The Karakorum Highway running along the lake

Locals riding on a motorcycle

Snowcapped mountain and reflections

Ancient graves on the shore of the lake

The mountains to the north

Sunset over the mountain

The lake under the moonlight

The lake at sunrise

Hillside overlooking the lake

Inside a traditional house

Sleeping quarters for the night, our host, and his motorcycle

Lake Panorama

Lake Karakul, China

Reflections in the Water

May 5, 2012

And when I wake up in the morning

To feel the daybreak on my face

There's a blood that's flowin'

Through the feeling, with a knife

To open up the sky's veins

- Meat Puppets

In the early Spring Lake Karakul is still partially frozen, but this hardly detracts from its beauty. The lake is wedged between three giant mountains, Kongur Tagh at 7650 meters, Kongur Tiube at 7550 meters, and Muztagh Ata at 7550 meters. In between, the clear dark waters of the lake yield vivid reflections of the crisp blue sky and snowcapped peaks in a stunning panoramic vista. On the south side of the lake there is a small community that makes a living through herding, like the other remote mountain villages, and tourism in the summer. The brightness of the lake in the sun punctuates the stark landscape and at an altitude of nearly 3700 meters the sun was blazing warm when it shone and the darkness brought frigid cold, hence the partial covering of ice still on the lake. During the summer the yurts dotting the edge of the lake are filled with tourists but at the moment the area was desolate and deserted and we were the only tourists there. Being so isolated was a welcome break from traveling in the dense Chinese cities and the constant honking and truck traffic on the northern stretch of the Karakorum Highway.

As night descended the traffic on the Karakorum Highway died off and we were left alone with the stillness of the freezing night. A near full moon illuminated the lake and mountains in an eerie stillness. Our lodging for the night was a traditional small one room mud brick hut. These dwellings are popular since they can be heated efficiently in the bitter cold winter when temperatures often plummet to -50°C. Since there are no trees for fuel, hardened animal waste is burned and despite what it sounds like smell is really not that bad. While that helps to provide some warmth it was still well below freezing that night with outside temperatures hovering around -20°C. The coming daybreak and the sunshine it would bring offered some encouragement while bundled underneath layers of blankets.

Waking up at dawn we climbed to the top of a nearby ridge to see the sun rise over the towering mountains to the east. Fortunately, the weather was perfectly clear and we were treated to sweeping views of dawn breaking and the area coming to life. Just another reminder that it was time to leave the beauty of the area and return to the city life of Kashgar for at least another day or two.