Pakistan - Indus Silk RouteBe prepared for the experience of a lifetime on this fascinating journey following Pakistan's Silk Route to legendary Hunza.
Kashgar – a meeting place of the ancient trade routes from the east via the northern and southern fringes of the Taklimakan desert; from the south across the Karakoram and Kun Lun mountains and the Indian sub continent and from the west over the Torugart Pass – the route we have travelled through the Tien Shan mountains from Central Asia.
It has been a change of pace for us – from the quiet and cool mountains pasture of east Kyrgyzstan to the neon lights, eletronic music and electric scooters of new Kashgar mixed with the donkey carts, roadside butcher’s shops and timeless scenes in old Kashgar that seem to have been there forever.
We’ve timed our visit to join the throngs of locals attending the weekly market held in Kashgar on a Sunday – its reputed to be the largest bazaar in Asia. We certainly watched our feet as we mingled with the animals jumping – or being dragged – off the trucks to be lined up for inspection and hopefully for sale; the fatty tailed sheet roped head to head with the farmer doing one last tidying trim of the wool. The Uyghur farmers shaking hands to signal a sale has been made. There were even camels and yaks lined up for inspection. A timeless scene – even with the western and Han Chinese tourists weaving their cautious way through the animals that watch out for no man.
We visited the old town – in recent years there has been some international condemnation of the way in which the old town has been reconstructed by the local authorities. In part this is probably justified where modern non-sympathetic materials have been used, but this criticism might be tempered by the fact that reconstructed buildings in the Old City now comply with China’s modern earthquake standards and much material has been salvaged and reused. There’s certainly a lot of rebuilding and not just in the old town – on the road to the Abakahoja mausoleum the land previously used for farming is now being smoothed out and new buildings are sprouting up. Not sure where the farmers have gone.
Historically the ethnic majority of Kashgar’s population has been Uyghur, but nowadays it is a mix of Uyghurs, Han Chinese, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks, boasting a colorful ethnic variety. Change is in the air – but its not hard to get a sense of life as it used to be in Old Kashgar – our entry point to China. Tomorrow to Urumqi to continue our journey tracing the Silk Road trade route to mainland China and Xian