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Xin Jiang, China: head out on the Karakoram Highway
25 September 2007 Hervé Bonnaveira

More than 4,000 km on our bikes! The highest point of the journey: the Ulugrabat mountain pass (4,098 meters high).

From Kashgar to Tashkorgan, an ideal route for cycling tourists with spectacular panoramas on the glaciers of the Kunlun Mountains, in western Tibet.

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Follow the white line!

The highest tarmac road in the world was built between 1966 and 1986 between China (Kashgar) and Pakistan (Islamabad): a rugged 1300 km path across the snow-capped summits of the Pamir and Karakoram Mountains. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is one of the main avenues for land communication between Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. At first a trade route but now increasingly a touristy one, it’s open to traffic from the beginning of May to the end of November, depending on the climatic hazards (snow).

Over the first 300 kilometers of this mythic route in Chinese Xin Jiang traveled in five days, our bicycles weren’t the only ones: We met 21 Dutch cyclists, two Japanese, and two Australians. After going up a rather narrow valley, we come out on a wide, high windy plateau where a lake with turquoise water shines: Lake Karaku (3,600 meters) sits enthroned by two giants at more than 7,000 meters high: Kongur (7,719 meters high) and Muztagata (7,546 meters high). Since 2000, as a matter of fact, this final, easily accessible glacier has been the object of a study lead by Chinese scientists on climate change and the history of pollution in Central Asia.

The road then climbs gradually up to Ulugrabat mountain pass at 4,098 meters, behind which a long 1,000-meter altitude drop towards Tashkurgan begins.

120 km then remain up to the Khunjerab Pass, but that section of the Karakoram Highway, which borders Pakistan, is off limits for cyclists.

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