The Karakorum highway and the highest border crossing in the world will be the subject of this blog once I get time enough to write it properly, for now I have uploaded some of the pictures from that trip and will fill in the story over the next week as we move through India to Nepal depending on the Wifi capabilities of the various stopping points ! Meantime hope you enjoy some of the pictures.
I have had the good fortune to live and work in China for a few years and have been a regular visitor for twenty years, I am very fond of that country and count some of my Chinese colleagues, who I have known since I recruited them, among my “old friends”. I feel very much at home in Shenzhen, Hong Kong or Shanghai were Poppy spent some months working at a law firm.
The western Urgyuar province of China and the city of Kashgar are something else altogether, in the worst times of the troubles in Northern Ireland I lived as a young man in Belfast, in many ways it had very high visibility security, checkpoints, and monitoring but that was amature night compared to what we saw in Kashgar. Every petrol station was surrounded by barbed wire and security barriers and cars were checked going in and out by police, every hotel had security, every exit from the highway to the border had a police person monitoring who was leaving and entering the highway, our passports were checked about 15 times most of them involving leaving the car and getting scanned and finally it took us 2 full days to get us and the cars cleared to go into China freely (with a guide) even though all the paperwork had been processed two months in advance…
So unless you need to go through western China to get somewhere else, don’t bother and I say that as a big fan of the country.
Part of the stress/comedy of the trip, other than waiting around for a whole day on getting clearance for the cars and then being told we could just go, was that the local government has banned normal motorbikes in favour of electric ones – very sound policy and the air quality was much better than I remembered. The side effect is that it is illegal to fill up motorbikes with petrol, including my three foreign bikers so we spent a comic two evenings trying to cajole policemen and garage owners into giving the bikes some petrol eventually needing a special permission from the central police station to get enough petrol to get to the border.
Eventually however we were released and made it to the border with Pakistan
Pakistan was a total contrast to western China, first of all the scenery on the Karakhorm highway on the Pakistan side is just stunning
At every turn a new vista would open up in front of us of jagged snow capped mountains and glaciers with this impossible road diving in and out of the valley on precarious cut outs from the sheer faces
The reason that this region is so spectacular is that it is the collision zone of the Karakoram mountain range, the Pamir mountain range and the mighty Himalayas and you can see the actual collision point where the Indus River joins the highway below
We ended up our first days travel in the lovely little town of Passau with the sun setting on the peaks overlooking our hotel
The next day the amazing show of mountains continued as we took in some ancient fortifications and made our way down the valley
As you can see at times the road hugs on to impossible soft scree slops on the edge of the river, a constant maintenance and clearing task once the snow sets in for six months of the year
As we went along there were a fair few automotive sights as well with local people clinging to small taxis and gayly decorated trucks honking in a friendly way
There is a certain part of the road which is thought to be a bit hostile to outsiders, people are known to take pot shots from the mountains at foreign cars, so we were given our own solider to deter this local sport, we diverted over the Babasar pass and on the way met some of the locals, no pot shots were fired just genuine interest from a group of guys who would not look out of place in a Taliband recruitment advert. (our solider was having a fag break just out of shot)
In the local town the hotel insisted that their guard sat outside our land rover with his shotgun all night (sorry for the poor picture but the camera was cold from the room and the air humid)
The valley around Naran was not as spectacular as the Karakoram highway itself but it could hold its own with many a Swiss valley
We did have a very adventurous run into Naran as we got the time of sunset wrong in our heads and had to navigate a landslide and river crossing in the dark, once I get the video processed I will add that in here
Overall Northern Pakistan was spectacular, friendly and one of the most interesting and positively surprising places we visited on the whole trip, sadly to make the family reunion in Delhi I had to push through it far to fast but I would love to go back at a slower pace and see much more of the place
Any well taken and adjusted photos in this post are likely to be by Tony Borill