the optional trekking) and ready to cope with basic field accommodation and, at times, long traveling hours in exchange for an exhilarating experience.

It is for seasoned photographers at ease with their equipment and with the technicalities of high altitude. Less seasoned photographers will be provided personalized support whenever needed. Last but not least spouses are highly welcomed (at the same cost, alas).


Where are the Pamir Mountains of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast of Tajikistan ?


Gorno Badakhshan (Mountainous Badakhshan, in Russian language) or GBAO is the Eastern part of Tajikistan , a Central Asian Republic of the ex-USSR. It is also part of the Pamir Mountains where several of the highest summits of the world are located: Peak Communist (7495 meters) and Peak Lenin (7134 meters). The GBAO is bordered by the Afghan Badakhshan, China , Kirghiztan and Uzbekistan . The river Gound (which flows into Amu Daria or the Oxus , as it was called by the Greeks) borders GBAO on the South.

The population of GBAO is about 250,000, mainly Shia Ismailis. The rest of the population is made of Sunni Muslim Tajiks and of Kirghizs.


Who are the organizers?


Pierre Claquin is a French medical epidemiologist who worked in GBAO between 1992 and 1996. He last visited GBAO in the summer of 2005. Pierre Claquin is also a photographer ( www.ventsdest.net ) with several exhibitions (including a book on the circuses of Bangladesh ). In January 2005 he organized a photographic workshop in Bangladesh with the Luminous Landscape ( www.luminous-landscape.com ) for 12 participants.


His wife moumina Dorgabekova, a native of GBAO is a medical anthropologist and photographer.

Pamir Voyages is a local travel agency legally registered with the authorities of the government of Tajikistan . It is operated by a dynamic group of trained people interested in sustainable development and environmental issues. They have an intimate knowledge of their Oblast and of its resources and a genuine interest in sharing it with you. They are all fluent in English, Russian, Tajik and several of the local languages.


Proposed Itinerary


Day 1: Saturday July 8 th


Arrival late evening in Dushanbe , the capital of Tajikistan , if you flew from Munich on Tajikistan Airlines. Welcome at the airport and transportation to your comfortable high-end hotel.


Day 2: Sunday July 9 th


Rest in the morning. Briefing. Lunch and visit of museum and of the colorful outdoors market. Diner in a popular restaurant.


Day 3: Tuesday July 11 th


Early departure by road to Khorog the capital of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO is the province of the Pamir Mountains ) in comfortable, air-conditioned four-wheal drive vehicles. The spectacular 556 km-journey will take us east through the Khaburabot pass (3252 meters) and then up along the river Pyanj (that becomes downstream the Amu Darya . Arrival at the Khorog Serena Inn late evening.


Day 4: Wednesday July 12 th


Late morning visit of the local market. Briefing. In the afternoon visit of the museum and of the botanical garden (view of Khorog city). Diner in a traditional Pamiri house.


Day 5: Thursday July 13 th


Travel to Garm Chashma (natural hot spring). Bath in the open pool for men and in a closed bath for women.


Travel to Ishkhashim along the Pyanj river, bordering Afghanistan . On the way we shall pass the Kuh-i-Lal ruby mine, already mentioned by Marco Polo. Night halt in Ishkashim, the main town of the Wakhan valley.


Day 6: Friday July 14 th


We shall enter the Wakhan corridor and drive east along its northern border until the village of Langar .


The Wakhan corridor is a narrow area assigned to Afghanistan in the 19 th century by the stake holders of the "Great Game" ( Russia and the British Empire ) as a buffer between their respective areas of influence (Russian Central Asia and the British Raj). The finger-like territory is bordered by Pakistan in the South, China on the East and Tajikistan (GBAO) on the North. Photographers Sabrina and Roland Michaud became famous in the seventies with their "Caravan to Tartary" book traveling with Bactrian camel caravans in the Wakhan territory. The Wakhan corridor was considered as the "Buddhist segment of the Silk Road " (at least of one of the several Silk Roads) and Marco Polo went through it on his way to China . On the way we shall discover the remains of several fortresses and ancient rock paintings. The Wakhan valley itself is very photogenic and offers good views of the snow-caped peaks of the Hindukush range..

Day 7: Saturday July 15 th

We shall leave the Tajik rural villages and their way of life to reach the Kyrghyz nomadic pastoral territory. The road climbs up for several hours before becoming a rougher track entering the Zorkul lake Nature Reserve. At the end of the day we shall reach the Jarty Gumbez hunting camp (4130 meters).


Day 8-10: Sunday July 16 th - Tuesday July 18 th


For three days professional hunters will take us in the many valleys of the area to watch the elusive wildlife of the area: the famous Marco Polo sheep, the world's longest-horned argali sheep - a protected species; Ibex; Wolves; Foxes; Marmots;


and if really lucky the magnificent snow leopard, an elusive and fast-disappearing creature. Bearded vultures and golden eagles can also be observed. Those of you familiar with photo safaris know that starting before dawn and staying until the last light, having experienced guides and being blessed with luck and baraka are the essential ingredients for - perhaps -seeing animals. We shall try..


Day 11: Wednesday July 19 th


We shall then proceed to the headquarters of Murghab district ( Murgab ) on the scenic road coming from China . Night halt in Murghab.


Day 12: Thursday July 20 th


Meeting with the development agency ACTED to discuss development and eco-tourism in Murghab district. We shall then visit the lakes of Chor Kul and Rangkul with the Chinese Muztagh Ata Mountain in the background.

