I needn’t have worried about dealing with the Chinese authorities. Getting processed through customs and immigration proved a trouble-free experience. What was astonishing though was the way we (me and the other passengers in the bus crossing the border from Pakistan) were treated while not being processed. Going back to the start of the day: I was told the bus leaves at 9am so I made sure I was ready at 8am, giving myself time to deal with Pakistani customs and immigration, or so I thought. It turned out 9am is the time that the immigration and customs office opens. It was quite some time before we were ready to board the bus, having had our bags inspected and passports stamped. The drive to Khunjerab Pass was uneventful, although I was thrilled to see wild Ibex grazing on a few steep hills. We arrived at the Chinese customs post on the border at about 12.30pm. The moment we crossed the line into China, it started snowing lightly and I was swept up in the excitement being displayed by an Indonesian passenger who had never seen snow before, let alone snowfall. There were about five small buses undertaking the same journey between Pakistan and China. We parked among these outside the customs building and waited for our turn. We waited, and we waited. All the while we weren’t allowed to leave the bus. All the while we observed different trucks getting inspected with a fine tooth comb by stern-faced soldiers. And all the while I grew ever more thankful that in the final moments before leaving Sost I’d ran to a little shop to spend the last of my Pakistani money on snacks. We’d been sitting there for about two and a half hours before we were finally let one at a time into the customs building. The officer that dealt with me was nice. He searched through every bag but not too thoroughly. Once through customs, we had to load the bus again with our luggage, then wait inside it again for nearly an hour. Finally, we were allowed to go, about four and half hours after arriving (during which time actual processing only took an hour).
The drive into Tashkurgan was nice. We were all exhausted by this time and sat in silence, staring out of the windows as the landscape shifted from snowy peaks to rolling green hills and finally to a neat, modern town. Our destination was an immigration and quarantine centre. Our bus was sprayed down with some kind of chemical before being parked up among others. Again, we faced another long wait before being allowed out. Inside the centre, my passport was scanned, my photo was taken and a guy shone a red light on my forehead. My inquiry about the light got answered with one sharply spoken word: temperature. I surrendered a cucumber and onion at a quarantine desk before finally being processed by an immigration officer. Again, my bags were scanned and I had to open each one for further investigation. Finally, it was all over and I found myself standing outside and free to cycle away. By this time it was nearly dark. I ended up catching up with Andrew, John and Karen (three Indonesian tourists from the bus) down the road; they’d had to walk a bit before finding a taxi. I followed them in their taxi to K2 Hostel, where we checked in before venturing out in search of an open restaurant. After trying and failing to find out what was on the menu, we ended up using a translating app to say, ‘Please just give us enough food for four people’. What came out was amazing, mostly because it offered a welcome change from subcontinental cuisine. Stomachs satisfied, we returned home and readied for bed, well and truly ready for it.
|Distance ridden today||0km|
|Total distance ridden||19,164km|