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You Could Have Said

A quick recap. 00:40 Beijing time.

The Landslide Lake

I've mentioned the landslide lake before. A landslide in January 2010 at Attabad blocked the Hunza river and has flooded 25km of the KKH. It's been a major local problem, as you might imagine. It is of interest to travellers.

It's about an hour up to the landslide. I'd me K, a cyclist, in Karimabad who told me how he'd given up trying to push his 40kg bicycle through 8" deep powder with hidden rocks and dumped the bike in a tractor to get down from the lake. I hadn't believed him.

As it was he told the complete truth apart from the 1 in 3 slope. The problem is that life must go on and trade passes through, landslide or no. The only vehicles that can make it up or down are tractors and 4WD jeeps. They have churned the rocks to powder. Not sand or mud but 8" deep powder with random rocks hidden.

Suffice it to say I didn't make it far up the first slope without keeling over in a cloud of dust. I managed to remove some luggage and right the bike only to drop it again. I stripped the bike completely and paid a handy tractor to carry the luggage. I managed to waddle the unladen bike up and over the landslide down to the "quay" for about 11am. For quay, think flat bit between the landslide and water's edge humming with people unloading boats by hand and loading tractors jeeps etc..

As I was discussing the unexpected cost of loading and unloading (imagine locals fleecing non-locals and that I had not many rupees left as I'm leaving PK) a policeman asks if I have the permit. What permit? The NOC. NOC?

It seems you're meant to have an indemnity form in case a boat sinks. No suggestions for an "alternative" solution (ie. a bribe) made any headway so the solution was to jump in the back of some local transport (ie. an overfull jeep -- I wasn't going to try getting over the landslide again on the bike) to Aliabad. No sign of the required Deputy Commissioner so I found the police station who roused people. I then had a taxi ride up to Karimabad to the Commissioners office only to get the blank form and then a (free) lift back down to Aliabad to the Deputy's house where he kindly signed the form (this is a Sunday, don't forget). Another local transport trip back to the lake and six hours have been wasted.

I met a FR et fils who were looking to get their van over the lake. They didn't know about the NOC either.

I manage to get a boat and hand over all but 40 rupees to cover the cost and at 6pm begin the trip up the lake. I get to the far end as the last light of dusk is fading and slither 8km up the gravel road in the dark to Passu, where all the power is out and I find the Ambassador Hotel with a gas lamp in the window and a willingness to take US dollars.

Ambassador Hotel, Passu: n36 29.031 e74 52.872

I did have a good chat with the blokey though he did charge me a fortune.

The Road to Sust

The PK border is at Sust, 40km up the road and then on into China.

Imagine my surprise, then, at 9:34am, halfway to Sust when I find a room sized boulder in the middle of the road with no way past. It seems the Chinese construction crew have decided to blow up a house sized boulder at the side of the road and this is the result.

They're drilling again and without much in the way of warning there's another blast. The smoke clears to reveal little of the original boulder but now a second room sized boulder in the road. Oh dear.

Suffice it to say that this malarkey continues for seven hours. In the meanwhile the FR famille appear and we can have a good chit chat while we wait. They're on a seven month tour along similar lines to myself.

The road finally clear at 4pm and with the news that the border to China is only open northbound from 8-11am each day we're resigned to staying in Sust.

PTDC Motel, Sust: n36 41.482 e74 49.201

I manage to use the hotel man's phone to contact my man in China who doesn't seem too upset that I'm not appearing as expected.


No petrol north of the Lake so it'll be a close run thing getting to Taxkorgan, for the first night. The run up through to Khunjerab is nowhere near as bad as several people had suggested and I was toddling along at quite possibly my fastest yet (up to 50kph!!). Although tortoise and hare sprang to mind with all my stops for photos compared to the FR in their VW camper.

Up at the top the PK were fairly relaxed though as I was looking for the big sign on the CN side (for 4700m -- my GPS read 4712 on the PK side) the CN soldier was shouting "Quickly, go!" I can take a hint.

Down the hill 2km to a check point where they were anal about parking up behind the double yellow line then wanted to take a look at everything. They sort of gave up on me after a while but the FR's camper was given a proper going over.

They told me later that the two kids under 15 were made to go to the stinking shit covered communal squat loos and collect two "samples."

I was hanging about waiting for my passport when it became clear that the three adults weren't going to get them back but a soldier was going to carry them for us (in the camper van) for fear that we might...might do what I don't know.

What I would have liked to do was take some pictures but with my passport disappearing ahead the really rather good wide grassy valley surrounded by snowy peaks is something I'll just have to remember.

There were several hamlets and a few suspiciously model yurt encampments but otherwise the place was pretty deserted for the 120km down to Taxkorgan. The locals seemed friendly enough when we did see them.

At Taxkorgan you go through the official immigration/customs (as opposed to the being messed about at Khunjerab) threatening to repeat the inspections though fortunately not bothering.

A little way up the road is the hotel which is OK but not well cleaned -- and no hot water!

Ben Leixin Hotel, Taxkorgan: n37 46.603 e75 13.138

I went with my guide to get some fuel. The necks of the local CN bikes are too narrow for the fuel pump so they get their fuel in a large kettle and pour it via a cut-off water bottle/funnel. The woman managing the pump would simply not have anything to do with my bike and so my guide had to buy two full kettles worth (6.94ltr) and splash it everywhere trying to fill my tank. He assures me this is a Taxkorgan thing.

I finally removed the landslide powder from the chain and re-oiled it and we went for some dinner and a beer. I had a good chat with the guide arranged for the FR famille (who are only here for five days) who joined us as the FR are very wise to keep costs down and cook for themselves.

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