We have been driving the Karakoram Highway for several days, going through the Hunza Valley, going alway higher. Today, we will drive all the way to its highest point: the Khunjerab Pass. The longer we drive, the more yellow we see in the trees, a sign that we are climbing. Then, the road turns, and we switchback our way up the mountain slopes. The views get always wider as we climb our way out of the valley. We see side valleys with raging rivers, we get closer to the snow, and we spot herds of yaks, yet another sign of altitude. Then, we stop: a Khunjerab National Park ranger has spotted Siberian ibex. He allows us to use his binoculars, through which we indeed spot the large goats with their big curved horns. Several others stop to spot the animals.
We continue driving until we reach Khunjerab Pass at 4714m. To my surprise, we are free to walk all the way to the Chinese border. It soon turns out that this is a tourist destination in its own right: scores of Pakistanis leave their cars, and walk the last few hundred metres to the actual building. They unfold their Pakistani flags, and take lots of selfies. We pass the highest ATM in the world, and can walk all the way to the very border itself. The Chinese guards turn out to be super friendly: they pose for pictures and joke with the visitors; it is all a very relaxed affair, unlike some other Chinese border crossings. Another curiosity about Khunjerab Pass: the Pakistanis drive on the left, and the Chinese on the right, so they need to change lane while crossing the border. With only few vehicles actually crossing, this does not seem to be a problem at all.
At the border, we watch Pakistanis pose for pictures, all dressed up for the occasion. Many have a fancy haircut and sunglasses, and it feels like a fashion show. We also pose, with the Pakistani flag, much to the pride of the Pakistani tourists. Close to the Chinese border, there is a memorial for those who aided in the construction of the Karakoram Highway, which was completed in 1982. It makes us aware that what we take for granted, a high-altitude mountain road, actually is the product of remarkable engineering and hard work, in which more than a thousand people lost their lives. Many actually call it the Eight Wonder of the World. We walk back on the tarmac; the few vehicles (mostly trucks) passing respect that this stretch of the Karakoram Highway is mostly a pedestrian zone. On our way down the road, we see several more herds of ibex, before we are back in the Hunza Valley and more liveable altitudes.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Khunjerab Pass (Pakistan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Khunjerab Pass. Read more about this site.