Road to Shiva, and Yaks

Somewhere in the course of our Badakhshan trip our team decided that we need to add yaks to our PARSA Farm. So this morning Yasin, Habib and I started our day bright and early and headed to the livestock market to search for baby “khashgaows”. We didn’t find what we were looking for so Reese and our new driver, Noorullah, joined our team and we headed towards the mountains, with Lake Shiva as our goal, in the hope of finding yak herders on route.

Our “pair of Laughmanis” drivers – Habib and Noorullah.

The road was beautiful, following a river beneath snow-capped mountains lined by trees with autumn leaves of reds and oranges shining underneath a bright blue sky. Our search for yaks was quickly answered when we saw a group of the giant hairy beasts being herded up the road. We jumped out of the van to admire their greatness and for Yasin to negotiate with the owner. The outcome, although no promises yet, is that we will one day soon have a pair of adorable baby yaks roaming around our PARSA gardens.


We continued on from yak-bargaining and followed the road towards Shiva Lake, a crystalline high-alpine lake that we thought would make a good setting for a Voice of Afghan Youth trip. Along the road we came upon a pair of locals leading a trio of gorgeous, full-sized, hot-blooded Kyrgyz buzkashi horses. Again we all jumped out of the car to admire their beauty and for Yasin to ask for prices. When the rider told him 60,000, we initially thought he was talking in afghanis and were already pulling out our wallets – after all 60,000 afs is what Yasin had paid for the horses who are now living on our PARSA Farm and getting such a beautiful animal for the same price was clearly an unmissable deal. However we soon realized our mistake when the rider clarified that the horse’s value was actually 60,000 dollars and all three of them were owned by a rich official who was not looking forward to giving up his prestigious animals. They were on their way to Faizabad to take part in a 10 day Buzkashi that started this afternoon (check back in with our blog tomorrow to learn more about buzkashi – we’ll be taking our Voice of Afghan Youth kids to the event).

The horses’ high prices didn’t stop us from dreaming about owning one, or from getting in a quick gallop up and down the mountain road on one of the large chestnut stallions. As a fairly experienced rider I can honestly say I have never ridden something with so much powerful grace anywhere in the world. Central Asia – from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan – is still the world’s heart when it comes to beautiful horses.

We continued onwards but soon realized that after three hours of driving Lake Shiva was still at least five hours away, so there was no way we could make it there and back to Faizabad before nightfall. We reluctantly turned around, with Reese and I having to shelve our competitive plans to experience a November swim in a glacial lake. All in all, the day was a success. We learned about tomorrow’s buzkashi which will be a perfect setting for our VOAY outing, we tentatively ordered baby yaks for our PARSA Farm, and Yasin set a new dream for himself – owning a buzkashi horse.

Livestock market, early in the morning

Yasin bargaining with the yak herders

Yasin bargaining with the yak herders

The gorgeous horses of Badakhshan.

Riding beautiful horses in front of beautiful mountains.