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Silk Route Project Craig and Simon are currently travelling from India to Istanbul with the fantastic support of World Nomads. On behalf of Footprints, World Nomad's charity, they will be visiting of a number of projects along the route to deliver supplies of essential medicines to impoverished children.

Climbing the Karakoram

PAKISTAN | Wednesday, 26 July 2006 | Views [5240] | Comments [9]

The Karakoram Highway blasts its way through some of the world's largest mountains and snakes its way north from Islamabad to the Chinese border. It is a remarkable feat of Pakistani army engineering - arching along impossibly steep slopes, skirting the raging river's edge, relentlessly heading up, up, up. Starting at essentially sea level, by the time it peaks at the Khunjerab Pass on the border it is topping 4800m high.

But it's not an original road. For thousands of years people have been using that narrow valley to transport goods from Central Asia to Southern Asia and vice versa. The Karakoram Range, an offshoot of the Himalayas, is one of the trickiest stretches of terraine on the planet to negotiate and this is the most reliable route through. It is the southern leg of the infamous Silk Route, the collection of trails across asia through which the East and the West traded. It made my toes tingle to think that only a couple of hundred years ago people were still travelling the same route with caravans of camels larger than cricket crowds. Nowadays the route is still used for trading, day and night machismo trucks charge the highway with products from China. Trade between the two countries is booming if the traffic on the highway is anything to judge by. I never expected this but I suppose Pakistan is so dedicated to having disputes with all its other neighbours, it's got to be friends with one of them.

After spending a few days cooking in Lahore and Islamabad we were ready for some cool weather. Every day was over 40 degrees and the fine, brown dust from the land filled the sky, forming a continual dust storm that Woody Guthrie would have been happy to sing about. Battling dehydration and black boogers in our noses we jumped onto the overnight bus to Gilgit, in the foot hills of the mountains. It was a shuddering journey, the road was in good condition but it twisted, turned, droppped and rose so sharply that sleep was essentially impossible. It didn't help that our driver was clearly under the impression that our bus was Formula 1. When the sun finally rose and I saw how narrow was the road and how steep was drop I pulled shut the curtain on the window.

Gilgit was thankfully cool and surrounded by glorious snow capped peaks. Over the next two weeks made our way slowly north stopping at Karimibad, Passu and Sost. The scenary along the way was nothing short of incredible. Jagged peaks jutted out of the impossibly high ranges on each side of valley. Glaciers squatted on the high passes moving inches each year, snow hung on the big mountains reflecting glare like silver sunglasses.

We did some unbelievable hikes - clambered up a high pass to have tea by a glacier, crossed a wide river on a suspension bridge that appeared to have the durability of balsa wood, stayed the night at 3500m with a shepherd in his tent. Seeing soft light bounce off mountains at sunset and sunrise is one of the most special things in the world for me. It makes you feel so big and small at the same time. Small on the outside and big on the inside, I think.

The biggest highlight of northern Pakistan though is undoubtedly the people. I have never encountered such a warm and welcoming culture. Everyone you meet on the street greets you and asks how you are, and they are genuine, they really are interested how you are. And well, if you are a cricket fan then they are even more interested. Pakistani people feel an obligation to always be hospitable. On one hike we passed through a tiny village and a little girl invited us into her hut to have tea with her grandmother. They didn't have any paper to light the fire to boil the water, instead they had the novel approach of setting fire to a plastic shopping bag stuffed under the kindling. Yes, it worked (kinda) but I expect you lose a year of life for each breath you inhale.

Our stay in Pakistan has been such a pleasure, we feel refreshed and enthusiastic. And now to China ...

Tags: Mountains

Comments

1

May you brothers be blessed.

I'll continue to follow your trek through the Pakistani mountains from the summmits of my paper mountains in West Perth.

Also, the tradition continues: me folks are in Riva.

Dane

  Dane Jul 27, 2006 12:18 PM

2

JEALOUS AS ALL HELL.

  giles Jul 31, 2006 12:00 AM

3

Nice work.

Keep on Truckin'

  Aluisus Jul 31, 2006 6:10 PM

4

yeah whatever- wouldn't you rather be sitting at a desk in st leonards selling computer hardware?
my life kicks seven kinds of whoop ass over yours right now.
at least tuffin is safely on the other side of the continent.
long may your camels be fertile.

  campbell Aug 8, 2006 12:34 PM

5

I saw your mum and dad craig, I think they're missing you cos they insisted on buying me things and your Dad kicked Andre up the ass as a greeting....
Anyway I assume my FAB is in the mail?

  Christabella Aug 9, 2006 12:35 PM

6

hey, its a great thing that you guys are doing, and having fun at the same time. I am glad that more people are going to Pakistan, that's where my family is from and it is a BEAUTIFUL country, but hardly anyone goes there because of what is said of it as regards to danger. The people, the food, the sights, as you must know by now are awesome and I'm happy that someone else has got to know and appreciate it. Good luck on your travels, take care and keep smiling xxx

  Guleraana Aug 11, 2006 10:49 PM

7

Hey guys!
Sounds like you are having a great adventure! Looking forward to hear more at Christmas!!

When do you get back to Australia? We've finally book our trip to Australia! We're coming to Perth 19th of december and are staying until January 3 and then we're spending 2 weeks in Sydney :-) Can't wait!!!

Robert is already planning a tour of the Swan brewery on the night of the 19th.

Good luck with the rest of your travels! Take care!!
Lots of love
Ida and Robert

  Ida and Robert Aug 14, 2006 6:30 AM

8

hi babbar and simon
sounds wonderful - miss you. keep up the good work! lots of love lee sam and cate

  lee sam and cate Aug 14, 2006 11:54 PM

9

Is there a way of getting from Pakistan to Tajikistan overland?

  Art Jan 25, 2007 4:51 AM

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