nine inch lakes

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Ever heard of Karakul – the “black lake” in the Pamir Mountains?

We figured we were pretty close to it, so we hopped into a cab, stopped to buy some food and got on our way:

cab ride

It was about 200 km down Southwest on the Karakorum Highway:

road into the mountains

We passed red rocks:

red mountains

…tiny settlements:


…high mountains:


…and a checkpoint of the border patrol:


Then we arrived at a lake:

White Sand Lake

But it wasn’t the black lake. It was the White Sand Lake 白沙湖:


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We decided to take goofy pictures of ourselves:

lake jump Chris

…bouncing around:

lake jump Dario

…while other people were super serious and super busy taking pictures:

photo dudes

Then we got back into the cab.

Our driver, a Uyghur dude called Nejad (“you know, like Ahmadinejad”) wasn’t very fluent in Chinese, but he was very good at driving, and he sure as hell liked to tell stories:

taxi driver

He told us stories about the mountains:


…about the Kirgiz mountain folks:

wedding car

…about their yaks:


…about the construction crews who had come here from the interior provinces, mostly from Sichuan:


…and most of all about the dangers of driving on these roads:


People kept dying out here every month, either by falling into the river or by getting crushed by rocks. I think that’s what he said.

All the while, we kept honking like crazy:

horn button

It took us a while to figure out that the green button was the horn.

Then we reached the lake:

Lake Karakul

There were hardly any people around. Just a few Kirgiz who were either herding yaks or operating yurts for us tourists to stay in:

concrete yurts

Oh, and there was a small group of Germans who kept saying things like
“have you been to Pakistan/Tibet/Nepal?”
“do you have any idea how much more interesting China used to be in the eighties?”
“why are there so many tourists everywhere?”

We were reminded of two French travelers whom we had run into a while ago in Ürümqi. They had strongly advised us not to visit a certain attraction because it was apparently too “disney” – and because there were too many Chinese tourists there. We had smiled politely, thinking to ourselves: seriously, too many Chinese tourists in China? WTF??

“why do you put up your tripod so close to the edge of the rock?” the Germans kept asking.

taking photos

We told them that we didn’t plan on going to any other countries, that in fact we were intending to travel everywhere by plane, and that we regretted that this particular lake didn’t have an airport or at least a runway.

And that we didn’t give a fuck about cameras.

They eventually left, taking their advice with them.

And we had the place to ourselves:

photo spot

Some yaks were having fun at the shore:

yaks in the water

And we were having fun taking pictures of clouds, while the sky was playing with the mountains, while the lake became ruffled and then calm again.

A lot of what we were doing was just standing there, waiting around:

Dario and mountain

Here is the footage from the lake:


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We both agreed that it had been a perfect day.

Even without an airfield.

  • Peggy

    As always, thank you so much for sharing your perfect day. For those of us not currently traveling, or especially those without the means to travel, your adventures help take us to places we can’t go. Your narrative is witty and enjoyable Chris. Thank you!


  • Melanie

    I stumbled upon your site from YouTube and I’m so glad I did. Your travels are so inspiring. The video of karakul black lake is one of the most beautiful things ive ever seen.


  • Francis

    Nice timelaps video of Kalakul lake! I was there in fall of 2007, right when you started your first walk from Beijing, and it was as beautiful as it is now. I noticed you didn’t mention the big slope like mountain in the background, it’s best known as Mt Muztaga (sp?), reputably the training ground for mountaineers who aspire to climb 8k+ peaks, due to its gentle slope and relative low height (still 7k+).


  • Joshua

    Epic time lapse of yak lake


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