Silkroad (China Leg) Day 4

Yahximusiz,

Tashkurgan was at a strategic location on a branch of the old Silk Road. From here, there were paths leading to the areas of what are now Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Tashkurgan is nestled amongst the Pamir mountains. It is believed that Marco Polo visited Tashkurgan.

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With splendid mountain ranges all 360 degrees, I think Tashkurgan is a must on the bucket list. I’m not really qualified to judge this objectively. After all, I’ve been to no more than five or six cities in China. But in my eyes, it would be hard to unseat beautiful Tashkurgan. With its stunning grasslands and the ever present vista of snow capped peaks, Tashkurgan is breath-taking from all sides.

After breakfast, we slowly made our way to two of Tashkurgan’s sites; the Stone Fort and the Grasslands.

Tashkorgan Sites

The hike up the Stone Fort, allowed us to catch a glimpse of the overview of the Grassland board walks below. Wooden board walks were built  because recently the grassland has been annexed by the Chinese government to turn into a tourist attraction. No charge yet. Just take note that sometimes the cows and lambs do get up on the walkway too.

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Walking around the grasslands on a sunny day was a wonderfully relaxing experience. The bleating of goats and the joyful rill of water bubbling along the stream was immensely soothing.

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And I’m not sure I’m quite ready to say good bye just yet but life had to go on. So we made our way down back to Karakul Lake. Along the way, we managed to visit the Tajiks’ house on our way down. The Tajik are Syiah because they are of Iranian origin. Regretfully, we could not stay long  as they were in the midst of moving to their summer home, a yurt located somewhere in the grassland. Only during winter, they would come back to their mud house. Stone houses are known to be warmer.

Tajiks FamilyAfter 2 hours of twists and turns, we arrived back at Karakul Lake. We had polo rice for lunch and after midday prayers, we went for a hike around the lake. It was not part of the itinerary but Rapkat offered to guide us. Lucky, if not both my dad and husband would take the opportunity to nap after a hearty lunch.

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We stumbled upon a group of China trekkers who were doing some acclimatization. There are many climbing expeditions available for booking. Muztagh Ata is popular since it is considered to be one of the easier mountains to climb at 7000m.

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Their full trekking gear made us feel small. But the Chinese climbers looked at us with a surprised looks. Then all of them greeted us, “Sawadeekap.” Tqa and I just laughed. Looking at us without any gear, they must have thought we were tough people from Thailand. Little did they know, we were really unprepared and not fit.

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So we completed 12km of trail hike at an elevation of 4000m in 2 hours, after much encouragement from Rapkat. And what better way to celebrate it? Breaking out into a bollywood song and dance routine.

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We came back to Jamilah, our host, making Katlama bread with yak’s butter. I think I am averse to yak’s butter. After taking a few bites of the bread, I had a headache. Everyone had no problems but we all agreed that it was definitely rich.

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Anyway, our Kyrgyz homestay at the lake was one of the many highlights of the trip. Answering nature call with millions stars looking at you was awesome for a moment. Sadly, the cold wind that night was not conducive for both my sister and I to star gaze longer. Looking back, I wished we lingered longer. That moment was the moment that justified my trip.

Why do we fear too much? Climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along.

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