To the End of the Karakoram Highway

Sino-Pakistani Border Crossing (Khunjerab Pass), elevation 4,693 metres or 15,397 feet is a high mountain pass in the Karakoram Mountains on the northern border of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region on the southwest border of the Xinjiang region of China. Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved international border crossing in the world and the highest point of the Karakoram Highway. The roadway across the pass was completed in 1982, and has superceded the unpaved Mintaka and Kilik pases as the primary passage across the Karakoram range. On Pakistan side, the pass is 42 km (26 mi) from the National Park station and checkpoint in Dih, 75 km (47 mi) from the customs and immigration post in Sost, 270 km (170 mi) from Gilgit and 870 km (540 mi) from Islamabad.
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 TO THE KHUNJERAB PASS PAKISTANCHINA BORDER

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by

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Here I am, almost a year after my travel expedition to the Northern most part of Pakistan. I was craving for a sanity cleanup, just returned, back to my hometown Karachi, after having to leave it behind for greener pastures.

The K K H

Karakoram Highway, The Glaciated Mother of Every Epoch Drive

This trip was a much needed sabbatical, to clean off all worldly toxins. Crushed emotionally, defeated mentally and feeling rusted physically, I needed something to boost my spirits, and morale to help me restart all over again. I had often heard my father rave about the beautiful Baltistan, and Skardu, I myself had seen pictures, but had never dared to step a foot forward. Not, that I was afraid, but because I was busy being a typical rat stuck in the rat race of the world.

Though I had fond memories of my visit to Khaghan and Naran, visiting Saif-ul-muluk, back in my college days, I needed to revive a similar free spirited feeling again. I am sure a lot of you would have visited the area or must have read a lot about traveling on the Karakoram Highway. But, what I thought I might do as strange as it may sound is that I would like to recap my memories of my travel in a descending order. So I am reporting my travels from the end of the Karakoram down towards Hunza Valley, Karimabad.

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GETTING TO SOST

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Sust though is a small, single street town yet its important nice little place insofar as it has a a dry port in Gojal region of Gilgit Baltistan. It is the last town inside Pakistan on the Karakoram Highway, just ahead of  the Chinese border. All passengers and Cargo transport crossing the Pakistan-China border passe through this town as the Pakistani immigration and customs departments are based here.  The town is connected by the Karakoram Highway to Karimabad, Gilgit and Chilas on the south and the Chinese cities of Tashkurgan, Upal and Kashgar in the north.The Northern Areas Transport Corporation offers passenger road service between Islamabad, Gilgit and Sost. Passenger road service between Tashkurgan and Sost also exists, and road service between Kashgar and Gilgit (via Tashkurgan and Sust) started in summer 2006.

The two bridge trek forms a major tourist attraction in Pakistan. Considered as most dangerous bridge, here you have to cross the two bridges that take you though Passu and other neighbouring villages and ends at the laake itself. The view from the Borit lake bridge is picturesque. And this attracts visitors to take the long and dangeous trek time and again.

Leaving behind the most scenic and peaceful lake (Borit Lake) where star gazing is an absolute must, even if one is not a frantic star gazer as myself. Leaving the majestic mountain valley of Passu, and white crystalline Passu glacier, our destination further up north was calling us. It had been a childhood dream to step foot near and across the Chinese Border. So my Dad and I set foot, along with our pilot (Ayub) in his Jeep, headed north from Passu to Khunjerab Pass; at about 4,700 meters (15,470 feet) is reputedly the highest metalled border crossing in the world. Khunjerab Pass is the border between Pakistan and China, adjoining the Tashkurgan area in China, if anyone plans to enter into Pakistan from China.

Enroute from Passu we came across small towns and villges, good for stopping over for tea and food, we had planned to reach Sost, by evening, a small town closest to the Khunjerab Pass, and also the last town on the Karakoram Highway. Sost, is the Pakistani immigration and customs post, at about 2,700 metres (8,860 feet), 82 kilometres (51 miles) from the Chinese border, and 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Passu.

