Sost to Islamabad (both in Pakistan) including the KKH!

Well hell0 again, arent you lucky, 2 new blog updates in as many weeks, your christmas couldnt get any better.

Anyway were now in Lahore, or at least i started this blog there…….and weve enjoyed some of the best people, foods and scenery of the trip thus far, and i mean that sincerely, and this blog will be a joy to write, even if its a crap read.

As you may have noticed we have figured out how to add loads of pictures in 5 minutes, instead of 5 hours, so check out the gallery for all the shots of the amazing part of the world weve been in for the last 3 weeks.

MOre pics to come it just takes time to download them all here im afriad……patience

Okay so on with the show, we arrived in Sost having seen Keith Rob and CHristians names having been registered one day previous, so we knew they were a little way ahead, and some youths (get me) informed us they were only 1/2 a day ahead of us. This was good news as we wanted to attempt the sketchy part of the Karakorum Highway (henceforward referred to as the KKH)) as a group of five, thinking that it might reduce our risk……..but as we discussed it could also make us a target worth the risk….who knows?

Fear not mothers….we`re far from the dangerous beard patrol by now!

Again on with the story……we set off after our first night of the great prices in Pakistan (1 quid for a bed and 50p for food…bargain) on a glorious day. The sun was shining, the air was (relatively) still, and the mountains towered over us all around, it was incredible, and we had plenty of stops to just gaze in awe at the views surrounding us. We were both like a couple kids in a sweet shop, but this was so much sweeter,…. the knowledge thatwe had cycled from england, all (alright most) of the way to bleddy pakistan, and here we were cycling the Mecca of cycle routes for cyclists….it was a great feeling, i guess is what im saying!

Within the first few hours, and 30 km, we had passed soaring granite peaks with unbelievably jagged tops……glacier that reached down to almost the road, and cliff hanging roads that dropped down a hundred feet to the river below which happened to be a tributary of the Indus, ancient civilization river number 4 (not that im counting). We were on top of the world, quite literally, and even 1/2 an hour in we had decided this was the highlight of the trip, and not just scenery wise. The people we cycled past were friendly and smiling, and some were distinctly european looking (Old Alex`s genes methinks). The young lads were playing cricket perched on a cliff hundreds of feet high, and the girls waved shyly from the homes. Even here the separation was immediately clear, a shame, but there you go.

We passed a small town where we decided to splash out on some lunch, only to be told that everywhere was closed for the season, we were a few months too late. However we met a seemingly lovely guy who worked at the telephone exchange, and who offered us some lunch in his small boudoir. We were served with lavishes of almonds, dates, and a delicious meal of mutton curry (jack just ate the sauce, leaving me to crunch the bones) and chapatti. Oh and how could i forget, a few cups of pakistani tea (with milk and alot of sugar if not salt), which i drank a little reluctantly,not wanting to offend, as youll understand if youve made me a cup of tea at any time.

So we had a good feed anyhow, and were about to get going, when we thought we`d offer some money, and he promptly asked for 200 rupees, about $2.50. This was reasonable we thought, seeing as we were miles from anywhere really, so we paid without a word, and left.

We were about 1/2 km up the road when jack reached for the camera for a photo, to discover it had gone. With a yell jack asked me if i had it, then uttering curses, turned his bike around and headed back to the telephone exchange. When i got there the guy was stood next to jack, who was glowering at him, looking sheepish and using his limited english to say he didnt know what had happened. Jack suspected the young lad who also worked there, but his boss was adamant he hadnt taken it, saying instead that someone must have stopped, seen our bikes outside, and taken the camera……..funny they didnt take the wallets full of cash or the passports still in the handlebar bags isnt it!?

So anyway jack went around the village, asking about the camera, and luckily found a contractor who spoke excellent english, and was a local too (he was also a big dude which helped). He talked to the guy and made us all swap contact details, before assuring us he`d spread the word, and that this guy would send it back to england if it “came up”. Then we cycled off, having done all we could, pissed off not at the loss of the pictures, which was a bummer, but at the fact that the camera wasnt even ours, and was on long term loan from good old Milo.

We didnt let it dampen our spirits however, as one bad things could not diminish the reality of where we were and the beautiful scenery around us. So we pushed on another 20 km, up a rather flummoxing hill that had a brutal headwind, and dust devils galore, and down the other side, cycling hard to even move downhill, until we reached Gulmit. There we stopped for a fizzy drink stop, sheltering from the wind, when who should turn up but our friend the contractor, who informed us that the guy had our camera amazingly! Someone had obviously had a change of heart…….this was backed up by the conversation jack had with a taxi driver as he went back to get it, leaving me to shiver by the side of the road, and try to be as discrete as possible, attracting the least attention as possible. Easier said than done as a tall blonde english bloke sat next to 2 bikes, and with a book in his hand…..”where are you from?” was now followed by “what/why are you reading?”.

