Friday, September 6, 2013

Karakoram Highway: Karimabad to Sost

Since we left Gilgit, the Karakoram has taken us up the valley formed by the Hunza River. A rock slide (of, like, half of a mountain) in January 2010 dammed this river, blocking its flow for five months and creating a lake that was, at one point 21km in length. The newly formed lake buried 25km of the highway, flooded villages and displaced/stranded tens of thousands of people.

The level of the lake has subsequently been lowered by 33ft, after two intentional blasts to the dam site. The lake that remains is around 6km long (by my estimate) and still covers a sizeable section of road. While the chinese are hard at work to create new roads to replace the sections that remain submerged, the flow of goods and people on this passageway between Pakistan and China is facilitated by small boats that shuttle from one end of the lake to the other. The permanent solution is to build a highway alongside the lake, but that will require at least five tunnels and massive blasting work, so it will not be complete for many years.

For now, the shuttle boats being used are too small to carry a vehicle, which means that all of the goods (of which there appear to be many) moving in either direction must be manually unloaded from a truck and manually loaded on to a boat at one end, and then manually unloaded from the boat and manually loaded on to a truck at the other end. It is quite an operation.


Moving up through the valley, the physical appearance of the people has changed. At the start, Gerry and I stood out with our white skin, light eyes and western clothing. Progressively, we have noticed more dark skin/light eye combinations, and many people who look entirely caucasian. We've even seen a few gingers. It feels like we are really at a crossroads of cultures.

Fashion has shifted as well. For many kilometers, men were invariably dressed in long sleeved/long pant combinations that resemble pajamas (in the nicest possible way). We are now seeing more variety, individual style as well as clothing that is practical for working on the land. And, since we have started seeing women, they have become less and less conservatively dressed (we have even seen a few without head scarves).


Tonight we stay in Sost, which is the town that is home to the Pakistani administrative post for the border with China. It is more than 200km from here to the Chinese administrative post, and the chinese do not permit independent travel for a good portion of it. So, we will take a rest day tomorrow and make our way to Tashkurgen, China in a vehicle.


Blogger Jet said...

I guess relatively speaking the one in one thousand year flood that we had here in June was really nothing in comparison.

September 6, 2013 at 3:46:00 PM MDT  

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