Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, July 3, 2007

We camped in the exact same spot, under the tree by the river. In the morning, we took our time breaking camp; the previous day the road builders told us the road would open that evening, so we had some hope that it would in fact open today. When we showed up at 9.30, they said '2pm today, definitely'. This we, rightly, took to mean 'tomorrow', and set about the long, arduous detour once again. Since it was morning, the temperature was slightly less punishing, and this time we knew what we were doing, so it only took a couple of hours to get our whole caravan across.

Back in Sost, we had to arrange our bus to China. This was never going to be a simple matter. We got quotes for the buses to Tashkurgan, and bought tickets from the company who said they wouldn't charge for the bicycles, even though that meant staying an extra day in Sost. We were therefore in no mood to trifle when, arriving at the bus station, we were asked for extra money for the bicycles. 

On our side was the fact that two bus companies compete for the route's custom, and the fact that we were four people, each with a different style for 'conflict resolution'. (Peter: calm exposition of our case; Me: slightly less calm exposition of the abstract notions of 'honesty' and 'customer service'; Magda: being female; Pavel: apoplectic rage) On their side was intransigence, obfuscation, the fact that we were cyclists and the fact that we had to get to China before our visa's expired. It was a fairly even match.

We did get on the bus, and we didn't pay any extra money. But this was, of course, only the beginning. The causeway by the landslide was by now complete, although the lake was threatening the road further upstream. The lake's outflow had widened and become a raging torrent. One of the caterpillar trucks had apparently got too close to the edge of the dam, and was submerged to it's steering wheel.

For some reason we were shuffled off one bus and onto another for the crossing of the causeway, and it appeared we were going to be completing the journey in a different bus from our belongings. I was ready to do as I was told, assuming eventually we'd all arrive at the other end relatively unscathed. Pavel and Magda, however, were very uncomfortable about being separated from their stuff. They attributed their ability to decipher and correct the mistakes of the driver to years of dealing with Polish bureaucracy, I put it down to mere genius. Either way, we were put back on the original bus, with our stuff, and coincidentally in accordance with the legal manifest demanded by Chinese immigration.

Tashkurgan was shockingly modern, with beautiful roads, streetlights, even some neon. It was late, past 10pm, when we checked into the main hostel, but there was no-way we were going straight to bed. There are many cultural differences between Pakistan and China, but at this point only one was of interest to us: lawful booze! We sat with other randoms who'd arrived in town that evening, and we all turned quickly pink as we happily ended over a month's forced abstinence.
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