China

Khunjerab Pass is the border between Pakistan and China, but the first military checkpoint doesn't occur until two kilometers down the mountain. Official customs and immigration is in Pirali, another 30 kilometers after that. In the meantime, I caught my first glimpse of a yak.
Descent was such a rewarding feeling after climbing for time out of mind. It took me less than an hour to reach Pirali. Since bicycle touring was illegal in China outside "open cities," Pirali was where I would either be deported from China or forced to take a bus. I had even heard reports of bicycles being confiscated.
I walked through immigration and customs with my papers ready. The guard took one look at me and said, "Pakistani -- okay," and let me pass!

Pakistanis are allowed to travel freely across the border to visit Tajik relatives on the other side of the Karakoram.  So there I was, in China.
Those who read the book know I'm making the very long border crossing episode into a very short caption. That's a photo from Turkey as well, but you get the idea. Take away the head phones, add a shirt bought in Rawalpindi, and voila! A Pakistani.
My descent out of the mountains lasted two full days. Unfortunately, it's sort of an "out of the frying pan into the fire" situation. The Karakoram Highway dumps out like a laundry shoot into the Taklamikan Desert, the most remote desert in the world.
Even at some altitude, I could already see signs of the arid conditions to come. These Bactrian camels roamed freely throughout the valleys north of the mountains.
Down . . . 
down . . . 
through a few arid valleys . . . 
past Kara Kul lake, one last mountain oasis . . . 
and into the Taklamikan Desert.
Okay, I did that for dramatic effect. The Taklamikan actually starts like a big field of brown dirt stretching as far as the eye can see. The distant Karakoram can still barely be made out on the horizon to the south.
The lack of sand didn't detract fom the fact it was hot as hell. Even though my water jugs held seven liters, I had to contantly wave trucks down for water by holding my water bottles upside down to show they were empty. The drivers always stopped.