Day 13: Friday July 21 th

Traveling west to the Alichur Pamir we shall drive through the Naizatash pass (4137 meters). At the holy source of Ak-Balyk we will drive north through the Bazar-Dara pass (4664 m) to reach an old deserted iron ore mine, an 11 th century caravanserail and interesting rock carvings. We shall reach the Yeshil Kul (the Green lake) before sunset. Night halt in the village of Bulunkul . Briefing on the next days' trekking.


Day 14-17: Saturday July 22- Tuesday 25th


The 4-day trek to the Sarez lake will be another highlight of the trip. Those who choose not to go for trekking will be offered other activities: attending a traditional wedding, or witnessing the art of creating wool carpets, namad, by Pamiri women. The Sarez lake is 60 km long and was created in 1911 by an earthquake. There are concerns about the possibility of an ecological disaster if another earthquake was to break the natural dam of rocks and mud. The trek goes through spectacular landscapes, along 4 small lakes before reaching the Sarez lake and the dam. The trek is rated level 3 on a scale of 5. We shall sleep outdoors for 3 nights and our local collaborators will set camp and prepare the evening meal ahead of us. At the end of the trip, night halt in Barchadev village.


Trek from the western end of Yeshil Kul lake (lower third on the right side of the satellite picture) to Lake Sarez (lower left).


Day 18: Wednesday 26 th


On the way back to Khorog we shall discover the Bartang valley which has been described as "offering the most varied scenery of the Pamirs". The road follows the river and is at times almost at water level while at other times it climbs several hundred feet above it.Lunch in a local village. Short halt to discover the provincial town of Rushan . Night halt at the Serena Inn in Khorog.


Day 19: Thursday 27 th


Weather permitting, flying back to Dushanbe in the morning. Night halt at a comfortable high-end hotel.


Day 2: Friday 28 th


If flying had not been possible the preceding day, fly back to Dushanbe . Otherwise shopping and cultural activities. Night halt in Dushanbe


Day 22: Saturday 29 th


Early morning departure for Munich and home.


The costs


For each of the nine participants the costs will be US$ 4,900 starting from and leaving from the capital of Tajikistan , Dushanbe . It does not include the air travel from your point of origin to Dushanbe and back. The costs include all travel in the country, meals, beverages (including safe water and alcohol), accommodation (double occupancy) for 21 nights.


Single accommodation will be a possibility only for 7 nights (in Dushanbe and Khorog) at an additional costs of 600 USD per person. In the field all participants might have to share a common room at times, like they do in the Himalayas or Alps high altitude refuges .


Are not included in the costs :

Fares to and from Dushanbe and your point of origin
Additional tips for staff such as local guides and drivers
Fees for passport, visas, immunizations and insurance
Laundry, phone and other items of a personal nature

Cost of medicines, hospitalization and evacuation if necessary


A deposit of USD$ 2500 per person is required at registration to validate it and the balance of US$ 2400 will be expected no later than March 1rst, 2006. US$ 2000 will be refunded for cancellation occurring before March 1rst, 2006. After March 1rst, cancellation will translate into a refund of all monies received (minus US$ 500) if and after a replacement has been found and the totality of the fee has been received.

All monies received will be immediately reimbursed should the photographic adventure be cancelled for reasons beyond the control of the organizers.


How to get there?


There are direct flights from Munich to Dushanbe once a week (Saturday). You can find out more on the flights at:

Tajikistan Airlines Germany
Munich Airport
Terminal 1, Modul C
5. Floor, Room C5311
85335 München-Flughafen
  +49-89-97 59 42 10
  +49-89-97 59 42 16



Flights from Almaty are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.There are also flights from Istanbul to Dushanbe on Tuesdays and daily flights from Moscow on Tajikistan airlines.


Liability Limitation


Pierre Claquin and Pamir Voyages, our guides, drivers and local collaborators aim to provide every participant a safe, educational, and enjoyable experience. We act solely as agents for you regarding accommodations, special activities, and travel, by any means, and assume no liability for any act, error, omission, injury, loss, delay, mishap, or damage to persons or property arising from any cause during the course of the GBAO Photographic Adventure or in transit thereto. We can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in the services to be provided. We reserve the right to change our arrangements should conditions necessitate, or to cancel any aspect of the workshop due to exceptional circumstances. In the event that we deem it necessary to cancel the GBAO Photographic Adventure we will provide a full refund which the participant acknowledges as full and final settlement.

As there is always an element of risk in any adventure associated with the outdoors and high altitude, participants must read this form carefully . This liability release will certify that the participant is physically fit and capable of participating in outdoor photography exercises in field locations at an altitude of above 10,000 feet, and is fully and completely aware of any associated risks created by field locations and weather.

By joining this workshop I acknowledge that I have read the above information concerning responsibility and release Pierre Claquin, Pamir Voyages, their guides, drivers, and any cooperating agent from any liability. Pierre Claquin and Pamir Voyages will assume no liability for injury, illness, or loss of personal property or expenses thereof associated with workshop participation.


Convinced? Eager to be one of the first few explorers? Contact us at ventsdest@yahoo.com
Remember there are only 9 seats in July of 2006.

If you are not available in July but would like to be considered for a possible adventure in August or if you have any question about the GBAO Photographic Adventure, please write to ventsdest@yahoo.com

We look forward to have you discover "La'li Badakhshan" with us this summer.