China and Pakistan 2019 – August 23 – September 16.
The attraction to navigating my way on a bicycle through a completely different culture has hit me again. After a couple of months of finalising visas and working out the finer details, it’s all systems go for a trip that I’m very excited about. The Karakoram Highway has, for many centuries, been a big part of the Silk Road lifeline between China and the sub-Continent. It’s a little less of an adventurer’s paradise as opposed to 20 years ago as the Chinese government have paved the road and the route has been cycled by many before me.
August and September means the extreme heat of mid-summer has passed and the snowfall and bitter cold have not arrived in the Northern hemisphere. The route for this year will take me up and over the Pakistan Himalayas, known as the Karakoram Mountain range, and my 56th birthday is in early September so I will schedule a day off somewhere in the mountains of the Karakoram.
Starting off in the far southwest corner of China, at a city called Kashgar, the ride will cover around 1300kms with my final destination being Islamabad, Pakistan. The first week will be mostly all uphill to the border and pedalling up and over the Khunjerab Pass, the highest border crossing in the world at 4693 meters, will be a highlight. After a grinding 400kms uphill the remainder of the route should get a little easier with only a few higher passes as I head down back down to Islamabad at 550 meters altitude.
The first part of the journey will be sparsely populated so a couple of nights camping will be required. Lake Karakul on the way up has a few locals living in Yurts and I am hoping it will be possible to stay with locals so I am really looking forward to that. Once I cross the border it should get a little easier to find places to sleep.
Kashgar to the Khunjerab Pass elevation is 3420 meters (For reference, Mt Kosciusko, the highest peak in Australia is 2228 meters above sea level). The first part of the ride will equate to riding from Sydney, Australia which is at sea level to the summit of Mt Kosciusko one and a half times. I am also expecting there may be a little bit of snow at altitude and the road here looks very similar to the Friendship highway in Tibet.
When I see a town from the angle in this photo it generally means my destination after a 10 -12 hour day on the bike is finally in sight. While it’s a very simple thing is hard to explain how great it feels. The next goal after a day’s riding is to find somewhere to stay and a place to eat. Sitting at a local restaurant or food stall and engaging with the local community is what makes the journey on a bicycle so rewarding.
There are certain parts of Pakistan that are ‘no go zones’ but my route will, for obvious reasons, stay clear of those areas. The Indian border is called the ‘Line of Control’ (see map) and are not recommended. In fact, the entire western area of the country including all border areas are considered very unsafe so my route will follow the red line detailed on the map.
You can support David on this route in his Riding for Dementia journey, by donating to the Dementia Foundation for Spark of Life. All funds raised go to transforming the lives of those living with dementia and their carers.