Jack Brittingham's 2003 Tajikistan Marco Polo Hunt
Field Report #1, September 12, 2003
Today, after having spent the last week meticulously packing, I embarked on the first leg of my journey to the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan. Traveling to this remote location is no easy task, involving four separate jet flights totaling twenty-three hours of actual flying time, followed by sixteen to eighteen hours of jeep travel. On this particular trip there are to be no stop overs; just a series of relatively short layovers in a number of different airports.
To me, the first big hurdle is checking the bags, including your rifle, through to the destination which is Bishkek. With England being much more antigun than America, and British Airways reflecting the viewpoints of its motherland, I was glad to be done jumping through all the hoops that were required of me at the ticket counter. Even though I had all proper documentation, I felt little confidence my rifle and cartridges would make it to the final destination. I did plan ahead by making sure that one of my bags which contained no rifle or ammo, did have all the essential clothing and footwear necessary to complete the hunt. As well, I had checked in advance to make sure the camp had a suitable rifle in case mine didn't show up.
As I write this, I have completed my first two legs of the journey and am now on board the third aircraft which, after a stop in Baku, Azerbaijan, will take me to Bishkek, Kyrgizstan. At that point I will have to retrieve whatever baggage BA has seen fit to deliver, and make my way to the gate where the flight to Osh will depart. By this time I expect to be functioning at the level of a walking zombie at best. Then, assuming I successfully make it on board that flight, I will be in for another four and one half hours of flying time.
It was as I boarded my plane from London to Bishkek that I met up with my hunting partner and camera man, Michael Viljoen. I was late getting on board as I was busy faxing some paperwork to my office in Texas, and could see that Michael was somewhat concerned that I had not yet boarded the aircraft. It was good to see him again, after our trip to Tanzania only five weeks ago, where he filmed for me on my most recent African hunting adventure.
This time we will actually be filming for each other, as we take turns hunting Marco Polo rams. As difficult as good video filming is at sea level, it is many degrees more difficult at the extreme altitudes we will experience on this hunt. It seems your brain slows down to a crawl, and nothing happens with any degree of clarity in your thought processes, almost as if you are severely impaired by alcohol! A much greater effort must be made to overcome both the physical and mental challenges experienced in such an environment. Only time will tell how effective our skills will be on this hunt!
I will keep you posted as the hunt progresses.