Travel Letters

Nurek to Darvaz

Darvaz (Дарвоз)

(Khalai Khumb - Калай-Хумб)

Darvaz District

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region

Tajikistan

August 20, 2019

Hello,

The scenic viewpoint of the Nurek Reservoir heralds an exhilarating journey to the Pamir Mountains region of Tajikistan.   Little girls persuade me to buy a snack.

Down the road from Nurek my driver Bakhtiyar and I stop at a watermelon market.  Remind me to tell you the story of my “Watermelon Man.”

From Nurek the gravel highway leads to my first sight of the Panj River and the surrounding mountains.

And what a surprise.  (I should have looked more carefully at my map.)  The Panj River forms the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Hisor Fortress

Hisor City (pop 22,900)

Hisor District

Tajikistan

August 17. 2019

Set on a spacious open plain, surrounded by the Gissar, Babatag and Aktau mountain ranges, thirty kilometers from Dushanbe, the Hisor Fortress reminds us of the impermanence of empires and the futility of building walls.

It is said that the fortress was once the home of Cyrus the Great,

Since that occupation by the Persian invader, the fortress has been destroyed and rebuilt twenty-one times by succeeding forces of other brutal generals.

Iskanderkul

Iskanderkul – Lake Alexander

Sughd Province

Gissar Range

Fann Mountains

Tajikistan

August 16, 2019

Sunny and Hot

Hello,

The guidebook says that at midnight, Alexander the Great rides Bucephalus across the inky black lake.  (Iskander in Tajik is Alexander. Kul is lake.)

During the day, the Iskanderkul is an intensely bright shade of turquoise.

The outflow maintains the same fluorescent hue as it crashes downstream to form the Iskander Darya and then over a 40m high (131 feet) waterfall.

Two Lovely Weekends

Bangkok

Thailand

Monday

August 5, 2019

Hello,

Last month, my friend Gary and his partner Pat invited me to spend the weekend with them at their second home in Ban Chang, a small town in Rayong Province, a two hour’s drive south of Bangkok.

I met Gary ten years ago in my condominium building.  He is a retired American expat from Seattle.  Pat, a Thai citizen, is an executive at a Thai corporation.

Gary and I meet frequently for lunch in Bangkok.  We discuss our personal concerns as well as the issues of the day, both here and abroad.  The rules for the Thai Retirement Visa seen to change by the hour.  We share our pleasant memories and our dismay at current events “back home.”

Gary and Pat are “bikers” … the unmotorized kind.  Gary just got back from a ten-day ride in Laos and Thailand.  We agree that in Southeast Asia, as well as many other places in the world, especially in the rural areas, and despite the language barrier, most folks are curious, hospitable and kind.

The highlight of our weekend together is the visit to the Golden Mangrove Field.  We stroll along the “boardwalk” through the mangrove forest adjacent to the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand.  Lots of photo opportunities for the dense, exotic scenery and the smiling Thai visitors.

Djibouti: Lac Abbé

Lac Abbé

Djibouti

Horn of Africa

May 4, 2011

Djibouti has the modern colonial syndrome.  The French rulers departed thirty-four years ago, but here, like other places in the world, even after a generation or two, people are still pissed off.  Unlike Ethiopia, sometimes invaded, but never colonized, where everyone smiles a sparkling smile, folks in Djibouti City sneer, more or less, with a rotted out set of khat -gnawed teeth.  So what in heaven’s name am I doing here?

 I am here for the lakes.

Ah, what lakes!

Merzouga: The Dunes at Erg Chebbi

Auberge du Sud

Erg Chebbi
Merzouga
Morocco

April 23, 2013

 

My Dear Fellow Travelers,

It was a looong van drive from Fes to Merzouga.  Here in the desert we are scheduled for a shrt camel ride over the dunes of the Sahara. 

A camel ride?   Done that a couple of times.  Not my favorite activity. 

I decided to plant my boots in the sand and admire the scenery from ground level. 

 

Jan

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