Destinations / JOURNEY
At the border town of Tashkorgan, we spend the night
just five minutes from the Chinese side of the border. Early
the next morning we cross through Chinese customs and
immigration, which is not an easy process; then, with military escort and strict orders that photos are not allowed
until we are on the Pakistan side, we drive for five hours.
After yet another Chinese check post, we are finally out.
“Welcome to Pakistan,” our Pakistani representative, Didar,
and his partner, Shifa, a logistical genius, say to us with a
big smile at Khunjerab Pass. We are at an altitude of about
16,000 feet and there is a big table with tea, cookies and a
wonderful walnut cake. The whole crew is there, including Didar’s son Furqan, an aspiring photographer and a
student at the University of Karachi. Everyone’s apprehensions about being in Pakistan are immediately eased. Our
representatives are from Karimabad, the capital of Hunza,
a small and beautiful mountainous area in northeast
Pakistan where people are hospitable and welcoming to foreigners. Hunza was closed to the outside world until the late
1930s, when it was annexed and became part of Pakistan.
The drive to Karimabad from the border is always thrilling, as the Karakoram Highway is one of the most dangerous
and breathtaking drives in the world. I have been on this
highway at least 16 times and every time the trip includes
some new surprise. In some areas the road is literally carved
into the side of the mountains and I am always in awe of the
engineering, perseverance and will it took to build it — 26
years of construction with a death occurring every kilometer, more than 1,400 lives lost in all.
The road is in some areas literally
carved into the side of the mountains and
I am always in awe of the engineering,
perseverance and will it took to build it.