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
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
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
Next HU Events
- NEW! Canada Maritimes: July 4-6
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- France Mini: Sep 5-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
Which bike, how to prepare it, what else to take, how to pack it all in! 6 hours!
"It's another great job, informative and entertaining."
"It's really professional and full of useful information, a must for any traveler."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'GEARUP' on your order when you checkout.
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!