Thursday, December 24, 2015

Khunjrab to Islamabad: A spectacular journey from top of the world on bicycle

Karakoram Highway is one of the unique highways in the world for it connects Pakistan's capital Islamabad to China at Khunjrab - the highest place in the world connected by a metalled road. 

Part of the old fairy tale Silk Route, which had long vanished,  Pakistan and China agreed to construct the Karakoram Highway, commonly called the KKH, in 1966. The area had never been visited by machines and automobile and it was the first time that people of region came to know about automation.  One of the workers narrates an interesting anecdote about the remoteness of the area: 
When after lot of difficulties, a Pakistan Army jeep managed to reach a so far inaccessible village, a villager ran and brought a vase full of water and placed under the front of the jeep. When asked what he was doing, the villager innocently replied, "Sahib, your animal must be thirsty."
The 1300 kilometres (800 miles) long KKH, or the N-35, originates from Hassan Abdal, a place some 45 kilometres from Islamabad on the Islamabad - Peshawar Highway, goes through Abbotabad, Manshera, crosses the River Indus at Thakot, on to Gilgit (through Besham, Pattan and Sazin) and then to Chilas, Hunza and Sost before crossing the Khunjerab Pass at the height of some 4800 metres (15,750ft) - the Zero Point between Pakistan and China.

It is a marvel of human endurance, ingenuity and determination. Both Pakistani and Chinese workers and engineers worked day and night over some of the most formidable and inaccessible mountain ranges of the world, with deep gorges and torrential Indus running along the track with its full might. 

The Indus River flows northwest, dividing the Himalaya from the Karakoram. The KKH runs along the Indus for 310 kilometres of its climb north, winding around the foot of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world.  Not far north of Jaglot the Gilgit river joins the Indus from the west. The highway then leaves the Indus for Gilgit, Hunza and Khunjrab rivers to take on the Karakoram Range - where 12 of the 30 highest mountains in the world overlook the KKH. 

At Khunjrab Pass, the KKH proudly stands as the highest metalled border crossing in the world. En route to Khunjrab, before Gilgit, there is a road sign inviting the attention of the tourists to stop and see the the Hindu Kush mountains converge with the Karakoram Range, a part of the Himalayan mountain system (see the board above). 

The Karakoram (the 'crumbling rock' in Turkish language) Highway is an incredible feat of engineering and an enduring monuments to the 810 Pakistanis and 82 Chinese who died forcing it through  the world's most difficult and unstable terrain, making it possible to surface on earth the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Karakoram Highway has a strategic importance that overarches the whole region. It forms the Asian 'high road' loop that binds Pakistan and China and can also serve as a link between China and the Central Asian states. In 2003, the Silver Jubilee celebrations (1978-2003) of the construction of the road were held both in Pakistan and China.

Huawei Mobile Pakistan has recently covered and sponsored a solo bicycle adventure by on Moin Khan from the freezing cold Khunjrab at the Zero Pint of Pakistan-China border to Islamabad. This post covers the spectacular bicycle adventure that covers journey from The Pak-China border to Battagram on KKH.

The video below shows part of the journey through the border custom post Sost, Bay Bar, the famous Passu Cones, the Attabad Lake, Hunza and finally ends at Battagram. 

A massive landslide on 4 January 2010 blocked the Hunza River at Attabad, 9 miles (14 km) upstream (east) of Karimabad Hunza, and made a huge lake called Attabad Lake (above) or the Gojal Lake, for the lake lies in the Gojal Valley of northern Pakistan. The lake flooding has displaced 6,000 people from upstream villages, and inundated over 12 miles (19 km) of the Karakoram Highway - thus cutting the Pakistan-China road link. Although, ferry services promptly came in transporting people and goods across the lake, it badly hampered Pakistan-China trade.

With Chinese help, the part of the submerged KKH was realigned and 24 new road with five tunnels, totalling seven kilometres, was constructed and inaugurated on 14 September 2015. The realignment restored the road link between Pakistan and China and it is expected that significant amount of trade will be conducted between China and Pakistan through KKH. KKH is also a part of Pakistan China Economic Corridor, and is expected to significantly increase economic integration between China and Pakistan. 

Watch the video below:

Related References:
The karakoram Highway (Pakistanpaedia)
Making of the KKH
Attabad Lake (Wikipedia)

If you like Jaho Jalal, please follow us on Facebook