China and Pakistan

- Getting up high - 

Our crossing of China in early September could be summed up in one word: epic. Although it was short-lived, barely 4 days, we got tired of the swallowed kilometers, customs, police barrages and constant controls.

 

In the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of Western China, population surveillance is constant. Face recognition cameras are posted every kilometer on the road and on every street corner in town. Patrols and police checks are everywhere and we come to scan the retina of his/her fellow citizen if the photo of his/her ID is not 100% identical to his/her facies. We do not know if this rule applies in the rest of the country, but the reason for this paranoia is probably related to the multiplication of "re-education camps" of the Muslim Uigur population in this region [1], under the gaze liabilities of the rest of the international community. After these 4 days in convoy, organized in a chaotic way by the guide that the country imposed on us to cross it, we needed to take a little height.

 

It is therefore with relief that we started to drive on the Karakoram Highway, this mythical road that borders the foot of the giants of the massif of the same name. After crossing the border at 4700 m asl, we entered Pakistan where the serenity of the giants immediately won us over.  

 

Pakistan, which we have seen and experienced, is very different from the one that was built in our imagination before entering it. The region of Gilgit-Baltistan, in the north of the country, can be summed up in a tangle of deep valleys framed by majestic peaks, such as Rakaposhi (7788 m), Nanga Parbat (8126 m) or the famous K2 (8611 m) . These mountains, giants of rock, snow and ice, impassive, seem to transmit to all of them a true serenity and to slow the time, as if it flowed only with the rhythm of the clouds which cling to their summits high in the sky.

 

There, the villages are teeming with life and each one fulfills its task, with the common goal of preparing for the harsh winter. Between harvesting, sorting and storing wheat and hay, drying apricots and yak dung, picking potatoes by plow, they take heart to welcome the stranger, to offer him/her tea or meal and to insist on host for the night.  

 

We made beautiful encounters, first humans that telescope, freesbie and slackline have notably provoked on the way. Then natural, by glaciers and summits that we have climbed, or admired from below or from afar.

We climbed from China to Pakistan, and the climate changed. At the same time that the temperatures were falling, we passed from a climate of mistrust to that of confidence to face not human roughness but that of Nature, which is repeated winter after winter.  

 

In short, Pakistan has conquered us!

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-china-blog-48700786

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