Torugart Pass, Kyrgyzstan

Torugart Pass is a remote crossing of Kyrgyzstan’s mountain frontier with China. It was the ONLY border crossing between China and Kyrgyz Republic, for example those traveling along the so-called Silc Road, that was opened until 2002, when the Irkeshtam pass was opened for passenger traffic between the two countries.

In 1905, in Kashgar, the British Consul (George Macartney) found out that the Russians had established a 27-floor-wide route between At Bashi, Kyrgyzstan, and Torugart. He told his superiors that the path was easily “made fine” and if Russias had decided to have some section, or somewhere in the Province of Xinjiang, then this was the route their troops would follow, as he played a leading role in The Great Game between the UK and the Russians, who sought dominance in Central Asia.

In 1906 the Chinese government relinquished Russian pressure and decided to finish the road with a Russian bank loan – to recuperate money by levying tolls – and Russian trading monopolies along the way were given to Russian merchants. The Chinese, however, did not like this and set the tolls so high that the road quickly went unusual.

Paul Nazaroff speaks of the way in which he has had tough circumstances and bureaucracies in his book “Hunted Through Central Asia – Turning Lenin’s Secret Police.” And like many unwitting western travelers are turned away. They are also turned down.

You can now follow the modern route, but it is not quite modern to say the fact (although many sections are not tarmac some of it is – indeed, part of it near At Bashi once served as an emergency airstrip in case of Chinese invasion).

As part of a Silk-Road Walk, several international tourists cross Torugart. However, more people rather than taking an arranged tour tend to ride individually. There are also challenges for them in Torugart. It is technically closed to all but the people of Kyrgyzstan and China, but special permission can be obtained from the Urumqui Regional Authority to cross the border here.

The specific provisions and remoteness of the border crossing will make this uncomfortable independent traveler an overwhelming experience. Travelers were also turned away because they didn’t have the right paperwork.

In the opposite, certain passengers without paperwork appear to have crossed all the allegedly inflexible rules. It’s very unstable, so we don’t recommend you take chances. Anything to be achieved confidently!