China and Pakistan
The Karakoram Highway, consistently regarded as one of earth's most spectacular and dangerous journeys, is equal parts both. Around every turn a new angle emerges of an immense and daunting mountain.
Every foot ascended, the temperature drops and the air thins. Impossible yet spectacular peak after peak appears then vanishes in the mysterious mist, while the paved road weaves and crosses glaciated valleys, an engineering masterpiece of our modern world. But imagine being a merchant hundreds of years ago trying to brave these mountains and cross into China on the ancient Silk Road. Marco Polo, the Silk Road's most famous explorer, traversed these ranges to enter China for the first time, writing down: "And you ride north-east always among mountains, you get to such height that 'tis said to be the highest place in the world!... The plain called PAMIR." - Marco Polo
In the modern world the Karakoram highway, running from Pakistan to Kashgar, heads towards the Pamir Mountains, crossing soaring peaks, alpine lakes, glacial rivers, and stone ruins while crossing the highest international border in the world. Taxkurgan, an ancient outpost and likewise the furthest-west town in China, lies in the middle of the road. Along the way, numerous peaks emerge, including the massive Kongur Tagh and Muztagh Ata. These peaks towered to heights of 25,095 ft (7,649 m) and 24,636 ft (7,509 m) respectively, with Mustagh Ata dominating its own horizon. The name of the highway is borrowed from a neighboring range, the Karakoram Mountains, that is home to the world's second tallest and perhaps deadliest peak - Mount Godwin-Austen a.k.a. K2.
Numerous lakes dot the region, but two stands above the rest - the White Sand and the Karakul. The White Sand Lake in particular, with its towering sand dunes eclipsed by snow capped peaks, presented the diversity of nature. The Karakul Lake, with the shepherding Kyrgyz nomads and the reflection of Muztagh Ata, presented the tranquility of nature. And of course, those glistening mountains full of snow presented the might and power of nature. This is the PAMIRS.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
One of the world's highest mountain roads passes through the Pamir Mountains from Kashgar into Pakistan. We took an old bus from Kashgar to the outpost of Taxkorgan.
Stopping by Karakul Lake with the mighty Mustag Ata as backdrop. We walked the perimeter, taking in reflections and counting the nomad's yurt around the region.
At the time of visiting, foreigners had to hire a tour guide to reach these area. However, we managed to reach here ourselves due to the help of Mary, my Chinese wife, leading us to discover these wild lands to ourselves.
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
The Pamirs have fully pushed your limits, redefining what is possible. Yet these glacially-carved peaks still loom ahead. Thankfully, the ancient outpost of Taxkorgan may welcome you for some much-needed rest.