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Karakul Lake China!

Karakul Lake China!
Karakul Lake China!

Karakul Lake China!

Thinking about dream destinations, perhaps close in time and which I will comment on in due course :-), I can’t help but remember one of the great milestones of the section of the trip to Central Asia, along the Silk Road, that I did in the summer of 2007. This is Lake Karakul, in China. 

A “great milestone” in my opinion, for the beauty of the landscape. Although those of you who know me something or have read the blog, you know that I prefer to dwell on the cultures and people of other countries. But, as I say, Nature with capital letters also leaves me speechless and wanting more.

(Karakul Lake China)

In the west of the Taklamakan desert, in the Xingiang province (China), the foothills of the great mountain ranges of Central Asia begin

The Karakorum mountain range to the South. Not to be confused with the city of Mongolia.

The magnificent Pamir, to the East.

Kun Lun and Tian Shan mountains to the North. 

(Karakul Lake China)

And it is in the Karakorum mountain range where this lake is

Our destination is Lake Karakul, about 200 kilometers from Kashgar. To do this we have to take the mythical  Karakorum Highway , the road that crosses this mountain range into Pakistan. The Karakul is next to it, very close to the neighboring country, and that does not cease to excite a bit.

Before arriving you have to go through a Chinese checkpoint. It is not a border but they force you to show your passport, which can have two explanations:

  • Although we are still in the People’s Republic of China, we entered the Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture of Kizilsu. 
  • It is the route to Pakistan, and drug and arms trafficking are not distant possibilities, so the Chinese exercise greater control than in other parts.

Of course, photography is not allowed at this military checkpoint, except for the peak that rises just above this stretch of road. I can’t remember his name, but I remember thinking it was funny that they let us take pictures of him.

(Karakul Lake China)

Lake Karakul

Lake Karakul appears as the perfect mirror for the majestic Muztag Ata, a peak dreamed of by many mountaineers, with its 7,546 meters high.

Around it stand other peaks no less important, no less high. We have the Kongur (7,649) and the Kongur 9 (7,530 m.) That back in 2007 still conserved  glaciers that seem to be eating up the valleys where they flow. I am very afraid that there is little left of these ice.

(Karakul Lake China)

The place struck me as a dream. We spent one night in a small yurt camp that serves as a shelter. I think this no longer exists as such.

The camp has a yurt-restaurant where you can have lunch and dinner for very little money . At noon it is rush hour for the Chinese and Japanese buses that arrive to take their photo in front of the lake. There are several shifts. For breakfast, if you don’t want what is left over from dinner, better bring some cookies or something like that. The clear, unsweetened tea from the Chinese is assured, of course.

(Karakul Lake China)

The yurts are not the best we tried on this trip. We especially noticed when the strong wind blew at night, sneaking through all the cracks and making us quite cold.

But the bad or the worst were the latrines that were just behind the tent where they ate. They were nothing more than an open ditch in the ground that from time to time they watered with a hose spreading all the smell, with two huts planted above to safeguard the privacy of the evacuator, of course. Really gross, because of course absolutely everything looked and smelled. The best, go further and find a quiet place in the field.

(Karakul Lake China)

What to do in Lake Karakol

The hours of dusk and dawn are the best to contemplate this wonderful landscape, even if the temperatures drop a lot. Remember that we are at more than 3,600 m.

I was saying that those hours, the coldest, are the best. They are the loneliest, the ones with the best light for photos , and that’s when all that crowd of tourists disappears and you get the peace that the place promised …

The place goes a long way. It is highly recommended to take slow walks or small trekkings, taking into account the height, to get closer to the surrounding villages.

Do not miss the curious cemeteries , which are miniature towns, more careful than the houses themselves.

(Karakul Lake China)

Nor should we fail to greet its shy and friendly people.

The inhabitants of this region are farmers and  herds of yak herds . You can see the poverty of the place, a corner of the Republic surely quite forgotten by the very distant Central Government, which is also not very given to investing in ethnic minorities . It is not going to be that they take advantage of it and even use it for their independence causes (note the irony).

Lake Karakul, the highest in the Pamir range, at 3,652 m. high, it is a salt water lake that changes color depending on the light, although in Kyrgyz it means “black lake”.

I will never forget the afternoons walking around it, observing such a spectacular panorama. 

Landscapes that remind us of how small we are, how great the Earth is, and how important it is to take care of it.  

(Karakul Lake China)


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