Highest (paved) road in the world! Khunzhrav Pass AM00000090000001331 7, 2008Posted by Mыsofer in Places, gojal, Gojal Pakistan.
To anyone who knows this part of the world this Pass will need no explanation. (looking on a map its just a very thin pieces of Pakistan (all white because of the mountains between Afghanistan and India and just touches West China)
The Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved border crossing in the world and the highest point on the Karakoram Highway. The roadway across the pass was completed in 1982, and has superseded the unpaved Mintaka Pass and Kilik Pass as the primary passage across the Karakorum Range. Due to the altitude of the Pass its closed for most of the year because of the snow, its only possible to cross between May 1 and 15th October and that’s if you are lucky and the weather is good. Very reassuringly the name Khunjerab Pass is derived from Wakhi for ‘Blood Valley’ because for centuries this crossing was used by caravans plodding down the Silk road where locals took advantage of the terrain, robbed the caravans and slaughtered their merchants.
My journey started at in Tashkurgan from where I had tried to book the bus for the next day but was informed that I couldn’t but this would be know problem, it leaves at 8am so just be here then…sounds to simple.
And it was….In the morning I woke early and was just about to have a (cold bucket) shower and some breakfast before we set off when I heard the sound of a big diesel engine, most of the traffic here being horse and carts, I correctly assumed that the only possible thing it could be was the bus to Pakistan. I had clearly been wrongly informed on the time as it was now 6:30am, not 8! Luckily I managed to run out and stop the bus, they all looked very shocked that I wanted to get on but waited while I ran back to the hotel and grabbed my bag. After the excitement I was very warmly welcomed by a group of Pakistani’s and most of the bus to be honest. They were all eager to talk (as they all spoke English, not as we know it but good enough to communicate, which was nice after months of trying to speak, Russian, Chinese, Kyrgyz or Kazak with people). After not long we stopped at a Pakistan restaurant for breakfast, (and I had my first cup of tea with milk in it since England), we then stopped at the first Chinese check point where a border guard got on out bus to ensure we did not stray off route to the border, he chain smoked the whole way.
We headed steeply up, via a number of switch backs all the way to 4800meters, where is was noticeably colder and any physical exertion, including walking was noticed by becoming quickly short of breath. We stopped for a quick break here which was also good as we switched from the right hand side of the road to the left in Pakistan (from when the British were here).
Most border crossing are notoriously a pain in the arse but this one to me seemed a pleasure, some of the best mountain scenery in the world and the Pakistani border guards were very nice, happy to have their photos taken with me then even thanking me!
On the Pakistani side, the highway travels about 50 km across the extensive Khunjerab National Park before, which is home to the big curling horned Marco Polo sheep (of which there are only a few hundred in the world),the Himalayan ibex, golden marmots (which all scatter off in to their burrow as the bus approaches), wolves and the elusive snow leopards. (I think its where they got that amazing footage for David Attenbough’s Planet earth of the snow leopard chasing the ibex).
Once on the Pakistan side we stopped a customs, where I was not even searched as they did not want to offend me, they just asked if I had any alcohol and when I replied no, they said, well go and have lunch while we search the other people. The guys I was sitting with insisted they would take me for lunch, we went to a little local hut that didn’t look all that good but the food they ordered was great, (although it took a bit of getting used to eating curry with no utensil, just hands.) The flavors were the best Id tasted in a long time and then the guys would not even let me pay for my meal, saying I was a guest in their country!
I could type about the road all day, every corner we turned there was a different snow capped mountain, quite simply a breathtaking journey, made all the better by great company!
From the minute I got on the bus I got a good vibe and feeling about Pakistan and its people! Lets hope this continues and Im right!More detail at source: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/markwilliams84/3/1214465640/tpod.html