Karakul Lake – Part 1

How to get there: Take bus from South Bus Station in Kashgar, 36 yuan. Bus departs 8am Beijing time (10am local time, double check with ticket counter person). Buying ticket one day in advance is advisable. Bus takes around 4 hours to reach the lake, including a stop for breakfast in the middle for half an hour.

We woke up in the morning to the biggest shock that we didnt charge all our devices (camera, camcorder, phone) last night, thanks to full day walking around Kashgar until late plus eating like mad at the night market before went to shop for some bowl instant noodle for tomorrow, and returned to hostel totally flat. Now all we can do is to wish there’s some village in the mountains where power sockets are available, although it’s hard to think the possibility.

We have to check-out from hostel since we’re planning to overnight in the lake, and thankfully the hostel manager is nice enough to let us leave our big luggage in the management office while we’re away. We dont bring any stuff other than (wearing) extra layers of clothings, gadgets and chargers, instant noodle, some Milo and Nescafe, and tripod.

We run quickly to the main road and catch a town bus for Southern Bus Station (luckily we already learned the route yesterday) and it doesnt take us long to reach the station on time, and we’re taken to a mini bus which is going to Tashkurgan. Here we are, to our ultimate destination! :) The bus leaves a little after 8am, and it’s almost full. After like half an hour when we’re somewhere outside the city, the bus stops to fetch a few more people, and now it’s full. Those people do not look like they’re going to the lake, and I guess they’re possibly heading to Tashkurgan.

We’re stopped after 1 hour at a small restaurant by the roadside for breakfast. We share a plate of polo rice and some manta (steamed bun). The stop is for around 30minutes so it’s an appropriate chance to find a restroom. While I am not sure how and whom to ask, I randomly approach one of the bus passengers, and she’s a well dressed lady. She doesnt know “toilet”, or “bathroom”, or “restroom”.. and I instantly remember universal sign “WC” (at least in China), and gotcha, she then walks us to the back of the restaurant around 100 meters, and there you go, the toilet!

We’re amazed to have finally come across this type of toilet :D It reminds me alot to the toilet one in the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, where it’s practically a hole and you can directly see the entire view of poops underneath. And Az has to take a photo of it!

Continue the ride, the bus stops to get some fuel, and you can notice the fuel price and somehow compare the fuel price back home. Sitting next to us are some curious Uyghur men who look like “they want to talk to us but dont know what language to use”. Body language works, though, and I somehow manage to let them know we’re going to Karakul Lake by showing the bus tickets.

A few hours gone, and the view start turning into a deserted mountains with no houses and trees in sight. Attempted to take more photos but have to save the (50%!) battery for the real destination. There’s a few small lakes we pass by and the more we anticipate to see the majestic Karakul Lake for real. And suddenly the bus stopped and the driver shouts to us, “Karakul! Karakul!” and in the midst of surprise, we get down the bus to the middle of nowhere. And even more surprising, the bus drops only US there, and nobody else!

Suddenly some five men in motorbikes approach us, they seem to be owners of yurts and houses nearby and asking if we need yurt, each of them busy making their offers, “50 yuan only, with 3 lunch”.. what, 3 lunch.?? Okay, I think he meant 3 meals. And another, “Come to house, yurt very cold! House not cold”.. It’s so much a tense of offering and bargaining for us being their only targets for that day. To be fair, Az asks if we can go to see the house and yurt first, and we’ll decide later. So Az jumps on the yurt owner’s bike, while I am on the house owner’s bike, along with 4 other their friends we’re convoying along the quiet road to see the house first, then then back to the lake to see the yurt. And the wind is so cold that I have to cover my face altogether!

We decided to choose the yurt over the brick house, being the house located a little farther from the lake. Although we have to be prepared when the house owner warns that it will be colder at night when staying in yurt. We pay 100 yuan for two persons staying 1 night, and it’s understood that it includes meals. The yurt owner is a Kyrgyz, who has a weird name too difficult to pronouce, we end up calling him “Mr Same Price” for some funny reason. He says that there’s a German lady who arrived earlier from Tashkurgan to stay here too, so it’s quite a relief that we’ll have a companion. But to our disappointment, he says there’s no power socket in the yurt, and no place to charge our camera in the village, although we silently wonder how he manages to own a mobile phone. Mr Same Price then goes back to his house (located in a village 10 minutes away) leaving us alone in this empty place.

After securing our luggage inside the yurt, we walk to the lake, and this is the view of the yurt from the lake! And see the outdoor toilet far to the left? It’s an epic! It may not be season yet, as I guess during summer, there should be alot more yurts set up in this large area to accomodate more tourists.

Until then, we have all the lakes for ourselves!! :D Isn’t this exciting?? The view just looks so amazing that somehow I couldnt believe it’s real. And we’re here!

The iconic Muztagh Ata mountain. Some hard core travelers would hike around it during summer. The summer starts very late in here being in high altitude, and it’s late April now and the lake is totally frozen! Imagine the cold wind!

We borrow some bigger jackets from the yurt and start taking photos. But we look fat in them, so forget it =.=

Centered view of Muztagh Ata….

Which is perfect for jumping photos! :D

And my turn!

Our favorite moments, trying to step onto the frozen lake. It may look frozen, but you can never sure how thick it is, the moment it breaks will straight away dumps you into the cold water! With extra precaution, Az steps and settles his position first, while I set the camera timer (thanks to bringing tripod, where else you can put your camera in this deserted, empty place?).

Okay, looking alright. Step further to get my space, and be calm. Next shot, yay, we’re on the lake!! :D

We wander around for a couple of hours, and it’s getting too cold so we go back into the yurt to curl ourselves in thick blankets, and somehow fall asleep for a short nap.