Pakistan and China: Biking up to the highest land border in the world on Karakoram Highway

(This trip was done in September 2016, right after the Enchantments trip.)

Our housemate mentioned this amazing bike trip in China, from Chengdu to Lassa:

This is a 23-day guided bike tour that goes over 2 >5000m peaks and 8 >4000m peaks. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to plan or get vacation for 3 weeks, so we decided to another trip:

I can’t find a site that can give me a direction between these two points for some reason..but there’s basically one highway, so it’s not too hard to follow that all the way.

I had never been to either country, so this was quite exciting. I was very worried about the logistics and the climb:

By Himalaya by bike

Our housemate’s dad recorded our actual mileage and climbing here:

Gilgit to Karimabad

Karimabad to Gulmit

Gulmit to Sost

Sost to Khunjerab Pass

Tashkurgan to Karakul Lake

Kashgar to a nearby town

We had the Seattle departure and arrival dates but other than that, we only had tentative plans and, as I describe later, we had to modify our plans almost every day. The summary of our trip was:


* Day 0: Flew from Seattle to Beijing to Urumqi on Hainan. Spent a night in Urumqi.
* Day 1-2: Flew from Urumqi to Islamabad. Met our guide and drove for 2 days to Gilgit. Built our bikes.

* Day 3: Biked from Gilgit to Karimabad (gentle climb 1-2%; very steep climb from the highway to downtown Karimabad at the end ~1 mile)
* Day 4: Biked from Karimabad to Gulmit (gentle climb @1-2%). Our guide drove us to a nearby glacier. On the way back, we stopped at the best apricot cake cafe, where we met a German solo touring cyclist, who told us that the border would be closed for 5-7 days due to holidays and weekends).
* Day 5: Biked from Gulmit to Sost (gentle climb @1-2%). Others went out to explore the area by bike.
* Day 6: Our guide drove us to Chuprusan villages, which are normally not accessible to foreigners but that day, we were able to get an ok (but not the next day)). Rough roads on cliffs.
* Day 7: Biked from Sost to Khunjerab Pass (gentle climb @1-2%; air gets very thin after the last checkpoint). Others biked down part of the way.
* Day 8: Biked from Sost to Gulmit. Walked to the next village.
* Day 9: Hiked on both of the pedestrian bridges (one of the scariest in the world). Someone gave us a ride home.
* Day 10: Drove to Tashkurgan (biking is not allowed past the border until Tashkurgan).
* Day 11: Biked from Tashkurgan to Karakul Lake (our guide had to be in Kashgar that day, so we had to get driven to Kashgar. The road was under construction and in a very bad shape for that part, so that was ok).
* Day 12: Rest.
* Day 13: Biked out to a nearby town and back. A very sensitive area, so no detours were allowed. The police stopped us and took our passports for a while and told us not to talk to the locals. We couldn’t have anyways since many didn’t seem to speak Chinese either.

* Day 14: Fly to Urumqi. Spend a night.
* Day 15: Fly to Beijing to Seattle (Mako spent a night there).

Our gear list (I may be forgetting some):

* touring bikes with S&S couplers. Hardcase boxes and padding for these bikes.
* patch kit/pump/bike tools
* first aid kit (one person)
* zipties, extra spokes, duct tape, electric tape, saddle bags
* pedal wrenches, small wrenches, maintenance towels
* biking clothes, knee protectors, sunglasses, helmets, lights, locks and keys, water bottles
* non-biking clothes, rain jackets, non-biking shoes, old phones (we were advised against bringing our normal phones), phone chargers

* headlights would have been great to bring for assembling bikes in a dim place.

The food list includes:

* Lots of curry and different types of bread in Pakistan. Veggie curry was always available.
* Lots of dried apricots and apricot pits.
* Tea everywhere. Villagers in Pakistan invited us for tea everywhere we went, which was a wonderful opportunity to meet local people.
* Bought bottled water.
* Mutton food was common especially in China.
* Liangpi noodles with chickpeas were very good (Kashgar). We later made those noodles at home. It required gluten wash.

I posted some pictures here. I’ll write more about this trip sometime soon (I hope)!

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