20th August 2014
It’s now been a week since we left Kashgar. A comfortable introduction to China for someone like myself, who is more accustomed to travel in Central Asia. Whilst maybe not holding the atmosphere or attraction it once had, it is still an essential stop for the visitor interesting in completing the round of Silk Road destinations. The Uighur/Han Chinese confluence/divergence is very plain to see in the city.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the challenge taken on (and the machinery involved) by the Chinese in taming the natural world as the highway climbs south to Tashkurgan and towards the border with Pakistan. Formalities there were very tedious or acutely interesting, depending on your point of view (closer to Beijing and you feel things would have been handled slightly more efficiently). It was also certainly in contrast to the very cheery smile and offhand query "You have got passports, haven’t you?" from the Pakistani official at Khunjerab Pass, the official border, as we were swiftly waved through.
We descending to Sust, where the formalities were taken care of with more formality but equal vigour. The valley closed as we descended through the Karakoram Mountains and we became used to the sort of scenery we expected to see on the Karakoram Highway. It was there we first encountered the typical Pakistani truck, individually decorated to the owner's choice and budget. A riot of colour and detail.
We continued on the Karakoram Highway (as we will for its full length of over 800 miles) to the the Hunza Valley. Not surprisingly there were spectacular views around every bend; a feeling of being close to the highest peaks unsurpassed by other areas of the Himalayas – without numerous day of trekking. If anything, the mixed weather here enhanced our experience and the peaks glimpsed through the clouds, framing our pictures. The clients took the most wonderful photos (much better than my examples on this blog).
It’s the peak of apricot season so the roofs were dotted with hundreds of trays of apricots drying and the locals were busy harvesting them as we walked through the lanes of Karimabad and Duikar. The Eagle's Nest Hotel itself gave great views at both sunset and sunrise for those with the enthusiasm for a very early start.
We have now descended in clear blue sky to the more luxurious surroundings of the Serena Inn in Gilgit. In the not too far distance we can see the spectacular Rakaposhi peak as it reflects the golden glow of the late afternoon. Early tomorrow we will ascend again (with a little walking involved) to reach Fairy Meadows for views of 8126m Nanga Parbat.
Tour leader Max Wood is currently leading our Karakoram Adventure group tour.