Trip Start Mar 23, 2012
35Trip End Apr 22, 2012
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As the first 3800m approached, the road suddenly began to rise and rise, leaving a huge drop on the side. Visions of falling off the mountain flitted through my mind and I just prayed that I would get to see my kids again. I was petrified and had to shut my eyes. The others were petrified too, as the driver apparently kept looking at me when I whimpered, instead of at the road.
Once we had hair-pinned down the other side, we wound further through the brown grit, conglomerate cliffs
Akbar looked stressed again. He'd misplaced his adventure guide ID pass or something and the guards were for sending him back to Kashgar to get it. It didn't help that the misbehaving British kept wandering back and forth across the checkpoint line in search of toilets or to have a chat. The panda, stolen from Charles, crossed the line pinned to the front of a jeep by the wind-screen wipers. Akbar was on the point of sense-of-humour-failure.
Eventually we were all through and we set off again, driving through what looked like a massive building site made of heaps of gravel and stone. Our driver, Mr Lee, drove slower and slower. It wasn't many minutes before he stopped. There was a puncture in the back tyre. The four of us from our jeep - me, David, Robin and Annmarie - all stood in the sun while he changed it.
Onwards and upwards. We eventually caught up with the other jeeps, who had been waiting for us some miles further on
The road rose to just under 5000m at the Yellow Pass (Serik Davan in the local language). By that height I felt pretty ropey and just wanted to sleep. It didn't help that we had to keep stopping because one of the jeeps was overheating in the thin air. On the way back down, we passed what must have been the highest petrol station in the world. There was one lone pump staffed by a hopeful entrepreneur at around 4000m. I wondered what his mark-up was.
The longest journey passed another strip of houses and shops known as Mazar, before turning towards the checkpoint of Yilik (or possibly Ilik or even Ylik). Akbar managed to get through the checkpoint by knowing one of the guards. Connections are everything. Just past Yilik was a collection of square mud huts in the dust. This was the village of Rascam.
The locals cater to trekking groups a few times a year, and as such they contribute a lot to the local economy. We were made welcome and settled down for the night in a one room hut, which Akbar called the Town Hall. It had a square, raised area covered in carpets and rugs. Hira, Tendi and Bishnu cooked fried rice and made tea. I took some painkillers for the altitude headache that I'd acquired. Some of the others slept outside in tents, where it was even colder than in the mud-and-straw based building I was in.