Tracing the Silk Road, From China to Pakistan

Last year I decided on an adventure to retrace parts of the ancient Silk Road. So with two weeks off from work, I mapped out a journey from western China to Northern Pakistan by road.

The oft-reliable Internet’s information about travelling to Pakistan from China was sketchy and outdated. I also knew I’d need someone seasoned to drive, as the roads weren’t the safest — construction, road-repaving and landslides — so serendipity be damned, I went to a travel agency who made the transport arrangements.

From Kashgar (read more here), I had to head further west of China to Tashkurgan, a border town at the crossroads of many other countries including Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. There, a public bus would connect me to Sost, Pakistan.

Few vehicles have the license to travel across this so-called friendship border, so I needed to get through immigration and then onto a dirty, public bus which an armed guard accompanied. Getting through customs wasn’t hard, and being Singaporean helped.

On the packed bus
Squeezing on the bus.

Maximum bus occupancy rates? No such thing! Everyone and I mean everyone got on the groaning overloaded bus. The lucky ones got a dirty reclining bed to themselves — the others reluctantly shared.

I was lulled into an uneven sleep, as the bus rolled along bumpy tracks and navigated hairpin bends. In between naps, I blinked through sandy mountain ranges and icy-blue glacier lakes from behind dusty windows.

Towards the tail-end of the bus ride, the views grew too magnificent to stay asleep.  I moved up front to squeeze with the bus conductor and make conversation in bad Mandarin. I asked him, “do you ever get bored of these views?” He smiled and gave a slight shrug.

 

Bus conductor.
Bus conductor.
Regional dump
Regional dumpster behind the very last Chinese immigration checkpoint.
China Inspections and Quarantine
Waiting in line at immigration.
Outside the official bus station
Young Tajik women outside the Immigration building in Tashkurgan.
20161017_143200
Karakul lake.

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