Day two headed out of town with Abdul Driver and Abdul Guide we found the Chinese. Like Bole a massive modern city is in the making. Guangzhou has moved in, pouring huge amounts of money into apartments, industry, businesses, etc and it was mentioned as in Bole, 80%of every train in, is Han Chinese who arrive here and seemingly disappear to their new city ghettos, so to speak.
Every time we drove down the main street I got, the Chinese live on this side of the road and the Uyghur’s on this side of the road. Tall buildings are allowed on the Chinese side and not on this side, I must go for a wander down these separate streets and see if there is a different feel to them. At one point a van load of the heavy Guardia goes past, “they are here to protect us, we are very valuable to them”, a lovely phrase in a hopeless situation. It could be said that the Chinese are bringing the modern world, cell phones, planes, trains and automobiles, modernisation and then suddenly we are all the same! It is complex but again it is very simple as long as you grasp the concept, the force marches on unabated.
We drove from Kashgar along the Karakorum highway, Chinas road link to Pakistan, headed for Karakol Lake. The road took us along a river between snow capped otherwise barren mud and stone Mountains. It had rained the day before so the road was nearly impassable with areas of mud and stones that easily dislodge from the barren Mountain sides. On this stretch they had what they call a pre border permit, visa, and anything else inspection, “ they are just looking after us making sure we are alright”with the that’s one way of looking at it shrug, before we reached our tourist stop-over, beside Karakol Lake ( a splash of water surrounded by more barren Mountains). A small Kuyrgyz family run yurt on the road side where we had some yak milk tea and bread and melons we had bought a breakfast time at a Uyghur village along the road. A bit further along the road was a big lakeside sort of resort, “ we don’t take our clients there, we leave that to the Chinese guides and tourists”
The Kuyrgyz people in this region do it very hard, trying to eke a living with a few animals on these very barren, cold, wind blown high Mountain sides. The Kuyrgyz people who fled to the Mountains ahead of Genghis Kahn and never came down again
A couple more hours of steady climbing and photo opportunities we arrive at the very picturesque town of Tashkorgan, a town of 40,000, sitting at 3,300 meters, hence the laboured breathing, populated by the Tajik people, distinguished by their different ethnic dress, often blue eyes, sharp features and very prominent hooked nose. These people, though predominantly in animal husbandry have a totally different way of life compared to the Kuyrgyz people due to the vast lush river plains laying between two Mountain ranges. You could immediately feel a more prosperous, unmolested, more relaxed way of life.
Once again a little rest was the order of the day, before visiting a 9th century fort then heading off to a local restaurant and beautiful Mountain flavoured pizza, more spaghetti and kebabs ( tender meat is a very rear delicacy ). “ Be careful Bo and don’t eat too much as it can adversely affect you at these altitudes”, I didn’t like to leave too much, consequently gasping uncomfortably round the bed before having a wonderful sleep, fresh as for the next day’s adventure.