Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Kashgar Livestock Market & The Karakoram Highway

Ever since reading Peter Hessler's Country Driving I have always had an urge to visit the Karakoram Highway (KKH) myself. I had google searched plenty of images and had read numerous blogs about the experience and all in all it seemed like everyone enjoyed the time on the highway a lot. The reason why the highway is famous is because it connects China with Pakistan and it is the highest altitude paved road in the world.
So I was really excited when despite all the issues arising out of this region I could come visit this place and see for myself.

After a day in Kashgar my guide first took me to the livestock market outside the city and I wish my words could describe how truly unique this place was. It is rumored that this market is over 2000 years old and visiting the place really is only reaffirming the rumors. Generally sheep, camels, goats, horses, cows, and bulls are sold on the market and locals bring in their livestock from near and far. The numbers vary from person to person. One guy might bring one goat and another might arrive with 50 sheep. The whole market was moved three times by the government, but it looks like its pretty stationary where it is right now.
The whole culture and feeling around it is just so amazing. Nothing I have ever experienced.
For now I will just include a couple images and maybe sometime find me in person, because by then I might have found the words to describe the incredible environment.

This was great, because the bull was massif! My guide told me that just a couple weeks ago a bull ran around the market blindfolded and no one could stop him until he was tired out. Apparently he tore quite a lot of huts down, but no one got hurt. 

After the Market Tudajim, the driver and me headed for the KKH. The thing that was making me nervous was that just a day before my arrival there was a huge sandstorm and there was still so much sand in the air. You couldn't really see all that far and I was really worried that I couldn't see any of the mountains and glaciers along the highway.  
This KKH is not really a highway. It is a two lane street, which is to 75% paved and to 25% barely existent. The Chinese government is putting great effort into finishing the road soon. I can't imagine how difficult it is to pave a road in such high altitude. 
Our first stop was a 3 hour drive away from Kashgar. I spent a night at a local shepherd's house along the Kala Kule Lake. These families usually live in 2 villages. One for the summer and one for the winter. The one we were visiting was the summer village, even though it was freeeeezing cold. These people's lives is pretty amazing. They spend most of the day outside herding their sheep and yak in really cold temperatures (in the winter time it can get as low as -20 degrees celsius) for around 10 hours! 
Anyway, in order to get to this village we had to drive for some time and the awesome thing was that 
along the way there are numerous intersections leading to other countries. 

This intersection was for a road to Afghanistan, which was around 30km away. Obviously it was illegal to use the road. 

Here the sign for the road to Kyrgyzstan! How awesome is this!!!!

Anyway. We got to the tiny village and were greeted by the family. The house looked a lot like a box made out of clay. It was amazing how well insulated it was though. It was heated by one tiny stove, which was also their stove at the same time. I knew the surrounding should be beautiful, but I couldn't see much, because it was cloudy:
BUT, when I woke up the next day and opened the door I could barely catch my breath. What I saw in front of me was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.  
This is what I saw: 

It really was one of these moments where I wanted to rub my eyes and see if it really was real. Hard to believe, but it was real. 

After a quick breakfast we ventured on to get to Tashkurgan. First though we had to get over a pass, which obviously was also a great picture opportunity. 

(Kein Unterhemd... Ich weiss) 

And then we got to Tashkurgan and I really could not believe that I was still in China. No one looked Chinese! Everyone looked far more European than Chinese. Their clothes, language, food and entire culture was way more European than Chinese. No wonder they don't identify themselves as Chinese no matter how many propaganda posters the government plasters along the roads... 

Okay I will post this now and will continue writing when I get another chance. I am heading to the dessert tomorrow and will spend a night there. Hopefully I won't get lost. 

1 comment:

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