Over the Khunjerab Pass and into Pakistan, and then arrival at Passu
Oct 5, 2007
|The bus sets out 9.00 a.m. local time for the 5 minute drive to Chinese customs just outside Tashkurgan. For reasons known only to both countries, both checkpoints are some 120k's apart from each other, and its a good 3 hour bus ride to the Pakistani checkpoint of Sost.
During the exit process, I find that I've overstayed my Chinese visa by 3 days: a genuine mistake on my part. So I'm taken to one side and told that there's a fine to pay. My story is that I made a mistake, I've changed all my yuan into Pakistani rupees and therefore dont have the funds, and then tell then how sorry I am for my mistake. It turns out the apology is the clincher, and at that point the official says its OK for me to contine on my way. Wes makes it through Chinese customs as well, despite the fact that having no Pakisitani visa caused some head scratching from the official.
After about 2 hours of waiting around whilst all of the Pakistani's goods were checked, the bus sets off for Sost.
The journey takes us over the Khunjerab Pass, where a Pakistani businessman I meet on the bus called Malik tells me that 5 countries (Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, India and Tajikistan) all come within 10 k's of the pass. Malik is a good guy actually, and we hang around with each other until parting ways after Pakistani customs.
The road is noticably less well kept on the Pakistani side, but they would have a much harder maintenance job, as the KKH passes thorugh some very mountainous terrain. Its obvious that the road has been the victim of a larger number of landlides during its history.
Wes and I agree that the Khunjerab Pass wasn't quite the dramatic scene we were expecting, but as we progress along the KKH, the mountains become more razor-backed and the scenery starts to live up to its hype.
We arrive at Sost, and Wes eventually gets his Pakistani visa from customs, and I have to say I was very sceptical about his chances. It turns out that it has been possible to obtain a 30-day single entry visa on arrival st Sost for the last 2 months or so.
After another 3 hours or so, we get back on the bus and set out for Passu, about 1 hour from Sost, and book ourselves into Passu Inn.
The guidebook reckons Passu is a good place to do some day treks, so the next morning Wes and I decide to do a trek called 'The 2 bridges" and follow it up with a trek to the Ghulkin Glacier, before returning to our hotel. The 2 bridges trek passes over 2 very precarious wire bridges over the Khunjerab river, with wood slotted in between some wires every couple of feet or so. Not exactly the worlds safest bridge, but I guess its all they can manage. In between the 2 bridges, the trek takes us past a huge terminal moraine and by the side of a mountain, before passing through a small village. Once over the last bridge, we arrive at a small village called Hussaini, where we follow the trail above the town and across the Ghulkin glacier. Once over the glacier, we find ourselves in the village of Ghulkin, and somehow manage to get lost, before being invited for tea inside one of the locals house. Its our first experience of this type of Pakistani hospitality, which is rather nice.
We round off the evening with an expensive meal by local standards at the Glacial Breeze restaurant just outsade Passu.