Tajik border guards on the river (Wakhan)

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Christian77
Tajikistan expert
Tajikistan expert
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Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:14 pm
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Tajik border guards on the river (Wakhan)

Post by Christian77 »

It took me ten years, but I finally had a run-in with the Tajik border guards. I walked across some sand dunes a couple hundred metres to get to the river (upper Wakhan valley on the Tajik side). We hadn't seen any guards over the last 48 hours, but they materialised out of thin air as soon as we got across the dunes. We (three obvious tourists) were approached by three calm armed guards and asked if we spoke Russian. I pretended to speak just a little and to be a dumb tourist (not hard work). They were professional and told us that the river is in fact not the border and that the border can be anywhere on the valley floor (it was braided channels in this area that move often). They were stern but fair. They obviously have some clear orders from their commanders on this sort of thing. We were walked back to the road where our chuckling driver was waiting. Off we went. No request to see passports or anything like that.

So the lesson here is that the border guards' opinion is that the main channel of the river may or may not be the border (on their map). So approach the river at your own caution. I certainly have done so many other times in many other locations (especially further up the valley where there are less guards who are more relaxed.)

Visiting sand dunes and beaches on the river seems to be discouraged. I talked to a couple of cyclists who were politely told to take down their tent (on a sandy beach) and pitch it on the other side of the road (in the dusty bushes, yay). I envy the Afghans on the other side who seem to swim and wade freely in the river.

But this being said, there is one sand dune area in the Wakhan that is criss-crossed by 4x4 cars. It's an obvious tourist attraction... And my drivers have expressed no concern when I've stuck my feet in the river in a few locations elsewhere.

If you are unfamiliar with this area, there is no violence and very little (independent) drug smuggling.The problems are way down the river in an area that the highway doesn't go anywhere near (bordering Takhar and Kunduz provinces).
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