welcome to pakistan
We have to face a final Indian obstacle before leaving – the incompetent Indian Customs.
It takes several hours for the lady officer in charge to study our carnet de passage. She is trying to read and memorize every single letter, I think, and doesn’t even realize that all the 25 pages in the carnet are identical…
Later we have to learn that she obviously forgot to inform the Customs about our exit and we’re due to proof that we actually left India.
On the Pakistani side we’re welcomed with tea and asked to seat and relax. But the first thing in our mind is FOOD!!! After the mostly vegetarian India we can’t get enough of meat. During the 2 days in the PTDC motel in Wagah we’re doing some maintenance on the bike and eat, eat and eat.
high kicking action at the wahga border
high security at the marriot hotel in islamabad
There are about 350 not very exciting kilometres to Islamabad, our next stop in Pakistan. Here we have to apply for some visas. Especially the visa for Iran supposed to be hard to get. There is several “overlanders” on the tourist camp in Islamabad, who are either waiting for long time or being refused by the Iranian government… we’re more than worried now. Anyway, the procedure will take at least 3 weeks and we’re escaping the ridiculous heat by riding up north along the Karakoram Highway.
Riding the first 600km from Islamabad to Gilgit is more of a pain than pleasure. The KKH is in a desolate state making us swerve between the potholes all the way. There is no view of any importance and the traffic is just as bad as it could get. We’re not experiencing any kids throwing stones at us or trying to hit us with sticks but the conservative region of Indus Kohistan isn’t really a pleasant place for tourists to stop over.
You can’t see any women in the street as they usually marry very early (mostly with their first period) and from then on their world is minimized to husbands house. No wonder there when we’re being observed permanently during our walks through the filthy streets…
finally on the KKH
beautiful decorated truck in hunza
chapali kebab in gilgit
bridges in northern pakistan
on the 2 bridges walk
hunza valley view
From Gilgit on the view is becoming more and more stunning, although I can’t enjoy it fully due to the state of the KKH. Jane is recording the view and I can watch it in the evening then! Nice!
Additional to thousands of deep potholes the Chinese are working on the complete string from Chilas to the Khunjerab pass at once. That means diversions every few hundred meters, waiting every now and then, blockage of the highway for days and even more potholes. This highway will be enjoyable again in 2-3 years. By then the Chinese will be finished with the construction work and will be shipping all their goodies to Pakistan.
We only make it to Passu and that is more than enough.
the cathedral ridge in passu
first sunrays strike the rakaposhi peak
with daniel and our new friend
with daniel in ultar meadow 3270m
art on trucks in pakistan
boys in baltistan
By far nicer is our side trip to Skardu. Smooth asphalt, gorgeous scenery and almost no traffic. On the way back to Gilgit we’re not so lucky though: 3 problems on the bike in just 1 day, isn’t that too much?! First the rear wheel bearing quits the job (still easy), then puncture on the rear (still easy) and finally the battery crashes… Now, we’re 3km away from the nearest place with a hotel (luckily not 30km!). Together we’re pushing the bike towards the hotel, the sun is burning down and the incline of the road doesn’t help either.
repairs happen to be always in the middle of nowhere
the remains of the wheel bearing
The bike is left behind at the hotel and we’re on the way to Gilgit, 5 horrible hours in a Hiace van. This van reminds us why we prefer to travel by bike and don’t do backpacking! 20 passengers inside the van and some on the roof, beside the 1,5m tower of cargo. Every time we hit a pothole, the roof dangerously bends towards passenger compartment. The women sit in the first row behind the driver, the men elsewhere. The ones close to windows spitting permanently out, the inner seat passengers spitting in some plastic bags, but spitting is definitely a must on this bus rides.
buddha carvings in skardu
women must be covered in pakistan
rakaposhi view over the indus river
In Gilgit I’m reassured that the battery is gone but also that I won’t be able to buy a new one in this town. Apparently the connection between the cells 1 and 2 broke and the only thing I can do is to repair that connection. Now I’m sure not many of you guys saw this type of battery repair. First the specialist cuts a piece of the top part of the battery and then inserts some pieces of lead and melts them with a soldering gun till the 2 cells are properly connected. I’m a bit sceptical about this type of repair but what other choice do I have?? At first I tried to get a new battery send by courier from Germany but apparently a battery belongs to dangerous goods and not one courier would put his hands on. I’m just wondering how they ship the batteries to their customers.
Anyway, back at the bike the battery seems to work properly and we make it back to Gilgit without any problems.
one of the victims of a landslide on KKH
By now, we’re waiting for more than 1 month for our Iranian visas, calling the embassy every day and slowly we’re beginning to doubt if we ever get this permits to enter Iran. Several other travellers been refused on their visa applications and we have the feeling that the same will happen to us, bugger.
But we don’t want to give up so easily! Instead of waiting in Gilgit and calling the Embassy daily, we decide to ride to Islamabad and try to talk to the Consul personally.
Only 1 hour south of Gilgit the road is blocked by a massive landslide and we’re forced to wait for 5 hours till the 4 excavators and bulldozers are moving the debris. Another hour or so further south we’re facing a landslide again… this time no machines visible and the truckers are prepared for long hours of waiting. Instead of spending half a night beside the road we decide to take an invitation from a Pakistani guy and detour to Astor.
Saefudin brings us with his jeep to Tarashing and to Deosai Plains within the next 2 days. After all, the landslide delay was all but worth it!!!
at the nanga parbat
beautiful deosai lake
at the famous deosai bridge
Back in the Capitol we arrange a meeting with the Consul, who speaks a better German than me (Darius), and we regain some confidence in getting our visas some time.
In fact, few days later, after 47 days of waiting, we’re holding our 30 days tourist visas!!!
food stalls in islamabad
There is no more reason to stay any longer in the hot and humid Islamabad.
Our Pakistan visas are almost expired and the border is about 2200km away. No escorts during the first half to Sukkur but from now on it seems like there is no escape.
impressions at the market in bahawalpur
Well, the police are picking us up from the hotel in the morning but the worn Toyota Hilux can’t keep up with us for long and most of the time we’re on our own. Usually we’d see the escort only while having a longer break or refilling the bike. Also we can’t be bothered to fill up the forms every 20km or so at the check posts. Jane wrote down our information on small pieces of paper, which we’re handing over every now and then.
our vip escort can't keep up with us
After a few days “beer-break” in Quetta, we’re ready for the final leg in Pakistan, the so called “kidnap highway”.
This time we’re travelling with Guido and Esther, a Swiss couple on 2 bikes, and are far more reluctant to having escorts along the way.
During the 2 days to the border we’d see some police escorting us from time to time but most of time we’d be on our own.
guido and esther
empty "kidnap highway"
long way to europe
beluchi man in dalbandin
heavy guarded hotel in dalbandin
sand dunes are taking over the road
one down at a dune in balochistan
with guido and esther on the kidnap highway
baba guido is giving lessons in photography
Reaching Taftan we quickly decide not to stay overnight. What a mess! The whole place must exist only due to smuggling petrol from Iran and exchanging money to very poor conditions…
Although the officials on the Pakistani side are friendly and helpful it is pretty hard to find the Customs and the Immigration in none-descript buildings along the border.
2 months passed since we entered Pakistan and we leave it behind with lots of good memories, experiences and positive encounters.
good bye pakistan
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