Saturday, 28 July 2007


the karakoram
After having spent a few days in Kathmandu, which is not unpleasant at all, I had in mind, to come into Tibet by the Nepalese border. Unfortunately, the border was closed to individual foreigners, which meant, I had to join a group of, at least, four persons, rent a jeep and have to ride with a guide chosen by the Chinese authorities.

We remember that Tibet is a sensitive area, whose entrances are controlled for political reasons, but by the perverse side of the situation, a tourism controlled by Chinese services is fed, where there exists no freedom of movement and at exorbitant prices.

So I stood a few days in Kathmandu witout knowing very well what to do, until I discovered in a coffeeshop, the advert from a frenchman who wanted to get into China through Tibet with his own car,and were already waiting for a few months for the necessary authorisations.

Meanwhile, we had a conversation and decided then to go back to India, cross the border with Pakistan, enter China and then we would see.

I've then crossed the unique border between India and Pakistan, after crossing North India until Amritsar, following after to the Pakistani Punjab.

I arrived at Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan to prepare to follow the so called Karokoram Highway, which starts in Rawalpindi and ends in Kashgar, in China, on the other side of the second highest mountains in the world.

northern areas

The Northern Areas Province, quite far from the local administration. Hum.


A little bit before entering Gilgit, we have a breath taking panoramic view, to Daynior and the mountains around.

baltit fort

The mythical Hunza, the Shangri-la from the legends. Before the construction of the highway, the Hunza valley was isolated from the rest of the world, the inhabitants lived uniquely on what they produced, it was said that the people lived much longer than a hundred years, and were the oldest people on earth.

Anyway, Hunza is one of the most scenically impressive regions I've ever seen, an oasis of cypresses and green fields in the arid mountains of the Karakoram.

The apricots and other dried fruits from Hunza are famous in all Central Asia.

baltit karimabad

A region of Ismaeli villages. They characterise themselves by a more relaxed and tolerant Islam, we are in ancient Persia, the language is Persan, not from Arab origin. Surrounded by other Sunni and Shiias comunities, the feuds between rival groups are frequent, violent and sanguinary.

I heard in a store, an American woman call Arab to a local, he just answer that he was Persian.


The high Gojal, a calcareous formation that resembles a cathedral. Another area of extreme beauty. A favourite. I thank the sympathy, the food and the stories of the owner of the Batura Inn.

In the neighbouring villages, in the alleys behind the mountains, it was usual the whole village plunder the caravans that pass towards Kashgar, in a collective razzia without pair.


Sost is the last village between the natural reserve of Kunjrab, the border with China. You pay an exorbitance to enter China, a lot more than normally, the same distance in the opposite direction, another crappy deal.

Sometimes on some bits of the road, it is paid the price that better suits them, the government has little influence in certain areas of feudal system, not to talk of the tribal areas, where Westerners are forbidden. The clans, the tribes are masters of the terrain. All kind of business is there organised and protected by bullets, kidnappings are frequent, travellers dissuaded to go there, weapons are manufactured. I was told of weapons factories, heavy drugs are cultivated and produced, opium, derivatives, heroin, morphine, hashish, marijuana, etc...

We are not far from Afghanistan. The routes of the smugglers go through the high mountains to and from China, and not only. Control in the highlands becomes difficult, the central power is weak, almost nonexistent. The new Silk road?

I heard a joke in Islamabad, a fellow with tie and a suitcase comes in and says: hello, I'm a drug dealer.

Here in Sost, snooker is played with no worries.

sost kirilgoz

The peak of Kirilgoz seems to dominate the whole village.



The Pakistani breakfast, on the Persian carpet, the porcelain is refined. In India the tea is taken in short transparent glasses, in Pakistan, in cups and saucers made of porcelain, I like the detail.



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