Queues of trucks loaded with scrap metal waiting outside the Kyrgzs Torugart Checkpoint. The Pamir mountains in the background.
(Kyrgyzstan … 24.04.05 to 12.05.05)
The Kyrgzs Torugart Checkpoint building behind the gate. We were actually inside the building after 8am but there were not a single soul around. Later at 9am, we were chased out of the compound by armed military personnels. Border checkpoint opened at 10am. We were the only tourists there, at that time.
Outside the Kyrgzs Torugart Checkpoint. With a “Torugart” stamp on our passports, we were
officially out of Kyrgyzstan. Obstacle no.1 cleared, now bound for the Chinese border, 6km away.
Riding towards the Chinese border at 3600~3700m elevation, besides the traffic of scrap metal trucks.
Torugart Pass. 2 stone slabs now mark the border between China and Kyrgyzstan. We saw from pictures that there was once a gate/arch on the pass. Our bicycles leaning against the fence of the Chinese border as we were not allowed to cross the border – we had not made any arrangements with a travel agent from Kashgar to pick us up. The Chinese border guards’ compound lie in the background.
The hostile attitude was changed when a group of army guys marched past us. Their officer approached us and was particularly enthusiastic and encouraging to our cycling stint. He even allowed this rare photo taking session with his boys, but without him *grin*.
A surprise treat from the officer! We were invited into their TV room to have our lunch of rice with spicy cucumbers and chicken feet. It was definitely one of our most memorable meal – authentic chinese food served by the Chinese Army on 3700m mountain pass!
The panoramic view of the surrounding mountains from Torugart Pass. It was a perfect day for riding, pleasant weather, “blue sky, white clouds” (Chinese saying) and unobstructed view. With an encouraging army behind us, a delicious lunch and such a breathtaking sight, our morale was certainly given a boost. At that moment, we were just hopeful that things would turn for the better as we approached the next obstacle, the Chinese customs.
Roaring down the rocky road from Torugart Pass towards the Chinese “Pre-Inspection Area”, 5km away.
“Tu-er-ka-te” or Torugart as we know as. This was the “Pre-Inspection Area” where all trucks were subjected to inspection by the Chinese army before descending 107km to the Torugart Checkpoint. We were denied the ride down from here. After failed requests, we had to climb back the 5km, 200m elevation to Torugart Pass.
Our sheltered and cosy bunk in the dormitory of the Kyrgyzstan border guards where we took refuge. Returning to Kyrgyzstan territory was not an advisable option, camping outside in the mountains would expose us to freezing temperatures, sweeping gales and threat of wolves, the officer put aside his risks and accommodated us. Not to mention the hot meals and tea that came along.
(For more information about the Torugart Pass crossing, pls refer to previous article “Torugart Pass”)