October 03, 2000 GMT
Turkey

3 October 2000 - Turkey

I am in Erzerum in Turkey attempting as I write to screw up sufficient courage to cross into Iran! Things have gone pretty well so far with only minor mechanical hassles from the Tenere. Border difficulties in Romania, Bulgaria, and turkey have been non-existent!

Seriously, the border guards I have encountered so far have not lived up to their reputation at all, and were polite and friendly to a man. I felt almost let down. In Romania the guard glanced at my luggage and said 'So - do you have any guns?' I said perhaps one or two. He said 'OK - just two is fine' - and waved me on to the next guy who tapped my metal panniers and said 'Ah, this is for the whiskey yes? - Hahaha.' - and wandered off laughing.

Connor and Ken Duval, Khanjurab Pass, Pakistan.

Connor and Ken Duval, Khanjurab Pass, Pakistan

Biking highlight of the trip so far has been on the northern coast of Turkey, where the roads are a confusing mix of four lane highways and potholed dirt tracks, traversing wooded mountainous terrain. I prefer the potholed tracks although travelling this way in the pouring rain has added a few years to my life. Another good day was here in Erzerum where I met an English teacher from the local school - I went there the following day to speak in English with the children in his class, and ended up singing an Irish folk song to a room full of small Turkish children. This is not something that happens to me every day.

One minor point, which may be of use to people travelling in Europe - I managed to but green card insurance in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey very easily, but asking about it in Hungary, Slovakia and Czech produced only blank looks. Don't know if anyone else has had this problem?

Connor and his reconditioned shock - Kathmandu style.

Connor and his reconditioned shock - Kathmandu style


Posted by Connor Carson at 12:00 AM GMT
October 31, 2000 GMT
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.

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.

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.

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.....

BUT.

I HAVE NEVER SEEN A PAKISTANI PERSON EAT A BISCUIT.

NEVER.

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.

Connor and Ken Duval with officials at Khanjurab Pass, near Pakistan China border

Posted by Connor Carson at 12:00 AM GMT
 

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