Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Get Lost on the Karakoram Highway

When China and Pakistan embarked in the late 1960s on the Herculean task of building the Karakoram Highway linking Islamabad to the ancient Silk Road trading post of Kashgar in China's far west, it was with the relentless practicality of bureaucrats. This was the quickest way to get from A to B. Little did they know that they had built one of Asia's most extraordinary drives — an asphalt ribbon snaking its way through the world's great mountain ranges, where the Himalayan massif collides with the Hindu Kush and the Afghan Pamirs. The views are, quite literally, breathtaking. Craning your neck upward to peer at the peaks more than 23,000 ft. (7,000 m) high is exhausting, and looking down the sheer precipices just inches beyond your car tires is terrifying. Who knew bureaucrats were capable of engineering awe?

— By Aryn Baker