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Tulparkul: Heaven on Earth

January 10, 2018

 

 

 

If someone asked you to describe a land that gods and mythical creatures once roamed what would you say? Vast sweeping valleys? Towering mountains? Lush green hills? Kel and I would soon come to realise that we may just have found that mythical place........

 

 

 

Switchbacks (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/50 sec at f/2.2, ISO 122

 

Roadside Mountain Textures (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/1600 sec at f/4, ISO 640, 70mm

 

 

Shamil Purchasing some Kumis (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/125 sec at f/13, ISO 200, 7mm

 


Equipped with a “fresh” used vehicle, a year’s worth of food, cooking supplies and a friendly driver who went by the name Shamil, we were set to begin the next leg of our adventure. I have to admit I felt relaxed not having the worry of driving and navigating the less than ideal roads. It was also a good feeling to know I could doze off and sleep without plummeting a few hundred metres off a cliff.

 

 

Word on the grapevine was that hiring a good driver and vehicle is somewhat of a lottery. Some cars had clearly spent their life climbing the Pamirs … they lacked air conditioning and tread on their tyres … basically on their death bed.  When requesting a driver who speaks English, take "Yes they speak some English" with a grain of salt. English could just as likely mean the extent of their vocabulary is “hi", "yes" and "no". Not saying this is a deal breaker by any means, just remember you're in central Asia.  Luckily for us, Shamil spoke our native language well, and his car was in good repair. I should also point out that he was a very responsible and safe driver, polar opposites to the man we saved from the car crash. 

 

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Storms Approaching (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/50 sec at f/2.2, ISO 120

 

 

Life on the Roadside (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/1250 sec at f/4, ISO 1000, 100mm

 

 

To be honest, I had no real idea what our next destination looked like or contained. I was just happy to go along for the ride. All I knew was that it was somewhere in the lower regions of Peak Lenin and that the view would no doubt be stunning.

 

 

 

En route to Tulparkul we stopped in a small town by the name of Sary Tash to grab a bite to eat. The “restaurant” was a little family operated room with four tables and an equal amount of food choices. It was here we began to cross paths with other like-minded travellers and adventurers as this was the first leg of many people’s Pamir Highway journey. It was here that we bumped into the friendly Canadian guy I sat next to en route to Kyrgyz Ata. It turns out he had found a group of people to share a car with and was on his way to the Chinese border, which at the time was in potential lockdown due to some political event.

 

 

Brothers From the Sary Tash Restaurant (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/3200 sec at f/3.5, ISO 200, 7mm

 

 

A Large line of powerlines cuts through the barren landscape (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/200 sec at f/7.1, ISO 200, 100mm

 

 

Continuing out of Sary Tash we eventually turned off into a vast expanse of land, un-signposted and easy to miss. We followed the dirt road through low undulating hills towards the towering snow-capped peaks that form the Pamir Mountains. 

 

 

Hitting the first of our small river crossings I knew we were in a place that was unlike anything we had seen before. Enormous clouds hung low on the peaks, and a dusting of fog began to surround the valley. I had Shamil pull over so I could drone the first sizeable blue lake. What I saw blew me away.………..

 

 

 

Creek Crossings (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/320 sec at f/7.1, ISO 200, 7mm

 

 

The Road to Tulparkul (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/5000 sec at f/4, ISO 640, 12mm

 

 

The Car (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/5000 sec at f/4, ISO 640, 12mm

 

 

Tuparkul Expanse (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/100 sec at f/2.2, ISO 137

 

 

Rays of Light Illuminate a Nearby Mountain Range (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/50 sec at f/2.2, ISO 118

 

 

One hundred metres down the road we arrived at the small yurt camp which consisted of 4 yurts and a large shipping container where the kitchen and meal area was located. We were greeted by the smiling faces of the young Singaporean couple and 2 Korean guys we had also met in Kyrgyz Ata. Formalities aside, we threw our bags into the Yurts, and I set off to explore the area fuelled by a ‘slight’ bit of excitement.

 

 

 

Our Yurt Camp (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/100 sec at f/6.3, ISO 200, 38mm

 

 

A Storm's Approaching (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/200 sec at f/4, ISO 640, 25mm

 

 

I decided to make a B-line straight for the most significant mountains and up towards a small tent that was pitched on the hill. Nearing the rise the enormous scale of the area became apparent. Numerous horses passively grazed on the rolling green hills and over in the distance I could see a lone horseman herding sheep and goats up an impossibly steep slope.

 

 

Idyllic Camp Site (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/2500 sec at f/6.3, ISO 200, 130mm

 

 

Intrigued (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/160 sec at f/10, ISO 200, 7mm

 

 

Rays of Light Illuminate a Nearby Mountain Range (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/115 sec at f/2.2, ISO 100

 

 

Double Rainbow and Moody Skies (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/4000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 200, 7mm

 

 

Post  Storm Reflections (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/3000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 200, 7mm

 

 

TulparKul Views (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/3000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 200, 7mm

 

 

Moody Peak (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/4000 sec at f/4, ISO 640, 30mm

 

 

A wide, rocky river led down from Peak Lenin, reduced to a mere trickle as the temperatures began to drop, signalling the change in season. I set the tripod atop a particularly sketchy dirt spine, made even more precarious as the rain started to fall lightly.

 

 

Dinner was spent huddled in the shipping container, drinking warm soup and eating our staple diet of bread. It was here I offered Shamil and one of the other local drivers Vegemite to try. After a quick check to see whether our national food was Halal certified the two men ate it with little to no change in expression. It was established that both men enjoyed the salty taste. Rare for most first time tasters.

 

 

The Lone Wanderer (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/20 sec at f/10, ISO 200, 47mm

 

 

Sunrise (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/200 sec at f/7.1, ISO 200, 12mm

 

 

That Mythical Horse (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/2500 sec at f/10, ISO 200, 9mm

 

 

Over the past few days I had been too tired to shoot the sunrise. This time I thought the 3:30 am wake up would surely be worth it. As sunrise go, the cloud formations and fire skies weren’t particularly noteworthy, the beautiful soft light however was. 

 

 

Self Portraits During Sunrise (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/60 sec at f/2.2, ISO 100

 

 

The Hills (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/4000 sec at f/4, ISO 640, 25mm

 

 

Colourful Fields of Flowers (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/30 sec at f/7.1, ISO 200, 12mm

 


I could see Kel in the distance wrapped in his signature red jacket, providing my shots with a sense of depth and scale that only a small person can give. For the first time since arriving, Peak Lenin presented itself in its full glory. It took me by surprise as I was under the impression it was much smaller than it was.

 

 

King of Tulparkul (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/80 sec at f/2.2, ISO 100

 

 

Beams of Light Shine Through the Dark Clouds (Matt Horspool)

DJI Mavic Pro + Polar Pro CPL: 1/105 sec at f/2.2, ISO 10

 

 

The Ultimate Picnic Location (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/40 sec at f/6.3, ISO 200, 75mm

 

 

Shrouded (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 300mm f/4 Pro +MC-14 Teleconverter: 1/2000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 640, 420mm

 

 

The Many Lakes of Tulparkul (Kel Morales)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro: 1/3000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 200, 7mm

 

 

Minimal People (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/80 sec at f/47.1, ISO 200, 29mm

 

 

Grazing (Matt Horspool)

OMD-EM1 MK2 + MZUIKO 12-100mm f/4 Pro: 1/615sec at f/6.3, ISO 200, 61mm

 

 

 

Leaving Tulparkul was like leaving behind a new friend with whom you had only just become close. Glad you had the chance to meet, sad that you had not gotten to share in more adventures and stories. 

 

 

 

 

 

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