Garm (or Gharm, Ғарм) is a town – the biggest one, as far as I know – between Dushanbe and the border with Kyrgyzstan at Jirgitol, i.e., the only border besides the one on the Pamir Highway and the one(s) near Khujand. It lies along the road that leads to Sary-Tash, Kyrgyzstan, the crossroads on the way to Osh and points north. In a couple of days we are going to try to cross this border, having heard rumors that it might be open (it’s normally closed), unless the local drivers or other knowledgeable folk know otherwise. Besides the fact that I’m on my way north towards Kyrgyzstan anyway, Anna is hoping to interview some people here about their agriculture. Her contacts got us a place to stay in a guest house.
Garm was described to me as a “большой город” (big city) – the fact that this is true in even a relative sense indicates how remote the area is. I can’t imagine Garm has more than a couple thousand people. On the way to it, we passed only tiny settlements of a few houses, rarely more, but usually marked by official city-limit signs – sometimes nothing at all seemed to be between the signs. In one of the inhabited ones, a little girl came to try to sell us white mulberries. (No thanks.)
The drive was a bit under 200 km, but it took a lot longer than the 2.5 hours suggested by Google Maps, if anyone would be so silly as to use that for an indication in this part of the world. (Nor could they, very easily, because Gharm isn’t really on Google’s map [!]).
I got some amazing – and scary – mountain views from the extremely windy, narrow, usually unpaved road on the edge of a cliff (with no guardrail) that we drove along, way too fast, in a 1980s Mercedes with bald tires. Even with the dusty breeze from the open windows, it was hot. (Much of the way was actually a decent paved road, not that that made the Central Asian driving any less maniacal, but the mountains were the kind of ride you never forget.)
Backing up in the story, we shared a “taxi” with a young Tajik guy who asked to stop about five times along the way in search of the best tomatoes from the produce stands that dot the road near towns (mostly Dushanbe). He was curious about us, but eventually grew tired of my broken Russian.
GPS track: if you look at the street map of Garm, you’ll see there isn’t one. In some places you can see on the map the twists of the road along the mountain slope that weren’t recorded by the GPS due to only keeping a point every 30 seconds.
Posted from Districts of Republican Subordination, Tajikistan.