Friday, June 11, 2010


Beyong China's Xinjiang lie the Central Asian republics ending with stan. Tajikistan in particular seems jam packed with mostly undeveloped hot springs, especially in the Pamir region (see this listing).

Surprise surprise
Making a loop in the Pamir region starting from the town of Khorog, due south and up a side road is most probably the biggest and most well-known hot spring named
Garm Chashma (Gharm Chasma).

The hot spring of 2,700m high located Garm consists of a larger tavertine pool and smaller bath house. Local soaking traditions are conservative but sans suit.
'The top attraction in this place is the hot spring that runs nearby. The sanatorium has setup a little indoor pool where you can splash around in the 75c degree water, while it’s negative something temperature outside. Sharing the pool with a dozen naked Pamiris (as, we were joined by another jolly group later on) was definitely an experience that won’t fade quickly'.
On centralasianliving blog there's this entry by a shy Finnish lady:
'It was ladies time to bathe in the outside pool and we headed up a little hill to find this pool behind a wall. There were some local women bathing there. And they did not wear swimming suits. But do not fear, we did. We, the brave, Northern, Finnish people who spend all our lives going to sauna naked carefully covered ourselves. Somehow swimming outside in a hot spring in our birth suits did not feel comfortable. But local ladies were very comfortable and even commented on our swimming suits. 'You don't need to wear one!' 'Oh, yes, I need to!'.
Why would anyone need to?
The times which each gender can enjoy the different hot spring pools alternate. It can give cause to some
'It alternates between men and women, and I'd looked across from the hotel and seen men getting changed, so decided it was safe to go. There was no-one around at the entrance so I walked up the steps in the travertine deposit and was greeted by the sight of lots of naked women. I dashed back down the steps hoping that no-one had seen me; there were no shouts so I guess I got away with it. Abdullah was at the bottom laughing and herded me into a bath house for another soak'.
Because it reliefs pain it got a reputation of a holy spring.
'There in the end of the 19th century the local inhabitants built altars - small niches in the rock near the place where water comes onto the surface; they put there various sacred objects and burning lamps'.
More in depth info available as well as a video.Or here.

The above photo's are on Flickr (2007) taken by Bogsnes:
'Garm Chasma natural hot springs. Tajikistan'.
Continuing southwards towards the Wakhan border there is the small and little known hot spring of Oudzh. Presumably this following refers to Oudzh:
'Back on the road I saw a hot spring flowing into a round pool . Of course I had to jump in; the water was at about body temperature which was blissful on a hot day. From the pool I could see Afghan farmers working in the fields onthe other side of the valley and the snow capped peaks of the Hindu Kush in the distance. It was quite surreal. A local lad turned up who bizarrely spoke French so we chatted for a while and I started to think about getting out of the pool. Just then an old guy appeared, collecting fire wood. I wasn't sure about whether it was appropriate for me to emerge near naked from the pool with him around, so I decided to stay submerged till he was gone. I needn't have worried though; when he'd collected the wood he needed he asked me if it was OK to get in the pool, stripped off and jumped in. We chatted for a bit, then I got dressed and carried on'.
The picture below from the same report as above says it all ....

Holy grotto
Next is the other famous hot spring of this region, that of Bibi Fatima.
'The full name is the Ostoni Bibi Fotimai Zakhro hot spring, which literally means ‘holy site of the sleeves of Bibi Fatima.’ The story behind the hot springs is that it is believed to improve female fertility. I'm not sue about the fertility part, but the hot spring sure was relaxing'.
'Hot water spring in the Wakhan valley - Bibi Fatima'.
By Kjartans bilder

Located 7kms uphill this hot spring in a cave again has alternating sessions:
'Mathieu and Yann had the first session, then Myriam and I got to enter the hot spring water with a bunch of cute old naked Tajik women. Women supposedly come to bathe here for help with fertility problems. The water comes directly from the spring into a small cave where a cabin has been built to shelter the cave'.
There's a waterfall nearby as well as views over the Wakhan valley and closer the Yamchun fort.

Heading westwards from here there are many mentions of hot springs. Zong hot spring is located
between Vrang and Langar.
'Zong has loads of hot springs which we liked the sound of. We found a nice homestay run by a friendly woman who spoke a bit of English, then set off to the hot springs to have a wash before dinner. It was actually quite a mission to find the springs; we climbed endlessly up and down steep village paths, but we got there eventually, completely freaking out the lads from the village who were already there'.

Taking the side road (way) into the Wakhan valley proper, there are a few small villages some with hot springs. This source refers to hot springs in Sheulk and Sarhad. There is a hot spring located near Sargaz (Sargez):
'This hot spring is located in Sargez just past Kipkut. Two mud huts have been built over the hot spring for privacy. It is not five star but when you have been short of hot water it's a welcome treat. The water is emptied after each person, so it can take a short time to fill. The man who runs it is extremely friendly, we paid 100 Afghanis each to support his work'.
Kipkut may have it's own hot spring?

Trekking further would bring you possibly to Ararakar hot spring near Bourguitar village.

