And like that, the trip is finished. After getting back to Bishkek, the situation in Xinjiang province got even worse, with some terrorist bombings in Kuqa city. All the western land borders were closed, going into and out of the country, so the only way to get around would have been by air. However, this simply seemed too expensive and too much of a hassle. I'd have had to fly to Urumqi to get to China, and then rather than riding directly into northern Pakistan, I'd have had to fly again to Islamabad, and then likely have to take yet another flight to get to where I wanted to go within Pakistan itself. All this while trying to figure out which airlines will take bicycles, paying extra cargo fees, etc, etc.
I just couldn't believe it all became so complicated. All I wanted to do was ride maybe two weeks from Kyrgyzstan through a small slice of western China, to northern Pakistan and do a month or two of hiking. Is that so much to ask? But alas it just wasn't meant to be. Add to that, I then realized that Ramadan was going to start in early September, meaning almost everything was going to be shut down in the daytime for the entire month. And that was the end. A few days looking for a cheap air ticket, a long flight through five airports, and I'm home.
In conclusion, I'd have to say that even with all the complaining, the bad roads, the pollution, the traffic, the roadblocks, the heat, the cold, the long days with nothing to see, the flat tires, and everything else, it was still a great trip. The bad days are now all good memories, and the good days even better. I do wish that things had worked out better toward the end of the trip, but, well, that's life. I hope to get back to that region eventually, but I'll just have to put that K2 base camp trek on hold for the time being. And, as far as future bike trips go, well, I really do think I'm done traveling for a while. I might try to do a summer-long western states ride in a couple years, but as for my prior visions of a one-year Patagonia-to-Alaska bike ride, I really don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.