December 09, 2000 GMT
Pakistan - 5
Islamabad (03-11-2000) till Lahore (09-12-2000)
My initial plan was to do some major service on the bike on the campground in Islamabad, but when I got an offer from my former employer to work in Lahore for one week I decided to do the service in Lahore.
It gave me pocket money, and hotel and food paid for, during one week. This customer had bought second-hand machinery from a bankrupt company in the UK, and had built it back together them selves. Everything was wired up as well, the only thing I had to do was to fine-tune the whole machinery. The Technical Manager was Barry, a British I had met before in the UK and on Sri Lanka. Instead of in a hotel I was put in a house where Barry was living as well and I had my own bed- and bathroom. Christian, a former colleague was here also and it was good to see him again as we had done quite a few jobs together (mainly in China).
My idea was to work here for one week and stay some weeks more to work on the bike in the factory. So I had the opportunity to use the equipment of their technical department and they could still ask me questions about the machinery while I was around. So it benefited both parties. But finally I stayed here for a whole month and was able to get the bike fully fixed again and also make the machine run well. During the night time we were watching movies and drank beer! For the first time in 2 and a half month I had beer again. Officially still forbidden in Pakistan but as Barry had 3 alcohol permits, he could buy 18 cases of 20 bottles of beer, which was, even for the 3 of us, way too much.
Because I was staying in Lahore for a couple of weeks I had decided to get some parts shipped to me. My GPS bracket was broken and while they were supplying a metal bracket now, I sent an email to the supplier, Touratech, to complain about this and they offered me to send a new bracket free of charge except for the shipping costs. I decided to buy some more parts and get it shipped to Lahore, Poste Restante, also my girlfriend, Jeannette, sent me a box with all kind of things to Lahore.
The first package to arrive was the parts from Touratech. I could get the parts... but had to pay an additional Rs. 5500 (US$ 90). The parts were worth only US$ 150, but Touratech had charged me for the bracket fully (US$ 50) and had included a full invoice with the parcel. The Pakistani customs only looked at the highest amount mentioned on the invoice (US$150) and start calculating their formula from it: first 35% import tax, then over the total 15% VAT, and then a 6% income tax. We showed them that this couldn't be right because they were also taxing the shipping costs and the VAT was already charged in Germany (and showed on the invoice). They simply didn't care and wouldn't argue about it at all. We took a copy of the invoice with us and Barry asked the company's administration if they customs were charging the right amount and... they did.
I was really pissed of with Touratech because:
1. They had charged me fully for the GPS bracket
2. They charged me German VAT for items that were shipped out of the EC.
3. They didn't include a pro-forma invoice with reduced prices in the parcel.
I mailed them and got no answer. So I gave them the option that they paid the extra costs as a result of their mistakes on the invoice or I refused the package at all so it was sent back to them and they could send all the items to Holland instead.
At the end they decided to send the parts to Holland so I had to refuse the package. Refusing the package was not as easy as expected. Ok, refusing it was no problem but this didn't mean it was shipped back to the sender. I was told that it was impossible to export imported parts. But I told them the parts were not imported yet as they were still in customs. That made no difference however. But because I was a tourist an exception could be made but then I had to write a letter explaining why I refused the parts and request them to send it back to sender. I just wrote them the wrong parts we sent, for a different model motorbike and the parts were useless to me. I enclosed a print of the email Touratech had sent me, after modifying it with a word-processor first. In the meantime Touratech had already new parts sent to my parents in Holland. So I had my parts (still in Holland however) and I could easily refuse the parcel without worrying if the parcel from Pakistan ever made it back to Germany (and I couldn't care actually!).
With the parts send to my parents they included a cheque to refund the wrongly charged money for the GPS bracket. But my father could cash this cheque only against an USD$15 charge because it was a foreign cheque. A perfect example of a united Europe. Because my parents are living 5 km from the German border my father went to a bank in Germany and there he didn't get extra charged for it but.... they couldn't pay the cheque out in cash. They had to transfer it to an account and as my father didn't have an account in Germany they had to charge..... US$ 15.
In Lahore I was together with my German colleague Christian and I got some of his left over Pakistani rupees when he left, and so I had to pay him back and so I sent him the cheque which he had no problems to cash.
My rear tire had two punctures, both repaired but it was loosing air slowly so I had to inflate it every couple of days. Also the tire had run a surprisingly amount of 32.000 kms.(!) and needed to be replaced. But the sizes of tires I have are difficult to get in Pakistan, but everybody told me the best place in Pakistan to try was Lahore. I tried at the tire market and one shop only had my rear tire. This was no problem because that was my worst (leaking) tire, the front was still going strong. There was no choice or whatever in brand, so I ended up with a Yokohama street-tire, which was good enough for me.
