Our saviour comes in the form of Aziz Mehboob, a friendly official in the local Aga Khan development office, which promotes Wakhan tourism. He takes us to the tented headquarters of the border police where, after much tea, a few compliments and a bit of cajoling, we finally get the handwritten letters that grant us passage. The notes, addressed to the checkpoint commanders, are our passport to the Wakhan.
The sun is high as we ride out of Ishkashim a second time. The Wakhan is breathtakingly beautiful: a wide, lush valley flanked by the Pamir Mountains and fed by melt-water rivers that rise above the snowline in the neighbouring peaks of China, Pakistan, Tajikistan and India.