Got a bit distracted there, sorry, the camera…right…… the taxi driver told jack that the guys working the telephone exchange were punjabi, and not from around there (there being the Hunza region), so were more likely to do stuff like stealing a tourists camera, but since we`d told the local guy, who`d told other locals, he was scared of what the locals would do if they found out it was him that stole the camera. Theres no easy way to flog a camera with no charger and loads of photos of me and jack naked….sorry i meant cycling, in a valley about 300 miles from the nearest large city.

The taxi driver was convinced the guy stole it, as he would also have lost his job and spent 20 years in prison, besides the beating the locals would have given him, being a civil servant, if he was caught. Not only that,but he also had the cheek to ask jack for 200 rupees for returning it…….. and when jack asked for a usb reader that had another 2gb card in it, he popped next door, asked the young lad, and came out with it in hand, and demanded another 100 for that. Suffice to say we think we know who stole them, and that Jack refused to pay.

By the time Jack got back to Gulmit it was dark, and the taxi driver rang a mate of his who owned a hotel, so we stayed there for the extortionate rate of 250 rupees each (or $3). I should add at this point that the road is really bad….and our daily average at that point was about 50 km, but it was worth every lump and bump.

We learned from acousin of the hotel owner that he had seen the boys about 30 km ahead, and had recommended a hotel for the in Karimabad, where ther was an old fort and some good hikes. Seeing as it was Popa Keiths “chill time” we thought he might have stayed to check it out, so the next day we headed there to have a gander. We were surprised to see a sign to Karimabad pointing up a rather steep hill and away from the KKH, so we requisitioned some locals and there phones to ring some hotels they knew and ask if there were three bearded cyclists staying with them. After a few minutes fruitless calls, i had the phone thrust upon me, and the conversation went as follows……”Ello?”, “Ello?”, “Jack, Matt….its Rob!”, “oh alight mate, how goes it?we`ll be there in 5”, “Good mate, in a minute!”, whereupon we headed 2 minutes up the hill, to the hotel they were staying at. And thus the Famous Five were reunited!

While we stayed in Karimabad we headed up to a glacier in the valley behind the town, which was a good old walk, an bleddy knackering. The path up there was a real cliff hanger, and the clouds moved past us in waves, revealing in turns the valley below. The snow becames deeper, and the temperature dropped as we climbed, and once we got to the top we sat and ate a brief meal of dried apricots and almonds (well i did anyway), before heading back down the the valley floor, as the clouds were darkening and the light fading. By the time we got to the town, after getting lost in the maze of alleyways on the mountainside, it was well and truly dark, and all of our lags were aching like hell, i felt like an old woman, as my hips were clicking and stiff, shows how unfit we are for anything other than cycling.

THe aches didnt bode well for cycling the next day, but we all managed to get ourselves together, as we had planned to cycled just 25 km to another valley down the KKH. However when we got there we found that the road upto the town was another 5 km back on ourselves, and so we all decided to just crack on to the next town further down, Chalte. THis was an amazing little town, situated beautifully between a fork of one river and sealed by another so thast it was a island.  So we stayed there massaging our aching lwegs in preperation for the last push to our first city of Pakistan, Gilgit.  Along this next stretch the people changed, from the european features of the upper hunza region to a more indian look, losing with it a little of the friendliness. BUt he women in this area were more open, waving and sayibng hello which was cool.

Just before we got to the town we had to cross the river again, on a real “suspension” bridge in every sense of the word. It was handing from the clifs on either side, and dangling freely, which mean tthat it rocked bounced and moved as each load crossed it. It was a sttrange experience, but not neccessarily an unpleasant one!

Gilgit was a cool little place, a taster of what was to come on the Indian subcontinent, with its manic traffic and varieties of different smells, anything from rotting rubbish to lovely smeling curries.

