The infamous Torugart Pass

12 juli 2008 om 4:44 pm | In English Posts, Kyrgystan, china |


We made it! We made it into China through what is supposed to be one of the most difficult border-crossings into China (not to mention Tibet which is just impossible!). I just wonder: Why is this border so (in)famous? For sure, in the early days it was because of the rugged nature (the pass is 3574m high) and the extreme weather conditions that can change any minute. Or did they, back then, also have these inefficient, customer UNfriendly border officials?

We started the day pretty early, at 06.15hrs, to be at the border on time. Both the car and our yurt were still covered with a thin layer of ice since it had been below zero at night. Luckily our host family had been so nice to light the small stove in our yurt, so our beds were at least kind of warm when we went to sleep. Inevitably the dried cow-droppings that they used as fuel only lasted a few hours so it was a real challenge to get out of bed. On the other hand, I think we must be thankful the droppings didn’t smell.

After a delicious pancake-breakfast and a beautiful trip over the Torugart highlands with great views on snowed peaks and mountain lakes we arrived at the first checkpoint on Kyrgyzs side. Since our driver had all the needed documents, this only took us 5 minutes. Also the second and last checkpoint went relatively smooth, especially since the border-official helped us fill in the forms in a way it would create as little fuss for us (and him!) “just fill in NO everywhere” he indicated.

We were brought to a gate where we had to say good-bye to our Kyrgyz driver since, due to Chinese regulations, all ‘guests’ must be picked up by Chinese transport. Of-course the transport had not arrived yet, although the Chinese part of the border opens 2 hours earlier due to the time difference. After an hour wait an old Mitsubishi Pajero came to pick us up. O how we already missed our comfortable land-cruiser! Finally we could start the last 120km through no-mans-land to enter our most eastern destination: China. …… But not so fast: first we had to conquer three checkpoints. At the first one: all (I repeat: ALL) border officials were off for lunch, so we had to wait for at least 45 minutes. At the second checkpoint our Chinese guide was supposed to get some kind of ‘letter’ for us, but the whole border-team there was supposedly in a very important meeting. Finally after 10 plus another 30, plus again another 30 minutes we were allowed in the Immigration area. During all this waiting we had to stay IN the car for reasons only clear to the one official on duty, responsible for preventing tourist exiting cars. In the immigration area, first we were checked ourselves and then our luggage was examined thoroughly. Books, computer and even the current pictures on our camera had to be showed to the border guard.We still have no clue what they were looking for. Finally after some ‘check-questions’ we were let through and could finally finish the final 40km to the most famous Silk Road city of western China: Kashkar.

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