August 11, 2001 GMT


More relaxed. Everything slower and less tense. I like it a lot so far. The border inspector invites us to his house for a meal in the evening. Not the usual sort of welcome you get crossing borders. The spread is royal. He keeps, as they say in Italy, a rich table. After we have finished and are saying goodbye he shakes my hand like he is pumping petrol “I like Irish people and I like IRA”. I returned a sheepish smile and look at my feet. Looks like I owe Gerry a curry.

Spend Christmas in Larkana waiting for a chain set to arrive in the post. It never does. Money runs out. The solution is easy, a trip to the nearest ATM. Where’s is it, I enquire of the jewellers. A big toothy smile “Karachi”. Okay, fine, I get out the map. That’s six hundred kilometres each way. Sometimes I miss home. It is a five day round trip. I’ve known more convenient banking.

The Karakoram road, north Pakistan: a folly surely, winding up to China through unproductive low populated mountain ranges. Great riding though. The road is a ten metre ledge blasted out of the rock face. There is no vegetation above the monsoon limit. It is a high altitude desert. Down a sheer drop the Indus River rushes brown and empty of life.

Its real purpose has nothing to do with entertaining the dozen European bikers who come this way every year. Carving a way into the tribal areas opens the north up to the control of the central Pakistani state. With the trickle of trade come truck loads of tax collectors and policemen. The first time I have met hostility is here. The boys in one valley throw stones. I am forewarned of this and spot them crouching as they hear the bike. I use the same technique as for the ferocious sheep herding dogs of Turkey: slow down while they judge a trajectory, then hit the gas hard when they have committed, so that they are left trailing. It works. No bites. No stones. Just a smug smile. I even pat the bike’s gas tank in thanks like it had some choice it the matter. Have to watch that one, the anthropomorphic fallacy.

Burial in style

Get a new chain set from Europe, but find that Honda has sent the wrong front sprocket. How did they manage this? It is not hard: “1993 Transalp chain set”. Not much ambiguity there. Arse. The one they have sent has no holes for the retaining screws. I take it to the local metal shop to get them drilled. Four broken bits fly like bullets across the room. The almost tearful man at the drill gives up. They’ve never come across hardened steel.

The problem? Ultimately, me bring a rich world piece of technology to the poor world. More specifically, it is down to my poor maintenance skills. Even more concretely, and this is the explanation I favour, it is down to those completely bloody incompetent idiots at Nantes Honda.

The guy comes up with a solution that involves welding a piece on top of the sprocket. As I am asking how long it will hold I just know that the answer will involve the word Inshallah. I get ill: too much riding, not enough hydration. Stupid stupid stupid. Now I pay the price with a week in bed of fever and shivers. Throw away more knick knacks, and get some sent in to replace them.

Posted by at August 11, 2001 11:25 PM GMT
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