We found a nice place to saty there, and spent a few days getting a feel for the place. ONe of the days we walked up the valley the town was in, to another side valley where there is a Buddha carving in  the rock face, set above a nice piece of nirvana, with a small grassy area, shady trees, and gurgling water keeping you company. It was really nice there, and the walk back, assisted by a local who showed us a “short” cut,  was beautiful, even if it did take hours. We followed centuries old watercourses made byt the people to irrigate their land, and it was an amazing piece of work, as it must take a long time to build stone by stone, and they are everywhere along the KKH. The views from this path were great,  lookig down across the city in its valley, and even further aield, mountains  poking their heads above the nearer hills. Some of these mountains are over 8000 metres……….and theres only about 10 of those in the world, three quarters of which are in Pakistan.

The cycle from Gilgit to Islamabad was to invlove cycling the area that we had been debating whether to do or nor, as we`d heard conflicting views as to the safeness of cyling there. Knowing that the news would be more reliable the nearer to the area we were, we cyled on to the next large town, Chillas in another 2 days. IN between this time we joined the INdus river, whos waters feed most of pakistan, and we went past the junction point of the 3 great moutain ranges, Himalayas, Karakorums, and the HIndu Kush, not that youd know without a sign telling you, they all just look like big mountains!

The day we arrived in Chillas, i had the unpleasant experience of having small children throw stones at me as i cycled past, and it was a little perturbing, especially as this area was supposed to be good still, so that and reports we heard of people in Chillas persuaded me Jack and Rob to catch a bus to Islamabad from there. Keith and CHristian headed onwards, a few kilos heavier, the next day. I had sneaked a few large rocks in mostly Keiths bags, ( revenge for Mt Nemrut, turkey…….i didnt forget!) while they were buying sweets for the journey.

We 3 had to wait anther day for a bus with places on it for us, and when it turned up it was a cramped minivan. This was not a very nice way to spend the next 16 huors….on crappy roads too. I definately wouldnt recommend it anyhow! The stars at night as the road wound along the cliff, rising to hundereds of feet, were amazing, and the meaning of the the colour MIdnight blue was revealed to me in an extravagant way, and the mountains were silhouetted against the sky. By the end of the night both me and jack had felt quite travel sick, but we were all still managing to sleep in an upright position, as exhaustion overcame the uncomfortableness.

So we arrived in Rawalpindi in the morning, and headed to Islamabad, which is basically the same city, but another district. It tok us hours to find where the hell we were, and asking policemen got us nowhere, they seemed to think we were just stopping to talk to them for the hell of it. Anyway we got there in the end, and found the hostel (only one in the city) and were greetd by a guy who siad he would get the tv to interview us while we were there. We were sceptical, after all why would they want to interview us here if no one else in the world wanted to? To our surprise however, he arranged it for a few days later, and there was also an article in the papers about us. THe tv were still tring to get a hold of, but the paper article is at

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/three-british-cyclists-arrive-729

Anyway thats enough from me…….sorry if it lost impetus at the end, i had to write the 2nd half twice, as the stupid computers here didnt save it properly.

Anyway take care, Hope you all had a great chrstmas, and have an amazing new year, we`ll both be thiking of you all,

I would like to say a massive thankyou to all who have donated to my travel fund, and want you to kow how lucky and grateful iam (you all know who you are), so for now much Love, Matt x

7 Comments »

  1. Peter Green said,

    What a lovely way to be woken on Christmas morning Matt! Please continue to take lots of care and be careful what you say and who you say it to…Have a lovely new Year and keep cycling and having new experiences. We love and miss you Mum Dad& Hayley xxx

  2. Peter Green said,

    We thought of you all and toasted your continued good health and happiness wherever you travel and hoped that your turkey sub was as tasty as it could be!xxx

  3. Brian Pengelly said,

    Hi

    Its New Year’s Eve and I’ve just been skimming your blog. Amazing stuff!

    Hope all is well with you and that your New Year is a good one!

    • eurasianadventure said,

      hi brian
      happy new year.
      thanks for the message its great to know we have some followers. we managed to toast the new year with a beer which was great as there is no beer in pakistan as you can imagen.
      hope all is well with you all
      love jack

  4. Stephanie said,

    Hi Guys,
    First of all wishing you a very Happy New Year and all the best on your journey..
    It is amazing how far you have got who would have thought that when you left us in Purmerend in march.
    Just was reading your blog and the piece in the paper,so you are planning on cycling to Japan, wow want a great thing to do..
    Hope your mum and dad are ok with that, hahaha
    Well Jack and Matt wishing you the best and take care…
    Love Stephanie and Erwin and co xxxx

  5. mum and marg said,

    waiting for the next instalment
    your photographs are incredible
    thinking of you both
    lots of love xxxxxxx

  6. aunty vivien said,

    so glad you got the camera back i could fel every bump happy new year god bless all my love vivien xxxx


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