The Khunjerab Pass is the gateway between China and Pakistan. At 4,693m, it comprises the highest paved international border crossing in the world. Getting there involved the biggest day I have ever had on my bike. It took me 8.5 hours to cycle the 84km to the Pass. This included seven hours of pedalling and 1.5 hours of resting/eating/photo-taking. I was unprepared for the cold at the top, which was covered in snow. Wearing only my bike shorts and packing only a light rain jacket, I couldn’t help shivering uncontrollably. A policeman manning the border gate lent me a pair of gloves as I shot a video and took some photos. Some Pakistani tourists wanted to record a video interview with me, but I was simply too exhausted and feeling sick from the altitude to comply. At first I said okay, but then their first question was, ‘How do you feel about being in Pakistan?’ As maybe the thousandth time I have been asked that question, I couldn’t help but close up and say, ‘Sorry, I can’t do this’. As I finished filming my own little video, I was called over to the border gate by the Pakistani policeman. A Chinese border guard on the other side was demanding to see my passport. With my mind not working clearly, I handed my passport to the Pakistani policeman. Fortunately, he had the sense not to hand it through the gate and into the Chinese guy’s hands. By this time my mind had caught up with the situation and when the Chinese guy said, ‘Give me passport’, I answered with ‘Why? I’m in Pakistan and not entering China’. I took my passport and walked away, immediately beginning to worry about what my reception would be like when I try to enter China tomorrow. I finished my video, then rode back the short distance to the Pakistani police’s building, where I asked if I could sit inside and get warm for a few minutes. I was welcomed into a room where two policeman were sitting next to a little furnace to keep warm. I settled in front of the furnace too and enjoyed a friendly chat with the police. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay long. It was 4.30pm and I still faced an 84km ride back to Sost. I bid my farewell and gritted my teeth against the cold as I started the long descent home. It was just on dark by the time I rolled into town, about 12.5 hours after leaving. I couldn’t face having a cold shower, so I wiped myself down with wet wipes, then ventured out for dinner. I revisited my little restaurant, but was told they don’t have proper food to offer as it’s the first day of Ramadan. I was directed to a place down the road that was making dinnertime fare, filling myself with daal fry and chapatti. All I could do then was stumble back to my room and pass out for the night. There are very few times in my life when I have been as exhausted as I was at the end of this day.
|Distance ridden today||168.44km|
|Average cycling speed||16.6kph|
|Total distance ridden||19,164km|