Friday, February 8, 2008

Ancient Route To Kashgar


At 17,582 feet, Khardung La is one of the world's highest motorable roadways. It's located about 37 km north of the town of Leh (11,975 feet) in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, India, and takes about 3 hours to reach by car. The first 25 km or so consists of paved switchbacks that wind their way up the steep mountainside, and then the road pretty much turns into a pitted, gravely moonscape.

This two lane roadway usually has enough space for about 1.5 cars, and very few of the hairpin turns during the ascent have a guardrail. This means that most of the time you're looking down from the edge of the roadway thousands of feet to the valley floor -- except if you're lucky and fog or snow obscures the view.

The pass, even in August, when this photo was taken, is a hit or miss proposition: It can be snowy one day, and crystal clear the next. On clear days, looking north toward the mountains of the Karokoram Range, it's easy to put oneself in the shoes of the Silk Road traders who brought their heavily laden camels and horses over this route on their way to the central Asian bazaar town of Kashgar.

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