Painted Faces of the Silk Road - Our Adventures in Far West China, Central Asia and Northern Pakistan
About this blog
This is our story of our travels through the various Silk Road routes of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and along the Karakoram Highway through far western China and into northern Pakistan. The faces we are painting in our story are not only of the melting pot of exotic peoples and their cultures, or just of the ever friendly and generous people we met - but also the diverse and colourful scenery and the wonderful stories of these incredibly fascinating destinations.
It could well be asked "what inspired us to do this trip?". The Central Asian countries we travelled in are little known or well understood by the majority of our Australian friends and colleagues, and similarly there is not much known about the vast desert areas and the peoples of far western China. Conversely, the Taliban insurrection and resulting instability in Pakistan had more than its fair share of media coverage throughout our country and indeed all over the world. Everyone had a view about Pakistan. And not one was positive.
We certainly did not have many supporters for our trip. In fact, none.
Our previous travels during the last six years had taken my husband Alan and I along many of the various Silk Road routes in China. And it was truly addictive. A lot of the country was so barren, harsh and untouched it was not difficult to visualise the plodding caravan trains of the ancient traders, the associated bloodshed and banditry, the mighty armies of Alexander the Great, Genghiz Khan and Tamerlane, and the unbelievable journeys of Marco Polo. To us, these are some of the great stories of history.
We had read and heard so much about the romantic cities of Khiva, Samarkand, Bukhara and were keen to visit these cities as well as explore the Silk Road Routes of Uzbekistan. In all honesty we did not know a lot about Kyrgyzstan but from our reading it sounded scenically beautiful and was of course part of the ancient Silk Road routes. And, it was after all on our way from Uzbekistan back into far western China where we had to link up with the Karakoram Highway for our travels into Pakistan.
And a major attraction for this trip was to explore more of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), regarded as one of the greatest engineering and scenic marvels in the world. The KKH stretches a total distance of 1,200km from the exotic frontier town of Kashgar flanking the mighty Taklamakan Desert in far western China over the Sino-Pak border and through to the Pakistan capital city of Islamabad. The KKH forges through some of the highest and most intractable landscapes in the world, from China over the Khunjerab Pass (Wakhi for "Valley of Blood") at a staggering 4730m into northern Pakistan. The road was constructed by the Chinese in the 1960's and 70's and has been stated as a "symbolic collaboration between China and Pakistan".
On our visit to far west China in 2007 we had travelled the KKH from Kashgar to Tashkorgan. We loved far western China and like the seduction of many border towns, our pleasant experiences in the friendly little village of Tashkorgan enticed us into exploring further down the magnetic KKH over that mighty Pass and into Pakistan.
Although our travels were not always relaxing or easy, we did not regret any of it.
For us, it was the trip of a lifetime.
Note: We organised this trip as a series of private tours for just the two of us. As we could not get an Australian company to organise this for us we ended up sub-contracting our travels to five different local travel agencies. All were highly professional and we would strongly recommend them all. They were:
China Travel Service, Australia (air travel to and from China and most accommodation in China) Travel Consultant David Hu, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advantour, Tashkent (travel in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan). Travel Consultant Odil Akhmedov, Email: email@example.com
Silk Road Adventures (Transport from the Torugat Pass from Kyrgyzstan to Kashgar and accommodation in Kashgar). Managing Director Mr Abdullah, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Crown Inn Group (accommodation and assistance in Tashkorgan) Travel Consultant Christin Tan, Email: email@example.com
North Pakistan Treks, Tours and Expeditions (all travel and tours in Pakistan). Managing Director Ishaq Ali, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are grateful to all those people who assisted us with our travels and to those wonderful travel agents and guides that we are still in contact with for their support and patient assistance with writing this travelogue.