Sept 12, 2012
The last few days of preparation for our Karakorum Highway (KKH) & India trip .
On Sunday, Sept 16, Rich King and I will load our bikes and bags onto the first of a series of flights that will take us to Phoenix, LA, Beijing, Urumqi and finally dropping us in Kashgar, China on Sept 18. If we and our stuff arrive in good order a few days later we will begin cycling south on the Karakorum Highway crossing into Pakistan at the Khunjerab Pass at 4695 m. The KKH was built over a 20 year period, finishing in 1979, by the Chinese to open yet another avenue for getting their goods into the Indian sub-continent. It is one of the great adventure cycle routes in the world. Cutting across the Karakorum Mountains between the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush, we will touch on the three highest mountain ranges in the world. Formally the KKH is 1300 km long, but we will continue on, for possibly another 4000 km or so.
A few months ago I said to Rich “My eye doctor has finally given me the go-ahead to book my next three month cycle trip, leaving mid-September. You might be interested.”
“Oh! Where to?”
“I am going to attempt to cycle the Karakorum Highway from Kashgar to Islamabad and then continue on into India, down the west side certainly into the south and possibly even into Sri Lanka.”
Rich was silent for a while and then said “You do know that the KKH formally ends at Abbottabad?”
This was a good sign because he knows that that kind of formal definition is not important to me, nor to him either for that matter. He then reminded me that last year, getting to and from his Baltoro Glacier trekking trip, he spent quite a bit of time on the KKH and had found it in a dreadful state of repair. I countered that if it got too bad we would just get on a bus for a while. After all, being septuagenarians we can’t afford to be purists. He also worried about the Chinese side but I reminded him that two years ago, at the tail end of my Chinese silk road cycle I had taken a quick bus trip from Kashgar to Tashkurgan and felt the Chinese part of the KKH would be great to ride, in-spite of the altitude we would have to gain.
Our conversation continued…
Rich said, “I can’t get away for three months”
I replied “ Well you could meet me in Islamabad or Delhi and cycle India with me, or you could cycle the KKH and return from Islamabad. “ We had done this sort of connect on a number of trips.
He thought a bit longer and then said “ I really want to cycle the KKH .“ A bit more thinking and then …”but I really want to get to South India, particularly Goa and Kerala.”
Rich was hooked.
One of us suggested…”what about if we leave out Sri Lanka?” As much as we would both hope to get to Sri Lanka this seemed like a good compromise and we shortened the trip to end Dec 1. Rich went home to talk with Mavis.
Over the next months there was the usual amount of research and preparation. We will fly home from Delhi so that we can drop some of our cold weather stuff off before cycling into the south, returning on some form of transport from the south back to Delhi for our trip home. Visas for all three countries are required and took some time. We had paper and electronic resources to acquire, equipment to decide upon and top up. We had to decide what kind of hiking we will do while passing through Pakistan’s hiking meccas and which of the countless attractions in India might draw us onto the roads leading to them. Our plans are tenuous, as travelling by bike liberates you from the fetters of transport schedules, but without a tentative plan the slow pace of cycling might cause us to miss some of our highest priorities.
So we have laid out a route of about 5500 km, which will be lengthened by variations to the plan and side trips, the cycling distance will be shortened occasionally using local transport.
You can click on this web reference if you wish to look at and zoom in/out on our prospective route.
I will attempt to add notes periodically as we progress, possibly from Kashgar…. ’til then.