Cycling The Silk Road In China – The Karakoram Highway And A Visit To A Glacier
When the heat and dust and noise of Kashgar got to be too much for us, we decided to take a drive into the mountains, where the high elevation make it cool and the air is always clean.
The Karakoram Highway (fondly called the KKH) lays just to the South-West of Kashgar.
It is the highest paved international road in the world, but at its peak at the border, it is only paved on the Chinese side.
The KKH connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range.
At its highest pass, it reaches an altitude of 4,693 m/15,397 ft
Due to its high elevation and the difficulty in constructing and blasting it through the mountains, it is also referred to as the “Ninth Wonder of the World.”
Construction of the KKH started in 1959 and was completed in 1986 after 27 years of construction. (810 Pakistani and 82 Chinese workers lost their lives, mostly in landslides and falls, while building the highway.)
The route of the KKH traces one of the many paths of the ancient Silk Road.
We took a detour from this beautiful drive, into a Glacier Park.
We have never seen a Glacier up close, and we found it amusing that the first Glacier we will see, will be in the middle of the desert….
The road meandered along a river, and the mountains changed shapes and colors with every bend.
We saw small villages filled with Tajik and Kyrghiz people.
The Qikelazi Glacier park was a green valley, filled with birds, waterfalls, sheep and goats, dotted with yurts that local people occupy.
A short hike took at to the foot of the Glacier.
It was covered with grey dust from the mountains surrounding it, but it was definitely a big chunk of ice that runs from the snowy mountains above.
The scenery was beautiful.
The only minor annoyance were the youth locals who insisted on taking us to the Glacier observation’s deck, on the back of their motorcycles.
We insisted that we wanted to walk…. But they were persistent and kept blocking the walking path.
Eventually they got other people to accept a ride and we enjoyed the uphill hike.
It was a great day in a breathtaking landscape, and the weather turned extremely hot, when we reached Kashgar again in the evening.
We spent the evening in our favorite restaurant in Kashgar, eating ice cream and sipping lemon rind green tea.
Tomorrow we leave Kashgar and head south into Hotan (Hetian.)