Garmchashma (hot spring) is located in the middle section of the river of the same name (the right tributary of the Panj River) in the south-western spurs of the Ishkashim ridge at an altitude of 2,325m. Interestingly, ancient cartography mentions two of the original names for the river – Anderob and Rostyu-dara – but now the name of the spring is given to the entire valley. (www.tdc.tj)
The valley, whose upper stretches reach to Mayakovsky Peak, cut into the monotonous grey of the Precambrian metamorphic and quartz rocks. These rocks are completely exposed with virtually no vegetation, only covered by mudslides and river deposits at the foot of the slopes. When spring comes, Garmchashma’s white, travertine terraces seem to appear directly out of these deposits. The 7-8m-high travertine hills cascade down into the riverbed. Marbled terraces follow behind at 50cm – 1.5m interludes, separated by overhanging eaves of densely-packed stalactites. There are small holes in some of the terraces protected by low borders. As hot water pours through these holes, calcite is deposited forming ever larger terraces. The turquoise-blue water appears at a variety of temperatures, depending on the proximity to the spring’s gushing jets. The bottoms of the holes are filled with small (0.3-0.4cm) calcite balls containing silica and magnesium and aluminium oxides. Each litre of the water contains about 3 grams of various salts, mostly calcium and sodium compounds. The high lime content is probably due to the presence of carbonate rocks (limestone and dolomite) deep below the surface. The carbonated springs also have a high concentration of carbon dioxide and emit small quantities of hydrogen sulphide too.(www.tdc.tj)
The routes to the surface are also somewhat unusual – angled jets shoot out from the travertine massif to a height of 60cm. The number of such fountains is small now, but 50 years ago there were six large (up to 1m) and seven small (15cm) geysers.
The flow rate from the spring is low – about 6 litres per second, but this is quite enough to fill a man-made hot pool half a metre deep at the foot of the mountain at the famous Garmchashma spa. This medical facility is located in the river floodplain and consists of several buildings which can house up to 200 patients. Complicated skin, bone and nerve diseases are treated here using natural hot spring water, mud baths and solar therapies. In addition to the carbonate compounds, the mud contains large quantities of iron, aluminium, magnesium, strontium, fluorine and sulphur. Part of the spring’s thermal water is piped directly into the spa medical facility where there are special baths. These pipes are an unfortunate blemish on the otherwise fabulous natural beautiful creation of the travertine mounds.(www.tdc.tj)
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