the mountains are a second home for Maxim, having spent a lifetime exploring the mountains of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In between trips he is a fledgling writer, planning to publish a series of short stories in Russian.
Salam! I am Maxim and I am from Tashkent. I've been working in the tourism business since 2005, but much earlier I started to go to the mountains. Since my home country does not have very high mountains, I have been going to our neighbouring countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Today I am a Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan trekking guide and lead trips for World Expeditions travellers.
I am 28, I'm single, but not lonely. I like biking and big cats and I am fond of studying languages (I speak Russian, English and Spanish) and exploring the world’s history and geography. I am also an aspiring writer (in Russian) and I plan to publish a book of short stories. I much enjoy meeting new people.
When did you decide to become a mountain trekking guide?
I decided to become a trekking guide after a successful one-day mountain trip with a group of Italians in 2007. It was my pioneering trip with foreigners and it assured me that I could be a trekking guide. Mountains are my second home, so in this role as a trekking guide I mix business with pleasure.
Throughout the year, I work with a local travel agency as tour manager, but in summer I usually go to the mountains as a trekking guide. I have a mountain guide certificate that was handed by our Ministry of Tourism after I completed a special training.
What are your responsibilities on a Tajikistan trekking trip?
Trekking in the Pamirs Fann Mountains is a great opportunity to explore the remote mountain area of Tajikistan and a trip like that is easy to combine with visiting ancient cities of Uzbekistan like Samarkand and Bukhara.
During a mountain trek, either to Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan, I usually accompany World Expeditions groups during their trip. Mostly, my role is that of translator and tour leader. I help travellers to cross the Uzbek-Tajik border, communicate with the Tajik and Kyrgyz support teams on the trek and I manage potential problems or difficulties that can occur. After all, mountains are mountains, aren't they?
I know the standards of service of World Expeditions and it is my responsibility as a guide to make sure that these standards are held during the trek.
What do you like best about your job?
I like the fact that one trek in the mountains can convert absolute strangers into good friends. Over the last ten years being a mountain guide, I've seen a lot of fun. Most of the funny moments occur because of the difference in our cultures, habits or points of view. For example, I remember seeing women travellers in miniskirts on a trek, or the one time on a trip in the Pamirs Fann Mountains when we had an enormous mule that roared like a lion - and frightened the travellers. I also enjoy to teach the tourists how to say words like ‘forward’, ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ etc in or Tajik language.
What is your favourite place in Tajikistan?
I have two favourite places in Tajikistan, both of them are actually included in the Pamirs Fann Mountains trek:
This is the "Thursday" bazaar in Khujand city, which is known as the "Northern capital" of Tajikistan. I enjoy this place as this is one of the most colourful, traditional and interesting spots in Tajikistan. Of course there is quite a lot of noise and there are many people, but oriental bazaars are a great opportunity to meet the real people of Central Asia. It allows us to see how they live, smile, bargain or just talk, to admire the colours of their national clothes, and to have a look at local food & drinks they sell. Moreover, Panch-Shanbe bazaar is built in Soviet time and it looks quite monumental, it is an architectural monument itself.
Kulikalon Valley lies in the heart of the Pamirs Fann Mountains and is known for Big Wall, several celestial lakes and relict juniper. A pretty experienced traveller from World Expeditions told me on a past trek that he thought this place is as impressive as the best mountain views of Nepal. In summertime, there are some locals living in this valley so it is possible to look at how they survive, what they cook and eat, etc.
What, in your career as a trekking guide, is your best memory ever?
My best memory ever is when I witnessed the falling of semi-transparent rocks of ice from cornice glacier in Tien-Shan Mountains (Kyrgyzstan). The rocks were the size of a table and it was really impressive and quite dangerous at the same time. The rocks were falling down and rolling about 300 metres down the slope.
If travellers want to bring something to Tajikistan, what should it be?
Most people of Tajikistan are not used to see too many foreigners. However, you will notice on a Tajikistan trekking trip that they are very friendly and hospitable. When you meet locals in the Pamirs Fann Mountains, most of them will offer you a cup of sour-milk or fresh bread. What a tourist can give them back? The best thing is usually to donate to local schools or community centres so that they can distribute the goods evenly. Another way to support the locals is for example to buy something at the bazaars, in local shops, or to buy hand-made goods directly from the craftsmen. Also, your local trekking team will be glad to get tips at the end of the trek.
What is your number 1 advice for people who are considering a Tajikistan trekking holiday?
I would ask trekkers to please read their trek description before departing to Tajikistan. If you like the view of snow-capped mountains, juniper-tree valleys and celestial-blue lakes - this type of trek is for you. However, you also should be ready for quite hot days (don't forget sun protection, swimming-suit and sandals), daily altitude drops of up to 500-1000m, and walking a considerable distance every day. If you aren't sure about the two treks in the Pamirs Fann Mountains, maybe you could consider one of the easier treks that World Expeditions offer in Central Asia (e.g. to the Tien-Shan Mountains)?
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Central Asia was a region formerly closed from foreign tourists; now it is opened & waiting for brave trekkers to explore it.
Please, coming to our land, respect our traditions, consider our differences and enjoy our similarity.
Welcome to Central Asia!
Meet Maxim or one of his fellow Tajikistan trekking guides on these hiking holidays in the mountains of Tajikistan:
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