The Oxus with views of 'Marx' and 'Engels'

The river Amu Darya (previously known by Europeans as the Oxus) is one of the longest (2400km) in Central Asia. One source of the Amu Darya is the Pamir River, which emerges from Lake Zorkul in the Great Pamir Mountain (ancient Mount Imeon) and flowing west to Qila-e Panja, it joins the Wakhan River to form the Panj River. The river also marks the Tajik – Afghan border for nearly 1000km.

This region is bound in mythology by the fact that four great rivers (the Oxus, the Indus, the Helmend, and the Gaxartes) rise from this geographic area, thus meeting the conditions of Christian, Islamic and Hindu texts for the fabled Eden. Furthermore, six thousand years ago the whole of Central Asia was lower than it is today and at that time the indications are that ideal conditions prevailed on the Pamir Plateau – an intruiging possibility!

Lake Zorkul is in fact one of a series of freshwater lakes, rich in fish and waterfowl, that cascade down a broad valley running east to west on the southern border of the Pamirs. The valley lies above 4000m altitude and for seven months of the year the valley is inaccessible to all except the best (and most reliable) 4×4 off-road vehicles – the tracks are often wet and boggy. This is not a spot to breakdown without some good support! Even the locals tend to rely on the horse rather than the machine in these parts…

Lake Zorkul

Assuming that sufficient time has been spent on acclimatization, tourists can spend many days trekking by horse or foot in this  region which offers mountain vistas and snow covered peaks in every direction. Zorkul is part of a UNESCO World Heritage conservation nature reserve and its access is controlled through permits that need to be purchased locally – Pamir Highway Adventure can procure these for you. Marco Polo sheep, Asiatic Ibex, wolves and snow leopards all inhabit this region. Among the smaller habitual mammals in the reserve are ermine, weasel, red fox, turkestan lynx and Tian Shan brown bear. Birds typical for the reserve are the Alpine goose, bearded eagle, golden eagle and kumai.