Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 4 – Karakul Lake

We were up early on our fourth day, as we knew that we had a long drive up into the mountains to get to Karakul lake. That and I misunderstood our guide and had Tina and I waiting in the lobby a full hour before our guide agreed to meet us.

Once we finally got started we were a little worried as it was a cloudy day and it was just starting to rain. Our guide mentioned that it could probably even be snowing once we got up to the lake. That’s why I had purchased the coat the day before at the bazaar, but we were hoping that it wouldn’t be that cold…

On the way out of town we had to pass through a police road block, this time we passed right on through. Driving out you can see fields with all sorts of produce planted separated every so often by gatherings of the old mud brick houses. Some of these had their outer walls partially collapsed and we could see into the large courtyards that were in front of the houses. Not a bad way to live, most of them would have a grape arbor covering the section immediately in front of the house providing shade and luscious grapes.

As we continued on the ground became more and more barren and the color changed from a sandy brown to a dark red that jutted up into mountains of ever increasing size. From the red the hills grew taller and morphed into a dull grey, but with streaks of color, blues and greens that had fallen as broken rocks over the millennia. Recent landslides were visible as we turned hairpin after hairpin and wound our way towards the Pakistan and Tajikistan borders.
About an hour and a half into the trip we come to Chinese border control and have to get out and go show our passports. There was a sign, even translated into English, that said “No Photos”, but they didn’t need to worry about us trying to take any photos….

At this point we are probably a good 6 hour drive from the closest border, Tajikistan, but because there are several mountain passes in the mountains and we are on the only road down from the range this is where they set up their customs agents. While outside waiting for vehicle inspection we noticed that it was indeed cold, and that it looked like the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. Fifteen minutes later we were pulled off to the side of the road gaping in awe, and snapping photos, as the clouds cleared up and swirled around gigantic snow capped mountains…As we continued on we kept stopping every so of other to get some photos, we couldn’t stop commenting about how amazingly majestic the whole scene was. Our guide even mentioned that it’s almost never this clear, and we believe him since he also pulled out his cell phone to snap some photos.
As we pulled up to Karakul lake, we could see that Muztagh Ata, “The father of ice”, was clearly visible. Because we had left so early, and the drop in tourism due to the fears some people have in traveling to Xinjinag, at 12:30 we were the first guests of the day. We wandered around the lake dealing with the strong wind which helped to let you feel the cold, and just snapped photos from every direction trying to capture just how beautiful the lake and surrounding scenery was.
After walking just a short distance you really noticed the 3600m height as suddenly you’d be breathing like you’re running a marathon.
By the time we retreated inside for lunch I was starting to develop a small headache. A nice meal and we were off again, just as several other tourists started to arrive and wander around the lakes edge.

We stopped almost as much on the drive back down to take photos, and as we neared the city we stopped to get some photos of a traditional Uygher cemetery and another local market.
Back to the hotel by 18:00 and once we downloaded all of the photos we snapped we wandered down the street to enjoy one of Kashgar’s few bars before heading to bed on our last night in town…


Laura and fam said...

Wow, as always, truly amazing photos! Glad you guys made it back to Xiamen safely.

heather said...

Absolutely breathtaking (no pun intended).

Mark said...

Yeah, we're glad to be back to the heat and humidity of Xiamen...

We've got more photos, we will try to get them loaded to Flickr before our next trip.