Instead of going up the valley one can continue enroute to Murghab. Before though are the hot springs of Issyk Bulak (Issyk-Bulok) near the village of Bulunkul and the Yashikul lake. In fact there are many hot springs:
'Near the Alichur estuary there is a hot hydrogen sulphide spring named Issyk-bulak. The water wells up from four geysers located along the foot of the granite mountain, with temperatures reaching 71 °C. The spring is surrounded by ruins of clay buildings (probably tombs), and local residents consider it to be holy. One small clay construction has a pool for collecting hot spring water'.
Some springs are as below.

'warm water spring near Bulunkul'
[translation] by
driving dutchmen

Other hot springs seem a little less inspiring:
'a DIY hot spring – a small shed with a bathtub in the centre with a small black polythene pipe flowing into it. The place looked pretty filthy so despite having not showered for several days we decided to give the spring a miss'.
Completing a loop and while returning to Khorough one can visit the hot spring of Jelandy (Jilinda, Julandee, Djelandi, Jelondy). Here is a photo of outside of bathing complex.
Some people make odd cultural discoveries while soaking:
'We arrived in Jelandy in the late afternoon, where we checked into the local truckstop / hot springs. We were pretty keen on more hots prings, but were disappointed by the grotty settings: lots of men (including one carrying a large rifle), public baths with tiles covered in about 2 years worth of scum filled with luke warm spring water. We hadn't bathed in almost a week, otherwise we probably wouldn't have entered the pools. Myriam and I didn't even take a pre-bath shower, a taboo, since we were covered in dirt (this really grossed Mathieu and Yann out when they heard). We also made an important Tajik cultural discovery pertaining to shaving. We had already observed that Tajik women don't shave their legs nor their armpits, but after two naked public baths we were able to conclude that there seems to be widespread shaving of another part of the body...weird (note this was mainly Myriam's discovery)'.
Beyond Murghab are is the hot spring of Madiyan (Madjan, Madian, Median) located in the Olesu valley. Located at 2 hours from Murghab it's suggested in a UN doc that it has ecotourism potential. It's current status though is described as follows:
'Hot springs are developed, with a bathhouse, greenhouse, cafe and yurt camp'.
A German language blog on Madiyan adds that there are two bathhouses with 3 by 6 m pools. An experience:
'After spending what was apparently a sufficient amount of time questioning and commiserating with the greenhouse’s keepers, we were invited to take a dip in the hot springs. I looked around, confused; all I saw were yurts and the very cold-looking brook. I caught sight of my boss just as he was ducking into a rectangular dried-mud hut; he pointed his disappearing arm around the corner to what turned out to be the women’s half of the indoor hot springs.
When packing for a road trip that ranged in liberating climate from Afghanistan to the frigidly cold Eastern Pamirs, I didn’t exactly think to bring my bathing suit. Thankfully, I was informed that people don’t wear any clothes in Tajik hot springs. Um, what?! I wasn’t overly comfortable with the thought of someone – perhaps even my male colleagues, if fate decided to serve me up a particularly unlucky day – walking in on me stark naked. I decided to go the conservative route and remain fully clothed (in my head scarf and floor-length kurta, to boot) and instead just give my feet a soak.To call it a ‘hot’ spring was a bit of an understatement. I might as well have stuck my feet in a tub of molten lava because I’m pretty sure that’s how hot the water was. I’m just glad I was enough of a prude to not have gone ‘all-in’ and that it was only my feet that suffered what felt like third-degree burns'.
Others also describe it as relaxing or too hot ...
More than 120 km due south of Murghab is the 'undeveloped' hot spring of Shaimak.

Closer to Dushabe
Elsewhere in Tadjikistan closer to it's capital of Dushanbe is the hot spring of
Obigarm. To the south east. Due to the proximity to the more populated world it's been redeveloped and now is known as a sanatorium.

Not to be confused with Obigarm, Obigram-Kodja is due north of Dushanbe, higher in the mountains. And though one associates soaking with pleasure, it seems here the soakers are patients:
'This is a large comfortable health center for 700 people. There are several sanatoriums and health care buildings. One can also find here a special complex of "paroemanatorium" - where vapor of set proportion and temperature is used for treatment. All necessary conditions and conveniences are at the patients' disposal after medical procedures'.
For a full back ground look at this website complete with Soviet style 'resort'.

Other info:
'In 1948, a hole of 1,300 meters deep was drilled by geologists in Khavotag, Ura-Tube district. The hot water coming from the drill-hole was proved to be curative for many diseases. Now, the healing water of Khavotag is used for the treating many muscle and bone diseases, distal nervous system and dermal problems'.
'Shohambary sanatorium operates at the territory of Hissar District. Its mineral water temperature ranges from 37 to 42 C. In summer time, besides in-patients, the sanatorium also hosts out-patients. Digestive system diseases are treated here'.
Other of Tajikistan's best-known springs are: Anzob, Sangkhok, Yavroz, and Tashbulak. Unfortunately no other details? Possibly cooler soaks?

No comments:

Post a Comment