In at the deep end

The Karakoram Highway

December 1, 2008

The Karakoram Highway is, amongst other feats, the worlds highest international road.
Construction was started in the 1960s and carried on all the way into the 1970s.
It’s not surprising the length of time it took to create such a road, considering they were blasting their way through the western edge of the Himalayas, along the path of the Indus (and further north the Hunza, the valley that inspired the book ‘Shangri-La’) which had previously seen nothing much bigger than a goat path.
Apparently for every mile of road laid down, at least one Pakistani life was laid down in mirror, possibl even more Chinese lives but that’s all rather hush-hush.
The area is quite different to the rest of Pakistan, I saw plenty of women not wearing head-scares, let alone veils, but it’s still dead poor, the number of child labours I saw was particularly abhorrent.
The road in Pakistan is maintained by a mix of Pakistani and Chinese works (though always in seperate groups).
It’s quite easy to tell who’s who as the Chinese are always slaving away as if the devil himself were whipping his tail playfully upon them, where as in contrast the Pakistani teams seem to consist of 8 guys having a cup of tea and one guy banging away at a rock half-heartedly.

November wasn’t really the best time to visit, as although a lot of the road is quite low in altitude (1,500 metres or less) a lot of the more interesting passes and plateaus are closed due to huge amounts of snow.
Still, as you can see the landscape is simply awe-inspiring and this place alone was worth the 14,000 mile trip so far!

A market in the northerly town of Gilgit

The ‘Dirty Glacier’ at Passu

Rockfalls on the road are quite common, but a path is always quickly cleared!

Phwoar, look at the distances on that baby!


  • John

    You can tell you have a camera again :)

  • Abu Sam

    My dearest boy you have been through some wonderful and terrible places. I hope that you are going to relax for a bit

  • kp

    It has been a while since we have heard from you. I have been enjoying your stories tremendously, especiall the last one. Did you finish your travels and are you back home. What is going on??


  • Sally Martin

    Hi Sam

    Just to say how very much we enjoy your blog – by gum! you really can write can’t you! Anyway sadness and sympathy for you in great quantitiies for your accident – and here’s hoping for a speedy recovery and an exciting onward journey once the time is right!

    When you are well enough please keep writing your blog it brings your aunt Sally (for one) a great deal of pleasure!

    Love you loads – sally xxxxx

  • Duncan Cartwright

    Hi there Sam. I’ve been following every post of yours with a great deal of envy and awe. I am planning a similar trip myself, funds permittin,g and would like to ask you a couple of questions about visas and paperwork etc which is the one thing that scares me more than any other hardships. Please would you drop me an email?


    Duncan Cartwright