Tashkurgan (China), 23.06.2013
Waking up in the morning was not easy. The night had been a horror, sleeping on the hard ground at freezing temperatures, fighting the thin air up here, and trying to ignore the noise of the locals having a booze session and an after hour chat until 3 or 4 in the morning behind our yurt. With no possibility to wash, no toilets and completely frozen we went into the car, turned the engine on, and made tea while the heating warmed us slowly. We packed, and as we ate some bread with Croatian honey and bananas our only thought was “let’s get out of here immediately!” The smell of urine and excrements persisted, the trash around us made our breakfast slightly disgusting and quick.
While we sat in the car eating, the staff of the “resort” lined up in front of the restaurant. 5 men and 5 women, all standing freezing in a row at 09:33, the manager or commander in front of them slightly elevated on a small wall. The chief saluted, the staff saluted back. Then came a speech we didn’t hear from the inside of the car and wouldn’t have understood anyway. At 09:36 they all clapped their hands and moved on. I was guessing if he had congratulated them on mistreating yet another bunch of tourists and thereby helping in keeping foreigners out of the place.
We left, completely dizzy and destroyed. In the first 15 minutes we passed from 3600m to 4000m altitude and then descended towards Tashkurgan, at 3100m. After just 1h we arrived and drove to the hotel we were booked in. From the outside the Ben Lei Xin looked OK, new. But already the lobby revealed shabby management. Trash on the stairs to the entrance, trash on the table in the lobby, the floor and windows hadn’t been cleaned in ages. We checked the rooms and they were spacious but filthy. The toilets were just dirty and stinking of urine and canalisation. We tried to get a room at the Crown Inn, that is supposedly the best hotel in town, but it was full. So we had to go back.
We got our stuff into the room, and finally a present from a Turkish gas station owner back at Tortum Göle became very useful: the deodorant spray with a heavy sweet smell helps against the stinking bathroom for a little while! After a cold shower (hot water is available only until 10:30 in the morning), we tried to sleep the hours we didn’t manage to rest during the night in the yurt. There was nothing else to do in town and the border closes on Sundays.
Then during the afternoon, as we went to check emails in the lobby that has WiFi, we learned that yesterday some Taliban had assaulted a hotel in the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan, killing 11 tourists and local guides. Although this happened at a base camp of the famous Nanga Parbat, in a remote region 2 days of trekking away from the KKH, it is still scary. Emails from home started to reach us. We studied the maps of the road again, counted kilometers between cities, looked for places to stay over night. We fuelled up, bought water and food, and went to cook some plain rice in the hotel, since we both have stomach problems since a couple of days. It will be a straightforward drive through the KKH to Islamabad.
Trip data for the day
– Km driven: 111
– Hrs on the road: approx 1h