Steadily climbing towards Pakistan…

(Em) To my enormous relief the Karakorum Highway began with smooth tarmac, albeit being a rather narrow, single lane road unlike the grand title suggests. Once away from Kashgar, we were soon riding through bleak yet staggering scenery as the road started to climb into the Pamir mountains. Giant rock faces loomed over us and we could see huge boulders poised to crash down in the next heavy storm. I was pleased to find that my bike was running a lot better after an adjustment to the fuel intake in Kashgar – crossing the Torugart Pass into China and ever since then, my engine had cut out every time I came down to first gear or had it idling in neutral. Not particularly reassuring. Fabian’s Honda was also struggling in the high altitude, responding poorly and moving sluggishly; it also didn’t help that our honorary Spaniard himself was getting dizzy from vertigo… We all stuck fairly close together, should anyone have any problems, and as a result the group now has a collection of fantastic photos of each other from whenever we stopped at a particular scenic moment – it’s a real bonus to have photos of yourself riding as it’s obviously not easy to achieve, especially for those who are riding solo.

We arrived at our destination, Lake Kara Kul, in the late afternoon and were stunned by the beauty of the lake in its setting between two Pamir giants, Muztagh Ata at 7546m and Mt Kongur at 7719m. At 3700m, the lake itself was at high altitude and we could see clearly the glaciers making their way down from the snowy mountain peaks. Accommodation for the night was a yurt (yay!), although this time all eight of us were together in one dwelling – rather cosy! After a short walk by the lake, we enjoyed a delicious supper made by a local Kyrgyz family in their mud house and snuggled down on piles of soft mattresses for the night. It was a great stop off point, only spoilt by an ugly Chinese restaurant and the distgusting drop toilets outside (they were re-christened ‘The Pyramids’ – will leave that to your imagination but suffice to say, we all found rocks to go behind as a preferable alternative…!) By the time James and I got up in the morning, cloud was swirling around the peaks but those keenos who got up for sunrise had been rewarded by a clear view. We braved the ‘restaurant’ for breakfast but shouldn’t have bothered – I don’t think the girl could have been any ruder if she’d tried, and our omelettes, when they eventually arrived, were nothing more than deep fried eggs. Unbelievably, Carl and Bene actually went for a dip in the lake (bear in mind we were all wrapped up in fleeces and woolly hats!) – they’re real water babies and don’t need much encouragement to submerge in the nearest water source. Ker-azy!

Tuesday was an easy day (about time!) with only 100km to cover to Tash Kurgan, the destination for our final night in China, and the smooth road  showing no signs of abating. More stunning scenery had us stopping every five minutes to take photographs; each corner we rounded revealed and even more amazing mountain vista or yet another herd of long-haired yak. I got a little concerned at one point when James stopped to help Stefano with something and ushered me to continue, yet 20 minutes later they still hadn’t caught back up. Your mind wanders to all sorts of nasty possibilities when riding in such a desolate environment and I was very relieved when I finally saw a pair of headlights approaching. Turns out Stefano’s mounted video camera had taken a tumble and they’d stopped to fix it, phew.

We went straight to the petrol station upon entering Tash Kurgan (we were all running pretty low and fuel stops seem to be few and far between in this area of China) and thus ensued a rather surreal experience. First we were directed to stop two metres away from the pump, apparently to guard against risk of fire caused by our comms systems of all things (never mind the hot bike engine…) Then, when everyone wanted to fill the jerry cans they’d purchased at the market in Kashgar, they had to take them far away from the forecourt and have the fuel brought over In large metal teapots – WTF?!! I don’t even know what the explanation for that one was, but it seemed highly unnecessary, especially seeing as they had filled up our jerry cans from the pump no problem. China has some odd s**t going on.  At least our hotel was just around the corner, and it revealed itself to be clean and comfortable (apart from the duvet cover which smelt of smoke, ew). We all walked into town (just one main street) and got a massive plate of noodles for lunch, being ravenous after the pathetic egg breakfast. Muza then took us to see ‘the ruins’ – basically a pile of rubble that we felt more than a little ripped off for being charged entrance for! Ten minutes was ample for ‘sightseeing’ then we headed back to the market to buy provisions: the next day would see us enter Pakistan and rumour was that food and petrol were very scarce following the landslides and other natural disasters that had blocked access for supplies (and access for us potentially, but hey, that was another problem for another day…)

10 Responses to “Steadily climbing towards Pakistan…”

  1. Jackson says:

    just looked at all the photos. best lot yet. if ever it seems like an effort maintaining a blog and uploading all the shots, please don’t stop, we really appreciate it. LEGENDS

  2. mama/kate says:

    Gosh, I totally agree with Jackson. Awesome photographs. Your (furure) children are going to be so proud of you guys. It’ll be interesting to see how the next generation shapes up.

  3. Jess says:

    YOUR BLOG IS MY REASON FOR LIVING

  4. julian says:

    Looking at the 3 previous LH comments says it all.
    WE HANG ON EVERY LETTER AND PIXEL.
    YOU TWO ARE AMAZING!
    love from tanzadad XX

  5. Katie says:

    OMG………….. You guys are amazing! Am going to show Abi the photos in the morning and have her the culture she is lacking! Loving your latest adventure updates.
    Life here is fab (very boring in comparison though!) Have just had a lovely long weekend in Jersey, Dam booked it as a surpise present for our 7 year wedding anniversary. Abs loved the zoo!
    Also had a brilliant weekend with Jo – we missed you though! Abi and Jo baked cakes with very very blue icing!
    Anyway, keep having fun, lots and lots of love xx

  6. Ben and Jo says:

    Jackson’s right… incredible photos! Very jealous! Good to speak to you the other day – hope all is going well in Pakistan and you can find some roads that work!
    Take care, as always, B.

  7. Nana says:

    We send Nana lots of your photos in the post. Following is a comment (from a 99yr old to all other readers!) that she included in a letter to us so that I could include it here. It’s another of those priceless utterments!

    To E/J. I think of you often – one GORGEOUS girl in the midst of all those hairy bikers. James must guard Emily well or she will need to wear a chastity belt – not very convenient on a motorbike.

  8. Jackson says:

    priceless from nana. can we have more of those

  9. joanna says:

    your nana is one cool bird!

  10. M&M says:

    We love it too – we have just been catching up with the last few weeks – AMAZING! You guys are legends!! xxx

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