We left Kashgar early in the morning. It stays dark here really late into the morning because all of China is in the same time zone.
Before leaving town, our driver had to gas up the car. Gas stations in Western China are heavily secured. No passengers are allowed, so we had to walk around the outside of the the station while our driver showed her ID, let security search the car, then fill up.
Good thing security didn’t have any problem with her bringing her cute little dog.
You’d think exiting a country would be pretty easy but about 150km before the border we reached our first of many checkpoints. At each there seemed to be a random security process… verifying our Chinese visa, writing down our phone’s unique IMEI, facial recognition scans, body scans, searching baggage. At one point they took our phones into a private room and did who knows what with them.
After half a dozen security checks (I lost track), we finally made it to the Kyrgyzstan entry point. We were expecting much of the same but a quick glance at our passports and a stamp was all it took to get admitted to a new country. Except for the Chinese citizen traveling with us. At every point where we encountered someone looking even remotely official, he had to pay a bribe. You could see he was pretty irritated by this after the 10th time.
It’s a whole different world across the border. Where China was hot and arid, now we were in a world of freshly fallen snow and big jagged peaks. 7,134m Lenin Peak towered over us as we sped through a world of white and wound our way through crowds of sheep hogging the roads.