On Monday 4 December I decided to leave Pakistan and enter India. I had to, because my (3 months) visa ran out the next day. But it was no problem as my bike was in a perfect condition now: it had had a full major service and I repaired all small (and bigger) broken and damaged parts.
The Sunday before I was about to leave Najeeb (Managing Director) phoned me and asked me to stay a couple of days longer. I told him this was impossible as my visa was running out but that was no excuse, as he would extend it tomorrow. It would only take 2 days. So I decided to stay for 3 more days. They didn't need my passport for the extension, just some copies and 3(!) photos. After 2 days they faxed me a letter stating that my visa was extended for two more weeks and I was able to leave from Lahore Airport. This was a mistake, as I was not leaving by air but overland. The next day they sent me a corrected letter where they only crossed out the word 'Airport'. So now I could also leave from Lahore border. But I had to wait some days more for the original letter, which had to be sent down from Islamabad.
The reason Najeeb wanted me to stay longer was that they had some problems with a non-Brugman machine but with the same process automation system. So I used these extra days to sort everything out together with Barry.
I received my original extension letter on Friday only so I decided to leave the next day, Saturday 9 December. I had plenty more time to arrange all my luggage as well so I was as organized and prepared as when I left home (as I had been calling it).
Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM
November 02, 2000 GMT
Pakistan - 4
Gilgit (16-10-2000) till Islamabad (02-11-2000)
After returning in Gilgit from the cold Deosai plains with the freezing night together with the Danish couple Poul & Pia, I needed some time to relax. So I spend a few day in Gilgit doing all kind of small things but mainly doing nothing but relaxing.
I Did my laundry, removed the worst dirt of the bike, trimmed my head almost completely bold, and redid the lousy repaired tire puncture from Skardu. Now they melted rubber into the hole instead of just putting a sticker over the hole, which doesn't work for tubeless tires. When my tire was being redone, I hammered my suitcase straight as it was 'a bit out of shape' because of my frequent falls.
I met quite a few bikers during these days. First of all, a Dutch biker who already knew me because he had read my reports on the Internet. Also I met an Austrian biker Martin who I met before in Aqaba, Jordan, and an English couple Chris & Sarah who I met before in Esfahan, Iran. We had a great time seeing each other again so it was getting late that night.
On 20 October, it was time to move on. I wanted to go from Gilgit to Chitral. A ride mainly off-road and going over the Shandur pass. It was already getting late in the season so I was not sure if I could still cross that pass. But the pass was at 3740 meters and in the Deosai I had no problems below 3800 so I decided to give it a try.
My goal for the first day was Gupis but when I realized I couldn't make it before dark I was looking for a place to camp. Suddenly a small bike with 2 persons on it appeared next to me asking me questions in good English and finally they asked me to stay with them tonight. They were 2 teachers on a small local school. They were living next to the school and they guided me to their school. When we crossed the bridge they stopped, telling me that the next part was getting rough. "No problem" I said thinking about the Deosai. But we had to drive along a riverbed with big lose stones. This was really something different and quite hard, but... I managed without falling. The night was nice and we sat in the kitchen the whole night as it was the only room with heating and had diner there as well. They were all really nice to me and forced me to sleep in one of their beds while they were sleeping on the floor. The night was cold so I go myself an extra blanket and had no problems anymore.
The next morning we had breakfast in the kitchen were drank tea with... SALT. I haven't tried it and preferred to put sugar in my tea instead. When I left I had to go through the riverbed again and it was much easier as I knew now what to expect.
The road was unpaved mainly, but was not really difficult to drive on. The scenery was breathtaking as all the tree leafs were in there autumn colors. Together with all the surrounding mountains and the clear blue river, the scenery was stunning. The last part to the pass was getting more difficult as I had to cross through rivers and climb up steep hills with hairpins. Difficult but really challenging! I surprised myself in being capable to handle more situations with the motorbike as expected. The last test was the hardest. The track was going steep up and was covered with fist size stones. I thought I would never make it, but the alternative was to turn around and drive back for another 2 days. So the least I could do was give it a try. I knew I had to pass it in one go. As I stopped there was no way I could get there away again (except returning back down). I went up in first gear and kept open the throttle playing with the clutch and... I made it in one go! It was difficult but now I knew why BMW put such a small first gear on this bike.
