Leaving Kashgar at 8:00 we followed the Silk Road route through the string of oasis towns the fringe the southern edge of the Taklamaklan desert.
The local Uighur name for the Taklamaklan means "go in and don't come out". Whole caravans were lost following imaginary guides into the dunes.
After 250km we turn south and start to climb slowly and find a small cafe in a remote town. The couple who run it were delighted with the trade and with their new notoriety as an international hang out.
And the suddenly we hit the Himalayas. They rise straight up out of the plain and we start to climb. Up and up, round hairpin after hairpin. The road clung to the cliff edge and could be seen 100m above after the next turn.
The first pass was a mere 3800m but the big one to end the day was over 3 miles high at 4990m. You can see K2 from the top but the dust and grit in the air made it hard to see.
Then down the other side to Mazar. A windswept, dirty truck stop by the side of the road. Our "hotel" for the night.