Nightmare on a bike
I start out slowly on the flat vide boulevards in Kashgar which within 15 minutes arrowed into the Karakoram Highway with very spartan settlements. This road continuing all the road to Islamabad is in the village sections covered with poplar trees, momentary clipped the strength off the sun rays which combined with the relaxing soft sound from the irrigation water channels along the road give some kind of inner peace and joy in the shadow on the edge of the Taklamakan desert. I decide to bike until the arrival of darkness, and hopefully find a bed. The original plan was to bike to the checkpoint Getz, some 130 km outside Kashgar, but because of the delay, this is now unrealistic, even though I bicycle with only 5 kg. of gear. The cycling is at beginning easy, not only because the first part of Karakoram Highway is relatively flat, but also because I have been waiting for months to bike up to base camp.
A crowd of locals crowd the road after some 60 km of biking, starring at a major crack in the local bridge. I am able to cross the last half meter left of the bridge with the help from a nice road worker who carried the bike, while my heart racing as fast as the angry river underneath. I meet my nemesis just one kilometer later. The other river arm flushed across the road on the other side of the village, while buses and trucks cleverly wait it to lower. There are no land cruiser with my team, which meant that the large-scale raining must had been taking place in the mountain just as I started biking from Kashgar. Bad sign for later on(!) The water level fortunately fells fast and I soon find myself on the other side with the help from a nice bus driver, while the daylight quickly vanish and 10 kilometers later is it too dark to continue. There is just only one minor problem - I haven't not found any places to sleep, but have to sleep 100 meters off the road on a sleeping pad I have taken with me.
28. July (day 6) I wake up at daylight, sucking wet from the rain during night. Worst of all, I didn't slept properly because I froze too much and cannot help thinking not bringing sleeping bag and tent with me was a bad idea. I groggy begin biking at 6.30 a.m. and soon regain warmth in my body, but know a real hell day is waiting in front of me. I only gained some 300 meters in altitude the day before - now, following the plan, I have to bicycle some 2 vertical km higher by the end of this day.
I will never forget this day, it's cauterized into my brain. I slowly make my way up the gradually stepper mountain roads, while moisture from the frequently rain showers cover me. I discover a long line of trucks only a couple of kilometers before the checkpoint at Ghez, the place where I planed to sleep the day before. I know instantly to my utterly depression that more problems are waiting me. I glimpse a big hole in the road where a bridge is supposed to be, while I pass through the line of blue colored low geared trucks. But the drivers are as usual very creative, trying to get their stuff and passengers across any obstacles and they soon make a tiny bridge using sides of their trucks, and passing this one, I begin to believe I could walk on water.
A high rank police officer with the usual oversized sunglasses carefully study my passport at the Ghez checkpoint, before I am allowed to eat incredible delicious tapashi like pancakes with vegetables inside at a small shop, He tells me that a landcruiser had fallen into a clift with 6 foreigners in the morning and all were killed. Lots of thought, but it realistically cannot be Sieg and the other ones. I am not surprised about the accident - a lot of the Chinese drive like mad men, making me stick even more to my bike. I stuck up on supplies before I begin the trip through "Tiger mouth", where the road tumbles in-between massive walls of rocks created by the Ghez river next to the road.
Heavy threatening cloves chase me up through the gorge during the afternoon, while I struggle to reach the next plateau. The clouds close in from the mountain walls, sending cascades of water down on the naked mountains walls. Landslides countless times roar the road in front of me and crush down only 100 meters in front of me on one occasion. I really begin to worry.
The strong tailwind, growing in force the closer I come to the end of this tunnel-like road, suddenly disapears when leaving Tiger Mouth. I have reached the next plateau, and begin to feel safe again as I see big sand dunes covering a mountain like a coat on the other side of a lake. The flooding and landslides delayed me tremendously and begin to realize, I will reach Karakul Lake in the darkness. Really a problem, because I don't have my usual head torch with me. I leave this plateau, just to meet steep road again while the upper part of Mustagh Ata suddenly materialize in front of me, and give me an andrelin injection. Looking at her, I realize the mightiness of the challenge I have choosen this time.
A beam of light covers her 7.546 meters even though darkness is closing in around me, as if someone introduce her to me. Light become darkness and I know sleeping here outside, some two vertical km higher than yesterday could be dangerous with the insufficient gear I got.
I have to keep going.
Intense darkness surrounds me, changing my mind into a dreamlike state; there nothing exists, but the stars, brighter than ever before. I can even sense the enormous gas clouds crossing through the Milky Way. It is so dark that I even cannot see Mustagh Ata, but still feel her distant presence. Hours pass by before the light from the stars suddenly are reflected in Karakul Lake. Finally, I am at the Karakul plateau. Now I just got to find the hotel, but don't see light anywhere, making me continue biking along the edge of the lake. I begin to realize something must be wrong when I see a dark army building, remembering it from last year Islamabad- Kashgar bike trip.
Oh no - I must have passed the god damn hotel by several now uphill kilometers. I am completely exhausted after 18 hours of cycling, making me desperate for a place to sleep. I start yelling at the closed gate, only honored by angry barking dogs, and shouting Chinese soldiers. Ok - they don't have a room for rent and I have to walk to the next building, this one with open door. No one answers my yelling, and I walk inside the building complex with no light, and somehow find a table tennis hall(!) I am lucky and find a blanket , and instantly fall asleep on my apparently punctured sleeping pad, half past twelve in the night. What a day.