The pass itself was not the best part. A big open place with a lake and some huts and tents. I had to register myself and drank a couple of teas. The wind was strong and cold. Not a nice place to pitch my tent and spend the night. So I continued going down and discovered the other side of the pass being completely different. Steep hills made the track go down with hairpins. It was not difficult though as long as you kept your speed very low. I had to cross a stream and wanted to stop to see what was the best way to cross it. So I hit the brakes but slipped down into the stream and I fell. My hands covered with cold water. I wanted to get the bike up again but because of the steep slope it was on I only managed to lift it up partly. So I was about to unload my luggage when a pickup appeared with 15 men in the back. Just what I needed! Strange though, while I had hardly seen a vehicle during the last two days. Getting up the bike was no problem anymore with all the help and there was no damage on it at all. The only thing damaged was my ego. Still I hadn't managed to cross a pass without falling. In the next village, Sor Laspur, was a basic hotel where I spend the night.
After a cold night again I went off for the last part to Chitral. This was really simple compared to the last couple of days as the roads got better (but still unpaved) and wider. So there was more time to enjoy the scenery and it was certainly worth it. The last part was paved and Chitral was reached without further incidents.
In my hotel in Chitral I met a Dutch/South African couple who bought a donkey that day and wanted to walk, the same route I just had taken, back to Gilgit, in 2 weeks. Because of the demanding days I was extremely tired and went to bed early.
The next morning the couple with the donkey had left early taking also a French girl with them who liked the idea and decided to join them. I got up later a drove a couple of km's back to meet them. They were not that far from Chitral as they already had to repack the donkey three times. The last time one of the locals helped them and so it was much better now. Also did the locals like the idea of tourists travelling with a donkey and everybody started to feed the donkey so it wasn't really motivated to walk. They really doubt if they were able to make it within 2 weeks.
After a goodbye I turned around heading towards the Kalash valleys. These valleys are special in many ways. First of all, these valleys runs from east to west instead, like most Pakistani valleys, from north to south. So the vegetation is completely different and much greener. Secondly these people are not Muslims and especially the women are dressed very colorful. The last and probably most important reason to me is that these valleys are not really easy accessible. This means steep and narrow unpaved roads, which I started to like more every day. The first valley was great. A long and winding narrow track and I parked the bike at the end of the valley and enjoyed the peaceful silence for a long time in the meanwhile watching women washing their cloths. The second valley (out of three) supposed to be the nicest one. It was also the most touristic one and therefor filled with hotels and shops for tourists. I didn't like it here at all and turned around.
The third valley was the smallest one but a nice one. I drove all the way into the valley and saw a hotel to spend the night. Officially the tourist season was already over and the hotel closed, but they hadn't removed everything yet and I could use a room but had to do my own cooking, which was no problem as I had everything with me. It was so peaceful here, children were playing cricket in the fields and even some adults joined them.
My next goal on the way back to Islamabad was the Swat valley. But first I had to cross the Lowarai pass. This was on the main road from Chitral and marked like that on the map. The pass itself was completely unpaved and was climbing steeply through hairpins. It was however not difficult to drive. On the top I stopped for a few cups of tea when 3 Germans, all on BMW-bikes, drove up from the opposite direction. They were on their way to Chitral but would go back the same road instead of driving on to Gilgit. They told me they would be in Goa (India) for Christmas so there was not too much time left in Pakistan for them anymore. It seemed that everybody I met was spending Christmas and New Year in Goa, so I was thinking about being there then as well and maybe meet some people again.
I was about to run out of fuel but at the petrol stations I stopped they only could offer me diesel. (This was also possible and much cheaper one guy said, but I refused his generous gesture). In Dir I was able to get petrol and they filled my tank up but spoiled quite some petrol. I was getting pissed so I paid him for one litre less, saying that he spoiled this litre and I was not going to pay for this. He got angry and I left quickly. But just before I had this argument, people told me I had a flat rear tire. I stopped at several tire repair shops but couldn't find one with the right equipment. But in Daroro I found a shop with the right equipment but they didn't want to repair my tire. Tubeless was no problem to them, but only for cars not for motorbikes. I told them there was no difference and convinced them to repair the tire. They were still not really convinced but as I had seen the procedure before I knew they did the job right. Of course there were a lot of people gathered around the shop by the time I put my tire back on the bike.
