The next morning, we drove to Butterworth train station to collect my (Charlie's) parents, Moirag and Mike. They had flown into Kuala Lumpar the previous day to spend the next 11 days with us in Malaysia and Singapore.
It is in times of crisis that one learns where each other's priorities lie: would you sacrifice yourself to save a loved one? Much to Chris' dismay, we both learned that when it came to my priorities, my own safety, and the safety of my food ranked significantly higher than the safety of Chris.
We left Plodd Stop on the 26th December, and for the next few days followed the coast south, beach hopping from one wild camping spot to another. This was the style of overlanding we had been dreaming of since we left the UK all those months ago. We pitched up a few hundred metres from luxury beach-side hotel resorts, spending our afternoons reading, swimming, sunbathing and walking.
It was early afternoon by the time we set off for Skardu. At just under 2500 metres, the city is the gateway to the 'eight-thousander' peaks - K2, the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak, and the Trango Towers. Busy, and touristy, it is a popular starting point for multiple mountain treks. We did not have enough time left in Pakistan for a trek, but wanted to drive there (and then back to Gilgit via Deosai National Park) purely to enjoy the journey and the scenery.
Our day started in a gorgeous wild camping spot, in the valley, not too far from the Hunza river. From the top of the hill came three teenage boys, making their way down the steep mountainside with expertise rivalled only by mountain goats. They came carrying a huge carrier bag of plums. Our breakfast.
The Khunjerab pass is at 4700 metres, and, like in China, the customs and immigration offices are further down the road at a lower altitude. The 55 mile drive there was absolutely stunning. The road was in great condition, and we were surrounded by the breathtaking Karakorum mountains. We made multiple stops for photos, although they did not do the sights justice. It made our trials and tribulations in China completely worth it.
Whilst I (Charlie) spent two weeks at home to celebrate a friend's wedding, Chris' parents, Jane and Alan, flew out to Uzbekistan to keep Chris company. They had previously visited Uzbekistan in 1988 on a trip with Jane's parents, Michael and Peggy. The following post is of their time in Uzbekistan, both in the past and present, written by Jane...
Suddenly Chris (who is not one to jump or easily scare when it comes to critters) leapt off the ground, grabbed me and pointed down. A huge bright yellow and green, part scorpion part spider, horns poised, ready to kill, was making its way towards us at the speed of light.
We hit the road - the only road that we would be driving on for the next 1200 miles. As soon as we left Uralsk, it was a vast mass of nothingness. Completely flat, we had a 360 degree view of miles upon miles of dry, partly sandy, partly grassy land. After 180 miles of exactly the same view, we pulled off of the road into an old quarry that offered us a hidden place to camp with some protection from the mild wind.