Karakul Lake, Xinjiang

China - Xinjiang - Down the Karakorum Highway 1

Author: Sue
Date: 30th August 2016
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From Kashgar to Pakistan on the Karakorum Highway

I'm about to travel down the Karakorum highway with a small group. To begin, I'm returning to Kashgar in China. I was last here, in Xinjiang province three years ago. Read about that trip here. Kashgar is about as far west as you can get in China. What has changed since then? There are banners along the road celebrating 60 years since 'liberation'. More of the Old Old Town has been bulldozed away. The replacement of new old town facades has been accelerated. The endemic Uighur population (an ethnic minority in China) is now increasingly being subjected to human rights abuses.

I revisit the new Old Town, the mosques, the mausoleum and the bazaar. The animal market has been slightly more organised. This visit I have time to test the kebabs,  fatty and delicious.

Skirting the Pamir Mountains

The drive to the border with Pakistan, across Xinjiang, skirting the Pamir Mountains, as they spill over from Tajikistan and Afghanistan is possibly even more scenic than last times' journey back to Kyrgzstan. They are truly stunning.

Lake Karakul

A relaxing halt at Lake Karakul. Curiously, Karakul means Black Lake. From here, in the distance, we can see Kongur Tagh, (Brown Mountain) the tallest peak in the Pamir mountains. It contrasts with the amazing snow white slopes sliding into the lake. Someone has thoughtfully left an armchair on the beach here and it's gently warm. There are yak and camels to watch. It's hard to tear myself away.

Tashkurgan

We overnight at Tashkurgan, the last town in Xinjiang before the border. There's a stone fort straddling the hill here. It purports to date back 2,000 years. From uptop, there are views across the floodplains to a pair of waterwheels. They're modern - part of the town's irrigation system. And there's a sort of Mongolian theme park beyond all the boardwalks and bridges. Sheep, horses and smoking yurts

Crossing from Xinjiang into Pakistan

The Khunjerab Pass at 4,600 metres above sea level, takes the Karakorum Highway from Xinjiang Province to Pakistan at Sust. This is the highest border crossing in the world and it's only open from May to October because of snow. You also have to get a special permit to travel to this stretch.

At immigration we are again treated like children at school, lined up and instructed not to talk. A weary Dutch guy declares that everything in China is fake.  Though I’m sure that parts of the lofty fort at Tashkurgan are original and there is nothing fake about the stunning views of the snow-capped Pamir range and turquoise Karakul Lake.

(And read more about China here.)

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