I went to bed wearing thermals and was just warm enough. The morning brought glorious sunshine and blue skies. In fact, not a cloud was in sight when I crawled out of my tent. The day only got better when not too far into the ride I reached a hilltop from which I enjoyed a big downhill. I also got a tailwind, which pushed me along at a decent speed. The tailwind would revisit me a few times in the day, but so too did a strong headwind. Overall though the day was cruisy. I thought yesterday that the Karakoram Highway in China was fairly unexciting, but today proved me wrong. The good looks of Karakul Lake, where I stopped to have a bit of a picnic, were blown out of the water by those of the lake about 30km north. Wow! From here on the road entered a deeply incised valley that was astonishingly beautiful to ride through. Fed by the lake (which I guess is the result of a dam) a swiftly flowing river was my constant companion as I enjoyed a steady descent through the gorge. Soon after Karakul Lake, I’d come across a Chinese cyclist stopped by some decrepit buildings. We had a bit of a chat via his phone’s translation system. He seemed like a nice guy, but was heading upstream, poor guy. While the scenery was breathtaking, the road itself was quite impressive. The Chinese sure do know how to build things. No safe edges? No worries, just build the road on 80m high stilts. Big hill in the way? No worries, just bore a tunnel straight through it.
About 120km out of Kashgar is a police checkpoint. I had my passport checked and asked if I could camp in the area. There were toilets and a few shops servicing the passengers of all the vehicles that passed through. As I stepped inside a cubicle, I got a shock as I looked into a tiled trench littered with piles of shit. The trench ran underneath each cubicle and as I squatted to add my own pile I got another shock as a shovel appeared under me, sweeping other people’s deposits away. A stream of water flushed away any remaining stains. Stomach relieved, I bought some drinking water and continued on. It was 4.50pm (Pakistan time) and I was keen to find a campsite, a not-so-easy task in a deep valley that has a river as its floor. Fortunately, I came across some small accessible hills not too far from the police checkpoint. No vehicles passed as I made my getaway, but a series of buildings were in full view for about five minutes as I pushed my bike away from the road. As I set up camp a man and two children passed on a motorbike but they didn’t see me. For dinner I cooked noodles and vegetables, though I had a difficult time with my stove’s multi-fuel burner. My face and legs are sore with sunburn (I couldn’t find suncream in Tashkurgan) and my bed is a bit uncomfortable, being located on a stony slope. Proving a good distraction from these concerns is the book, Shantaram, which I started reading last night.
|Distance ridden today||104.69km|
|Average cycling speed||20.7kph|
|Total distance ridden||19,339km|