Hey guys, hope all is well with you. Been spending the last week or so trying to iron out the details of my itinerary. Plenty of open questions and gaps remaining, but at last I think I have a route that makes sense, and I’m pretty excited by it. You can see the googlemap here. (tends to be more viewable in satellite view)
Overall it looks to be ~13,000 klicks over road, rail, mountain, desert, and forest.
I’ll be kicking off the trip with a 22 hour bus ride North to Baroda where I’ll be meeting the familiar faces of Rajan & Co. to celebrate Navratri in Gujarat (Big 9 day long, state wide dance festival and its supposed to be amazing)
Then will be taking a 6 hour bus ride North-East for a nights stop at Udaipur just because I’ve heard from multiple people that it was, in their opinion, the most beautiful city in India.
Thereafter straight up to Amritsar in Punjab. I have never been to Amritsar, but even then, this will be my last stop in India and my last stop in a place where I will kinda know how things work/how to get around. Post this, as they say, all that will go for a toss.
Will be making the crossing into Pakistan at Wagah after maybe 2 – 3 days in Amritsar, and then hopefully meeting some cousins of friends of friends at Lahore. From there, probably a bus up to Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, and then further North through Abbottabad, and the Gilgit-Baltistan region which, Arjun informs me, is Pakistan controlled part of Jammu and Kashmir and hence contested territory.
If I have time I may make a slight detour to Skardu which is supposed to be amazingly beautiful, but I will need to make haste to the Karokoram Highway to cross the border into China. Apparently the border post can be pretty finicky, and although it is supposed to be open till Dec, it could also close at any time in November. So if I wait too long, there is a chance that I could find myself stuck in Pakistan. Or I could just take my time bumming around before making the crossing and find myself stuck in Xin Jiang (barren, cold, and arid place) in deep winter. Want to avoid both situations, so maybe I won’t detour to Skardu hmmm.
Anyway, the Karokoram Highway is supposed to be the highest paved road in the world, so I’ll be looking forward to experiencing that (I’ve had some pretty bad experiences with altitude sickness in the past though, so hopefully the slowish travel route I’m taking will provide sufficient acclimatization). Past the border apparently its a night stay required at Tashkent, and then I’ll move on up to Kashgar in Xin Jiang. Kashgar is a way old silk road trading town, and apparently the meat there is pretty good.
Post this stop, things are a little up in the air right now. My original plan was to make my way to Lhasa in Tibet. (check out this blog from this guys who has lived there the last 10 years or so. Has some AMAZING pictures.) There are 2 problems with this plan. First is that as you can see on the map, it is a long ass way. This is not a big deal, except that to get into Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in general, you need a permit. To get a permit, you need to be part of a tour. To be part of a tour going by a land route that long (2 weeks by 4X4), it is gonna cost $$$$ up the wazoo. Second is that even if I had the cash which I don’t have, there apparently has been some unrest in the TAR with several monks self immolating. This has led officials to drop approvals of permit applications to around 20%. Thus even if I had the cash, there is no guarantee that I could make the trip. Wikitravel has some interesting suggestions that come with caveats. It goes something like “If you are willing to take the risk of getting caught, and maybe put in a Chinese prison for a short time, (caveat first) you can try hitchiking your way on trucks, get off just before a checkpoint, and hike a few kilometers around the checkpoint before hitching a ride on another truck. Be sure to bring sufficient food and water for this journey as neither will be readily available along this route. (guess thats the second caveat)” Don’t worry guys, that option strikes me as a supremely BAD idea, so right now the most likely plan is option C which is to skip Lhasa, get into China proper via Xin Jiang, and go through the Tibetan provinces of Amdo and Kham which are not part of the TAR, and therefore do not require any permits. No permits, therefore no tour required, I get to make my own way, and spend no $$ on tour operators. Strikes me as a good deal and a good plan.
I will eventually be trying to make my way into Chengdu, and from there South to a place called Tiger Leaping Gorge, and then further South To Yunnan. At Yunnan I’ll be crossing into Laos and chill out at a home stay in one of the Northen hill-tribes. I anticipate this to be the tail end of my adventures. Post this I’m certain that I will be exhausted, travel weary, and home sick, so I’ll hasten my way South to Vientiane (capital of Laos), where I will cross into Thailand and head straight for Bangkok, then take a bus down to Malaysia, maybe making a stop at Penang to visit my aunt, maybe another stop at KL, and then of course, straight down to Singapore and home at which point I’m sure I’ll just want to hug my mom, eat some won ton mee, and meet some of you peeps for a drink 😉