We’re in Tashkurgan, the very last town in China before the border with Pakistan. Were it not for the official buildings that come with being the seat of the Tajik Autonomous Community, it would feel like a village, but their pomp and circumstance makes it rise to the level of town. It’s not clear that this ‘autonomous region’ has any more independence than Xinjiang, and if it does that probably owes more to its remoteness than any genuine devolution of power.
We really are in the middle of nowhere. It was seven hours along a dusty road from Kashgar. And there’s about 100km of no mans between here and Pakistani border formalities, including the western end of the Himalayas with peaks reaching above 8,000m.
Tashkurgan was another important stop on the silk road. This is seen most clearly in the ruined fort just on the city’s outskirts. Beyond are grasslands when yaks and camels join the standard horses, cows and sheep. The hills around are arid and angular, and the higher among them are capped with snow, even in this height of summer. We think it looks like Afghanistan and it turns out filmmakers do too. Tashkurgan provided the backdrop for most of the filming of The Kite Runner.
There’s just a hint of Pakistan emerging. We ate yak curry with chapatis for dinner and had the first strange recognise New Zealand because it’s a cricket country. We chatted with a Pakistani man tonight who told me excitedly he had once seen Mark Greatbatch play. Bring on the cricket chat, I say. It’s a nice change from talking about whether New Zealand really looks like Lord of the Rings (and/or Harry Potter).