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Crossing Torugart

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Another border crossing episode in Central Asia: From Kashgar in Xinjiang (China) to Naryn in Kyrgyzstan via the Torugart pass.

We organise the required permits, guide, driver and vehicle in Kashgar and leave early in the morning. Shortly after 9 am we reach the check point 110 km before the actual border, get our Chinese exit stamps, and continue cruising towards the pass. A crackling voice from a little black box tells us to slow down whenever we go faster than 70 km/h. Properly licensed “tourist vehicles” are required to have such a device, our properly licensed “tour guide” explains – not just to warn against the risks of speeding; the box is also a transponder that relays the vehicle’s position to the local authorities, we learn.

The closer we get to the pass, the more our guide insists that I should not take pictures. But apart from the occasional truck, sheep and China Mobile antenna, there is nothing that would catch my eye.

The actual border is a simple fence with an open gate. An officer checks our exit stamp and without further formalities we enter Kyrgyzstan. An old Audi is waiting for us on the other side; Asatbek, the driver, is happy that we speak Russian. “What took you so long?” he asks. “Hurry up! The Kyrgyz immigration officers are about to go for lunch!” We drive past a long line of trucks waiting for clearance in front of the Kyrgyz port of entry. Asatbek knows the officer at the gate and manages to get our passports processed before the break.

Rushing along the new Chinese-built road towards Naryn, I realize that Asatbek also has one of the little black boxes installed. Tracking vehicles in Kyrgyzstan? - No. Detecting speed traps.

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