In this high, barren valley called Little Pamir, survival depends on livestock. Red-robed Kyrgyz girls corral sheep for milking, while dung dries atop the walls for use as fuel. The sheep, along with goats, yaks, and camels, provide milk, meat, and wool and even serve as currency: One lamb buys 110 pounds of flour.
Kyrgyz herders adore their cell phones, which they acquire by trading and keep charged with solar-powered car batteries. Though useless for communication—cellular service doesn’t reach the isolated plateau—the gadgets are used to play music and take photos.
A girl carries a pair of lambs to be reunited with their mothers for the night. On especially cold days the vulnerable young animals are kept warm in cloth bags hung in the herders’ huts. The Kyrgyz complain that their winters are brutal. But would they want to call any other place home?
Blanket-draped yaks hunker down outside a young couple’s yurt on the eve of a summer trading journey. Made of interlaced poles covered with felt, these portable homes are packed up and reassembled for seasonal migration. Wooden doors are imported to the treeless plateau from lower altitudes.
Kyrgyz girls slide plastic jugs back to their family’s camp after chopping a hole in a frozen spring to fetch water. Men handle herding and trading; much of the hard labor of daily life falls to the females.