The mother of all road trips – the Karakorum Highway

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Karakorum Highway, or KKH, is the highest paved road in the world that stretches 1300km between Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and Kashgar, Xinjiang. The highway connects China and Pakistan across the Karakorum, which is home to the highest concentration of peaks over 8000m, including K2, the second highest peak in the world at 8611m. The range is also the most heavily glaciated outside the polar regions.

The building of the highway was a result of a partnership between Pakistan and China in the 1960s, hence the road is sometimes referred to as the Friendship Highway. It took 20 years and more than 35,000 Pakistani and Chinese labourers with nothing more than picks and shovels to build it.

Leaving out Pakistan, it was to be a 2-day journey from Kashgar all the way to the border crossing on Khunjerab Pass, totalling about 800km both ways. Due to the quick ascent (from 1200m to 4800m in two days), I thought I’d better rent an oxygen bag just in case. Just as well I did. I did end up needing a few puffs when I started to feel dizzy and a little nauseous after reaching the highest point in the pass near the border crossing at roughly 4800m.

Travelling on the Karakorum Highway was one of the most breathtaking experiences I’ve ever had. The scenery was simply awe-inspiring. I also realised how difficult it must have been to build this road through such a rugged and treacherous region, and feel grateful for the opportunity to travel along this road.