Because of the delay due to the puncture I wasn't able to reach Madyan in the Swat valley so I spend the night in a hotel along the road. The rooms were way to expensive Rs. 400, dropped down to Rs. 250 quickly, but this was still to high for me. When I kept on asking how much it was to pitch my tent in the garden the room rate dropped further to Rs. 100 (US$ 1.50) and I took the room. The next day it was a short trip to Madyan but finding the desired hotel was difficult. A Dutch couple I met in Esfahan (Iran) were very enthusiastic about a hotel because of its relaxed environment. When I asked around I found that this hotel was up the hill, only accessible by foot (steps). So I had to carry my luggage up and park the bike at a guarded parking. The hotel was relaxed indeed, very relaxed! My intentions were to write my English travel report but the first 2 days I only read magazines, even Dutch ones. They were old but I didn't care. They also had big shelves with books, which you could read. For days I only left the hotel for breakfast only and buying something for lunch on the way back up. Dinner was eaten in the hotel with all guests together and the wife of the hotels owner prepared the meal. After 2 unproductive days I had to force myself to write on the travel report for which I needed 2 more days. The 4th day I also made a small trip to Kalan further down into the valley. The road was bad but not worse than elsewhere in Pakistan. Following the valley with its stream was nice. In Kalan I returned quickly to be back in Madyan before dark.
On Monday 30 October 2000 I continued my trip for the ride back to Islamabad. I wanted to go to Besham over a mountain range but this road was much worse as expected. Theoretically it was paved but full with potholes and driving this part took me much more time as expected. Therefor I wasn't able to reach Islamabad in one day and had to spend the night in Abbottabad and stayed here in the same hotel as on the way up north. I knew they served no breakfast so I left early following the same road back to Murree. Now I could feel the difference in the weather, as it was very cold now so early in the morning. Even when the sun came out it didn't change much as I was driving into the shadow most of the time because of the surrounding mountains. In a small village I stopped for breakfast and a lot of tea to get warmed up again.
Between Murree and Islamabad I wanted to overtake a bus in a hairpin, saw I couldn't make it and hit the brakes. That was a wrong thing to do. Because this inside of the curve was covered with a lot of mud so I slipped away and scratched along a wall. No damage to the wall or myself, but the bike was damaged although still running well. After a brief check I decided to continue to the campground in Islamabad to see what the real damage was.
The campground was crowded with motorbikes: 6 German, 3 Danish and 1 Austrian bikes were already there. The Austrian bike belonged to Martin I already met in Gilgit but all the others were new to me.
Looking at the damage, I had a broken mirror and hand guard and several parts of my instrumentation panel were broken. Later Martin noticed me on the fact I had broken my rear frame, and this was really something serious. This was not caused by the accident but had been broken before because the crack was already rusted.
The next day I drove to the motor shop in Rawalpindi. They couldn't help me today. I had to come back tomorrow morning early.
The next morning they couldn't weld the frame while mounted because the plastic airbox was directly behind the crack and would certainly melt during welding. So they had to remove the whole rear frame which was a disaster to look at. Because everything is connected to the frame, everything had to be dismounted and I couldn't recognize my bike anymore: almost everything had been taken off. When they removed the frame some boy carried it to a local welder further down the street and they started to strip my bike even further as I also had a leaking seal on my front suspension. I couldn't really face this anymore. A big bowl with bolts, nuts etc. was standing under the bike and I really wondered how would they ever manage to put everything back together without one bolt left over. Remember that this shop had never stripped a BMW bike like this before! I was sure I had to take the bus back to the campground tonight. But when the repaired frame came back they started to mount the bike back together and slowly I started to recognize my bike back again. They also found an identical seal from a Honda bike so everything was put back together and when they were finished nothing was left in the bowl.
One problem remained. My rear frame was cracked on the right side, and when they removed the frame we discovered that on the left side all three bolts of the footrest were broken of from their fixing points in the gear box. This couldn't be welded because it was made of aluminum. There was only one place in town where they could weld this. When we got there I had to remove the tank (for explosion reasons) and they welded the parts back together. Although welding was not the right word, soldering was better because they used a fresh bar of aluminum to melt it on the parts. However you called it, the bottom-line was that everything was fixed again and the soldering could hardly be seen as the footrest was covering it.
At 7 pm. I was ready and went back to the campground... on my motorbike! It had cost me US$ 80 but I was really pleased everything worked out well.
Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM
October 15, 2000 GMT
Pakistan - 3
Tarashing (13-10-2000) till Gilgit (15-10-2000)
My plan was to go back to Astore when they told they wanted to go cross the Deosai plains. I told then this was going to get difficult so late in the season but they wanted to give it a try. In Skardu I decided not to cross the plains but when they offered me to go together I accepted. We would just see how far we were going to get and agreed to stay together.
We got up early the next morning and left Tarashing. When I drove away I noticed having a flat tyre again. I pumped it up and found out it was only loosing air slowly. Because we were driving off-road the tyre pressure wasn't really critical so pressurising it once a day would do fine and I could postpone the repair the tyre to Skardu again. Just before Astore was the exit to Chilam, the last village before the Deosai plains and we filled up our vehicles with fuel completely .
