[ Sept.1996 ] I liked Kashgar very much, the town in the western part of Xinjiang in China and wanted to stay there longer, but we had already stayed one night more than our original plan, so we departed reluctantly.
Getting up early, we went to Chini Bagh Hotel where the regular bus to the border of Pakistan was leaving.
This bus was going over Khunjerab Pass whose altitude was 4700 metres, staying one night in Tashkurgan.
At Chini Bagh Hotel, I saw a bus, people and luggage scattering around messily.
The passengers were 5 Japanese including me, 2 British and the rest were Pakistani and Uighur people.
We bought the tickets for 270 yuan ($1=8.28 yuan in those days), pointed out their mistake about the change, gave our passports, tickets and 5 yuan to an attendant and put our rucksacks on the roof of the bus.
Then we waited in the space where there were no order for a while and finally the door of the bus opened.
The attendant tried to let the passengers into the bus one by one , by calling out the names of the passport, but the locals who were not called went in, ignoring him.
The British middle aged man threw his hand luggage into the bus from the window, so we copied him to secure the seats on the left hand side.
The bus left at noon and I thought it was smoother than the example written in my guidebook, but soon the engine troubles started as the book said.
It went on China National Highway 314 which leads to Karakoram Highway, stopping to repair the bus now and again.
Gradually the view from the window were getting nice.
There was a beautiful river and behind it were sand hills, rocky mountains and snowy mountains.
Sheep and goats were tended and there were small houses here and there, made by piled stones.
I saw some yurts where actually people were living, too.
Because of the high altitude, the light were peculiar.
The most beautiful place was the lake of Karakul whose altitude was apparently 3600 metres.
The edge of the lake was purple and in the centre was shining like an opal.
And those mountains in the background were as high as 7000 metres or more.
They say that the colours of the lake change depending on the time of the day and when we passed there was about 7 pm in Beijing time.
I hoped the bus would break down here, but unfortunately it was doing well at that point so it went by at full speed.
That was the sadness of the local bus and if it were a tour bus, they would have spent a long time there.
I took photos from the window desperately.
And tried to remember this wonderful view.
In fact, I think it was the most beautiful scene I have ever seen.
After Karakul, there were pastures and I saw some camels.
The children were waving to our bus.
On the way there were some checkpoints and eventually we arrived in Tashkurgan at around 9:30 pm, where we stayed one night.
So this journey on the battered bus took about 9 and a half hours, but because the view was wonderful, I did not feel so hard.
After arriving, we went to the Transport Hotel just next to the bus terminal as all others did.
The room was 60 yuan, the cheapest we had experienced in China, but the bedclothes were not very clean and they did not have the flush toilet, so each time we had to draw water with a basin to flush it.
Well, this is the end of the world sort of place, so I could not complain.
For the dinner, we went to a small restaurant further in the only road in this village with the British man in the bus.
Only one woman was working and she did not have a menu.
We were asked if we wanted rice or noodle and beef or chicken, so I chose beef and noodle.
She served a stir fried dish with many pieces of potatoes and a little bit of beef.
When I finished about half of it, she served the flat wheat noodle.
With two bottles of beer, altogether the bill was 104 yuan, which was far too expensive for what we had, though I understood that she worked on her own.
But what could we say in this sort of place…
This British man lived in Oman and came for travelling on his own leaving his wife and children behind.
He used to live even in a remote place in Africa and now he was running a business in Oman apparently.
Really, there are lots of different people in this world.