Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tashkurgan and onto Kashgar

The road from Sost hadn’t been bad, but as soon as we were in China the road turned to a state of the art, super smooth highway with two wide lanes.

About 20km later at Pirali (4100m) we have to get out off the jeep into the freezing night and go through a security post showing our passports, they take a look at some of the baggage. and two young Chinese guards in their snappy uniforms join us in the mini buses making us squeeze up more. They spend the journey bossing our Pakistani driver around, “more heat, slow down, less heat, faster …” and watching Chinese Pop concert videos on their state of the art Mobile phones. Most of the Chinese officials were nice and polite but these two were young, arrogant and enjoying their uniforms too much. When one of the guys sparked up a cigarette up inside the bus, as his mate took a leak on the side of the road, Kaz didn’t hesitate to tell him to go and smoke outside, he seemed shocked but obeyed.

They stayed with us for another 100km until we got to the Immigration centre at Tashkurgan. Being the last out the minibus and inline we got an easy time through Immigration, they must have been bored by this time, others in front had to take their layers off and had a thorough search, it was cold.

A Pakistani guy recommended a cheap hotel to stay in I think it was called the ‘Punjabi Hotel’, and we checked in getting a good deal after bartering for OK rooms at 20 RMB each person, about £1.35 (£1 is around 15 Yen). There were a few drunk Pakistani staying there, with visits from local girls, who looked Russian or perhaps Tajik. We put our bags in the room and went out into the freezing empty streets of Tashkurgan in search of food, along with Claudio, Fernando and Lili. We were escorted by the hotel’s security guard, a tall Russian looking guy in an army jacket who looked like he’d already had 10 drinks too many. The empty modern streets with huge lit blue road signs and pavements looked like suburban LA but with Siberian temperatures.

We found a place where a few of the Pakistani guys from our bus were eating and drinking and got some nice Veggie Noodles and Beer! Our escort sat opposite us and carried on drinking.

He later fell off his chair knocking the table and everything flying, “think it’s time we better walk him home”.

Claudio, Fernando and Lili left the hotel earlier than us, the next morning, as they had to change money, we said we’d see them at the Bus Station. It was a strange walk to the Bus station, watching and hearing Tashkurgan wake up, there was communist style music piped into the streets, it was a cold but bright brisk morning with only a few people about, they didn’t look anything like Pakistani’s or Chinese, more Russian or East European if anything. As we approached the bus station I saw Fernando waving from a truck. The truck stopped and we crossed the road to join them. They got us a lift to Kashgar with a truck driver, there was room for all of us in the comfy heated cabin and he said to give him the same as what the bus cost. There was no sign of the bus and he was going now, so we hopped in.

It was beautiful journey. We stopped at the stunning Kara Kul lake , there were Yurts set up where you could stay but it was freezing! In summer it would be perfect place to camp, not now. A guy past us, walking his camels.

On the outskirts of Kashgar, the driver stopped and started to negotiate with a bus he’d flagged down. We think he’d got some warning about Police, maybe he’d get fined for carrying tourists? Not sure. Any way we paid him 50 RMB each for the lift and he gave some of this to the driver for the remainder of the journey. We got into Kashgar around noon and we checked into what was formely known as Seman Rd Hotel, opposite the grand Seman Hotel. It had changed its name to Shadaar? We got a nice ensuite double room for 70 RMB (£4.66)

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