Kashgar to Lake Kara Kul, China

Distance: 124 miles
Time on bikes: 3 hours

We’ve arranged a reasonably early getaway with the group for 9 am, but first Stefano and Carl head out to try and find some oil for Stefano’s forks as the seals are perished and are losing fluid down the forks. Unsurprisingly, it looks like the Chinese use any kind of oil in their bike forks, so we settle for some ATF in case they run dry.

Back at the hotel, the group assembles and we manage to get going at about 10.30 am out of Kashgar, but via the Chairman Mau monument to get few photographs. Today we actually start riding on the Karakoram Highway and it doesn’t take long before the road starts leading us towards some really spectacular scenery.

Back when we were planning the trip, one of the things we were really looking forward to seeing was huge mountains. The destination for today is the Kara Kul lake, at an altitude of 3,600 m, but bounded by mountains of Muztagh ata 7,546 m and Kongur of 7,719 m. On the approach, we keep stopping to take a few photographs of the mountains ahead, but it’s when we get closer to the lake we see how really spectacular they are. They almost look within walking distance, but the sheer scale makes it difficult to get things in perspective – according to the GPS, the summit of the nearest mountain is actually twelve miles away in a straight line.

After getting the bikes parked up and paying our entrance fee to the lake, we see what the score is with accommodation. We knew that we’d be staying in yurts tonight, but we didn’t realise all eight of us would actually be in the same yurt. Although it’s a big one, it’s still going to be close. After getting a few things off the bikes and talking to some of the locals, it looks like we have two options for dinner; a local restaurant or with a family in their home nearby. The restaurant looks a bit modern considering the surroundings, so we all opt for dinner with the family.

We take a stroll along the shore of the lake, have a stone skimming competition and then return back to the yurt to get ready for dinner. We contemplate going for a swim in the lake, but there’s a little bit of concern about being able to warm up afterwards. We’re in a yurt and the air is freezing, so it could be uncomfortable if we’re cold. Still, it would be our highest altitude swim, so is very tempting all the same.

Dinner turns out to be really good – a rice dish served with vegetables, but tasting so good and it’s great to be around the family table where we sit cross legged with our backs resting against the mud walls, covered with draped carpets. When we retire to the yurt, we take a few night photos of the really amazing stars and planets which can clearly be seen.

The yurt itself turns out to be quite warm and comfortable, especially considering we’re all quite close together and have only recently made acquaintance with each other.

Jour 134 – Lundi 30 Aout 2010. De Kashgar au lac de Kara kul, Chine

Distance: 200 km – Temps a moto: 3 hours

Après le petit déjeuner, Carl et Stefano vont a un magasin de pieces de moto pour y acheter 2 ou trois produits, puis nous sommes tous prets a partir vers 10h30. C’est le début de la KKH (Karakoram Highway), la seule route qui lie la Chine au Pakistan. La route est en bonne condition est monte doucement dans une vallée le long de la rivière Ghez très large. Les montagnes environnantes sont de terre rouge et brunne et sont creuvassees par l’errosion. Nous passons aux bords d’un premier lac dont la montagne d’en face est grise brille comme de l’argent. C’est un paysage presque lunaire. Peu après nous appervevons les sommets enneiges des montagnes Kongur a 7719 metres et Muztagh Ata a 7546 metres.

Nous arrivons au lac Kara Kul ou le guide a reserve une Yourte. Nous y dormirons tous ensemble… heureusement personne ne ronfle ! Le paysage est superbe, nous sommes un peu etonnes de devoir payer une entree du parc national alors que nous n’allons que de l’autre cote du portail pour y dormir une nuit, mais nous n’avons pas le choix. La Yourte est grande et la structure est metallique, et nous avons chacun plein de couvertures. Il n’y a pas de chauffage, mais comme nous serons a 8 dedans, ca devrait aller.

Le temps de faire un petit tour au bord du lac et de faire comprendre aux vendeurs de babioles locales que nous n’en voulons pas, et nous allons dinner dans une maison en murs de terre des locaux. Deux Italiens qui on loue la yourte a cote de la notre nous rejoignent et nous sommes donc a 10 autours de la table. Nous sommes servis un superbe repas de riz aux legumes et aux œufs. Quand nous sortons pour aller dans notre Yourte, le ciel très clair et etoille, j’essaye une fonction que je viens de trouver sur mon appareil pour prendre des photos avec 60 secondes d’exposure.