Destinations / JOURNEY
IKNOW THAT THERE is always trouble in Pakistan and that you need to be careful when you travel there, but my sixteen clients and I are a little concerned to hear that the Pakistan mili- tary has decided to engage the Taliban on the
Afghanistan border, and that the Taliban have called
foreigners “fair game.”
My group is adventurous and we take comfort in know-
ing we will not get close to the conflict on this June 2014
trip. Nonetheless, I try to stay far ahead of the news with
ears to the ground and my eyes wide open.
Our trip to the Baltistan region of Pakistan starts in
the western Chinese town of Kashgar, an oasis city in
the middle of the desert that has seen many rulers due
to its key location on the ancient Silk Road, but has since
remained relatively unchanged for generations. As an
adventure tour leader based in Sausalito, I used to bring
clients through this area on the way to Pakistan quite
often in the 1990s. I am shocked by the transformation
that has occurred since my last visit in 2000.
The exotic desert town that once conjured images of silk
caravans and Marco Polo has become just another large,
overcrowded, high-rise city with traffic and terrible pollution. The old Sunday bazaar I used to love has been moved
from the center of town to the outskirts. This place I used
to love to bring clients to years ago is now a city better left
in the rearview mirror.
But when we start the drive toward the border with
Pakistan, s weet memories come back. The mountains here
are spectacular and the people friendly.
The first two days of our 17-day trip are spent traveling to
Pakistan by car from Kashgar. The first day we follow a road
that winds high in the mountains past small villages, with an
incredible view of Mustagata, the second highest of the mountains that form the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. You
cannot help but admire the Chinese for building a road in such
a harsh, cold and unfriendly environment. We stop by Lake
Karakol for a lunch spent looking at the incredible scenery and
the reflection of the mountains on the lake. To my surprise,
there are actually souvenir salesmen here now.
Opener: Ferry system
at Lake Attabad. This
page: On the road
to Tashkorgan with
clock wise from top:
A noodle maker at
Kashgar market; animal
market in Kashgar;
tea seller at Kashgar
market; tomb of Abakh
Hoja in Kashgar.