Ice choreography on the Karakoram Highway
31 October 2000 - Gilgit, Pakistan
Here I am in Gilgit in Northern Pakistan, where the weather continues marvellously sunny (sorry...), and the frisbee bread is hot. We travelled up the famous Karakoram Highway to arrive here, then headed further North a few days ago to the Chinese border at an altitude of about 15000 feet (I'm told). I should now attempt to describe the journey along the KKH, but immediately I run into problems- normal vocabulary is just not sufficient to describe the scale of the scenery here - either you have been, and you know what I'm talking about, or you haven't, and you should go. Right now.
Don't stop to put the cat out.
I'm currently travelling in company of the "Ken Duval overland team", which is an education....what that man cannot do with thread tape and tyre levers isn't worth knowing...
Carol and Ken Duval, Angela and Oliver in Lahore, Pakistan
But here goes, anyway.... The road itself follows first the Indus river valley, and then progressively smaller tributaries which run higher and colder from the Karakoram range, of which K2 is a part.
The road winds higher, sometimes blasted out of overhanging rock to form a ledge on the face of a steep crumbling gorge, a couple of hundred feet above the rushing green waters, and sometimes running immediately next to the river along a stony, flat-bottomed glacial valley. The splintered peaks surround you and every hairpin brings fresh views of snowy giants glowering over you, saying: "Hello, tiny insignificant white man....".
Connor in Khanjurab Pass near Pakistan China border
Grey-white furrowed glaciers are visible in some of the higher valleys with freezing silty melt waters flowing down towards the tree-line. The Autumn colours in Hunza valley are gorgeous luminous yellows and golds in the cold winter sunlight.
As you climb higher towards the Chinese border, the atmosphere thins noticeably and exposed flesh is chilled despite the sunlight. (The bike was by this stage running like a sick lawnmower (to whatever extent this was not already the case)). At the pass itself, there is a tiny hut manned by three Pakistani soldiers, cheerfully freezing their nuts off in three-day rotations before returning to the valley below before they go off their respective trolleys. There are a couple of monuments here, but they are almost pathetic in comparison with the grandeur of the natural landscape.
The best memorial to the builders of the KKH is the road itself.
Returning to the outpost town of Sost, we were halted for a time whilst a work gang, commanded by the ever-present army sapper, cleared the latest of many landslides from the road surface. Keeping the road clear requires the continual labours of these gangs, (which you pass every couple of miles along the KKH) - an achievement almost on a par with the construction of the thing in the first place!
Connor on the Karakoram Highway, Pakistan
The Biscuit Dilemma
So we returned to Gilgit which seemed almost tropical by comparison, and another matter which has concerned me deeply.
I am troubled by the sheer number and variety of biscuits available in Pakistani stores. I mean, one entire wall of the building is occupied by biscuits. An enormous bank of every conceivable variety of rigid comestible wafers. More boxes are visible peeping out from the back rooms, and being carted in by flustered sweating Pakistanis. Store after store after store...... All full of biscuits.....
I HAVE NEVER SEEN A PAKISTANI PERSON EAT A BISCUIT.
SO WHERE DO ALL THE BISCUITS GO?
Where do they GO? Tourists buy them, fair enough. But not ALL of them, surely? There are only so many tourists, and the average Pakistani village contains enough confectionery to keep Karachi crunching for a year.
I think about it as I ride along.....
.....where do the biscuits go......where do they GO....?
Till next time - Connor
Connor and Ken Duval with officials at Khanjurab Pass, near Pakistan China border
Posted by Connor Carson at October 31, 2000 12:00 AM GMT