National Geographic : 1978 Mar
lands. From the lush plains of Kashmir, from distant Lhasa, up over the icy Karakoram Range from Chinese Turkistan, the great Asian trade routes converged on Leh. In the town's buzzing marketplace mer chants of Yarkand and Kashgar bartered gold, tea, silk, musk, and medicines in return for cotton, pearls, spices, indigo, and brocades. "It took 34 days, the march from my home in Yarkand down to Leh," said Hajji Tokta Neyaz, one of the last to cross the 5,575 meter (18,290-foot) Karakoram Pass from China. The old Chinese Muslim, trapped in Ladakh when the Communists closed the border in 1949, now runs a small inn at Kargil, Ladakh's second largest city. "It was a backbreaking trail, long and high," he went on. "We had to slit the noses of some of the mules and ponies so they could suck enough air into their lungs. Cattle of the Himalayas, yaks ford a branch of the glacier-fed Suru River.