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SOST TO KHUNJERAB PASS

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Sost is basically a single street town. One would mostly find Chinese and Pakistani workers, roaming around the streets of Sost, looking for work at the KKH. Sost, is known as a stopover, for whoever is interested in heading towards Khunjerab Pass early morning. Here, we met a huge tourist troupe, traveling from Russia and Europe, and all on a Bicycle Hike Expedition to Khunjerab. It was fascinating to know how popular the China-Pakistan border actually is. Finding a decent budget hotel in Sost is not a problem at all. Few of the good places to stay are PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation), providing a comfortable zone, with decorative walls to keep one engrossed in finding out more about the region. Others are the Sky Bridge, and North Star both popular with tourist groups.

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ACTIVITIES IN SOST

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There is not much to do neither to explore in Sost, except for take short walks around the town, and its water channels. Seven Kilometres (four miles) upriver from Sost is a short path to the hot springs beside the river, to relax and cool down. You can also walk up to Khudabad village, on the west bank of the Hunza River, which can be approached by a footbridge behind the Sky Bridge Hotel. In the ‘V’ between the two streams lies the Barumter settlement (Bardom Tir) or Karakoram Map; which means White Pasture in Burushaski. This settlement has another name to it Shamijerav, which means “White Water” in Wakhi.If you arrive at Sust in the afternoon and have time at your disposal, you might want to explore the “Chapursan Valley” which joins the Hunza River from the west just above Sost.

A semi rugged road some 35 kilometres (22 miles) ahead will take you to Rehsit, a wide flat valley with irrigated wheat fields. This area was flooded in the late 18-th century; however, a legend recalls the floods to be caused by Baba Ghundi, who came begging to this valley. Since, no one gave him anything, except for an old woman who offered him milk, the flood was a punishment to the settlers of this valley, destroying everything except for the old woman and her house. Now, people from across the nation come to Baba Ghundi as a pilgrimage asking for forgiveness. There is a holy rock beside the road, near “Yashkuk” that has marks of Baba Ghundi’s hands, knees, toes and forehead, as legend says this is the place where he used to pray. The shrine of Baba Ghundi is a tomb made of mud and stone, enclosed by a high stone wall.

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SUST – TASHKURGAN – KHUNJERAB PASS

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For the next 30 Kilometres (19 miles) from Sost, a barren, narrow valley of mountains and cliffs, meander uphill. Here you see the Hunza River join the Khunjerab River, whereby a walk on one of the oldest suspension bridges is a must for the adventure seeker. It’s not too tough, and neither is it too daring, except when you stand at the edge watching the river gushing under your feet, makes you feel a bit woozy. The road leaves Hunza and enters the Khunjerab, where you can admire nature to its fullest with alluvial fans spreading their wings out at very meandering gully.

Snow Capped Mountains taking a backseat   

Himalayan Snow Leopard is smaller in size than the common leopard. Its one of the most beautiful cats of the world. It has luxuriant fur, soft and pearl grey. Snow leopard is the king of snow capped mountains and is adapted to survive in some of the harshest and most difficult environmental conditions. The head, nape and lower parts of limbs have dark-grey spots. Body and tail is covered with pale rosettes. Under parts are white and unmarked. The thick, furry tail is almost 1/3 of the body length and is wrapped around the body to keep it warm. The sexes are alike.

Thirty Kilomtres (19 miles) down Sost, you hit the Khunjerab National Park. The landscape switches sides, as the hillsides move backwards, and the valley opens wide with open fields, the Khunjerab River flowing through, a place to relax, stop over for a lookout of wild animals. The Khunjerab is famous for spotting snow Leopards, Chinese blue sheep, Ibex, Markhor and Yaks.

Marmota caudata and Marmota bobock) are two palaearctic species found in the northern mountains, including Hazara district, near the high glaciers at 3200 to 4850 meters. They live in burrows amongst rocks, collecting large quantities of food to last them through the snowy months.

I was not lucky enough to spot the snow leopard, which I feel would have been so awesome, but I did manage to spot a few Yaks, Ibex and Markhor, YES! And these adorably cute magnified Beavers.

Markhor, our national animal

There is a check post at “Dih”, which holds stone houses and some security check posts in temporary cottages. From here it is another 50 km to Khunjerab.

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KHUNJERAB PASS

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If only wilderness to such a vast extent could be declared as beauty beyond imagination. The pass is nothing but barren piece of land, snow covered ground, surrounded by snow capped mountains, a barbed wire marking the border between the two countries, a monument and a wall signifying the right side as beingChina, while the land on the left hand is Pakistan.

The landscape on both sides is astonishingly different. One side is a vertical world of mountain peaks and gorges, with no existence of human life for as far as 30 km, except for a few truck movements, mainly transporting goods to build on the KKH or the Border side. Whereas, the land across the barbed wire is wide and open grasslands, a high-level plateau where grazing herds of Yaks, goats and sheep can be found.

Touch down at the Khunjerab was like – finishing first in one of the relay races back in school. Sheer joy, with stuttering teeth and frozen hands, I must have managed to click a few 50 pictures, mesmerized by the serene, picturesque, calm and soul free spot that I was standing on. I even managed to make friends with the security guard, acting as the stone cold temple guard.

Did you know that the entire China Pakistan border is marked and based on a simple barbed wire? And did you also know, If I crossed the monument marking, betweenPakistan and China, the security guard would have lost his job, as the alarm bells would go on? Aaah such a waste of mischievous energy… I hope you enjoyed through this post and would enjoy more pictures of the Khunjerab Pass, as much as I did.

I’m a Pakistani blogger based in Karachi.and I’m on a road to self discovery, Love to travel the less traveled road. This is how I feel when and while I travel on a road which inspires me. I consider myself an amateur photographer, but dream to hold an exhibit of my travel photographs from around the world soon. I dream and live on aspirations, and envision a paradoxical life, living up to a status given to me by the ones who know me the most; “A Paradox”.

Related Posts:

1. The 9th Wonder of the World  2.The Wonders of Deosai Plains 3.Deosai Plains – Fact Sheet 4. My beautiful Pakistan: Gilgit-Baltistan 5. PAKISTAN – The Largest Land of Glaciers (in three parts) 6. Spring in Hunza
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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for the wonderful article and photos…

  2. Asslamo-Alaicum…

  3. Very beautiful pictures of remote places. These pics unite Indian and Pakistani people. Yes we are divided by man made barriers but our history and region (place) is one. Though we are divided as India and Pakistan on the basis of religion, culture, language, spirituality etc. yet we are same in every respect.
    Adam from India

  4. […] To the End of the Karakoram Highway […]

  5. […]  1. To the End of the Karakoram Highway 2. Earth Facing Imminent Environmental ‘Tipping Point’ 3. The 9th Wonder of the World 4. Could A Changing Climate Set Off Volcanoes And Quakes? [in two parts] 5. The Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows 6. U.S. scientists use flying radar system to study earthquakes 7. PAKISTAN – The Largest Land of Glaciers [in three parts] […]

  6. my birth place…

  7. Lets have a trip to Khunjerab pass and shishper valley in hunza

  8. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website?
    My blog site is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would really benefit from
    a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this
    ok with you. Many thanks!

  9. I am truly thankful to the holder of this web site who
    has shared this great article at at this time.

  10. Good yar very nice

  11. i love china dude

  12. i ill go there to visit china cuz im in rahim yar khan good yar very nice hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahhhahahahahahahaahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahahhaahhhahhahahahahhahim not in rahim yar khan im aready in china bejing villas home 143 HAHAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHGAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

  13. MY BIRTH IS IN THE BORDER IM BORN IN india 1947


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