Fueled up by jerrycans in the Pakistani mountains
The track to Chilam wasn't difficult, basically the same as the track to Astore. Every 20 km I stopped and waited for the Danish 4WD before we continued. In Chilam we had to register and had a very simple lunch and tea at the local 'hotel' sitting outside in the sun. After the lunch we took the track onto the plains. From the village it went steep up. But driving up wasn't as difficult as it looked. Directly we were stopped by a roadblock. We were about to enter Deosai National Park and had to pay an entry-fee of Rp. 200 (USD 4) each but they had ran out of tickets and could only issue us a Rp. 20 receipt (entry-fee for locals) and wrote an extra 0 behind it. We didn't accept this (he could then put Rp. 180 in his own pocket) so it ended up that he gave me a little note we had to show at the entrance of the Park on the Skardu side (and probably pay there). The road wasn't really difficult to drive but the scenery was absolutely brilliant. So pure!!! We stopped quite often to take pictures or just to simply enjoy the scenery. Slowly we climbed towards the pass at 4260 metres. Below 3800 metres there were no problems but then it started to get rough. Real steep parts and a big loose stones made it difficult for my bike but I managed to get through it myself most of the times and if not, I just waited for the car and Poul helped me to push through. But it was hard working and at 4000 metres you run out of breath very quickly so I had to stop frequently to catch my breath back again.
Working the bike through the snow on the Deosai Plains in Pakistan. I guess we were too late in the season
After the stones (you kept thinking: after this difficult part it's getting easier) it was actually getting worse. Mud was my biggest enemy now. Were the steep parts or loose stones possible to cross when you handled the bike well, in the mud you're slipping and sliding away and there's nothing you can do about it. I had to keep the throttle open to avoid digging myself in and to climb towards the pass. Because of the mud I had to put my feet just above the ground ready to put them down to keep the balance when I slipped away. This is at 4000 metres very exhausting thing to do and I had to stop frequently. That my bike fell into the mud a couple of times didn't really help me to catch my breath but luckily I had some help from Poul. Mud was all over the bike (and over me as well), so this was a really difficult (and exhausting) trip.
However I didn't want to turn around as we would never reach Chilam before dark and behind us it started snowing. Also it was only another couple hundreds metres to the pass. Maybe it was getting better after the pass but more important: just after the pass there was a lake were we could camp and spend the night.
After having a good sleep we would decide what to do tomorrow. When we reached the lake we weren't alone up there. A Japanese had put up his camp there as well and invited up for some tea. After the tea we put up our tents before it was getting dark and we also had to hurry because it started to snow here as well. I dressed myself warmly and when we asked if we could use his big tent to prepare our meal (protected against the snow and icy wind) he insisted to have diner with him as his cooks were already cooking for us as well.
When we had dinner suddenly a telephone started ringing. It appeared to be a satellite telephone. He was part of a Japanese expedition. Tomorrow two Japanese wanted to fly over Mt. Nanga Prabat (8125m) in a hot air balloon. He stayed on the pass to follow their track and pick them up when they landed somewhere on the plains. So with the telephone they stayed in touch with each other.
Japanese expedition guy on the satellite phone on the Deosai plains
Their original plan to fly over K2 Mountain but the Chinese authorities refused to give them permission to enter Chinese airspace. After diner and a couple of teas we went to bed as it was getting very cold. My tent was already snowed in partly and I closed all the zips I could find. Dressed in thermals and with 2 pair of socks I went inside my sleeping bag and tied it up completely.
I wasn't cold that night when temperatures dropped below -15á“. The next morning I woke up early and found it difficult to get out of my warm sleeping bag. The Japanese guy was already up and had had contact with his friends. They were definitely departing this morning.
Our camp in the early morning at the Deosai plaains at 4200 meter (altitude)
We had breakfast with the Japanese as well and we decided to turn back to Chilam. The Japanese came from Skardu yesterday and said we had to drive through the mud for another 4 hours. Also we had to cross two rivers. No problem except that they removed both bridges a couple of days ago to protect them against the winter. We could cross through the river but the locals said that the ground clearance of the Danish 4WD was not enough to get through. We decided to wait for the balloon to pass but left when we heard that the balloon was drifting south instead of east so we would never see it. The Japanese quickly packed his stuff and departed trying to catch up with the balloon. There were no roads or jeep tracks to the south so this was getting difficult. Also the balloon had to make a forced landing before entering Indian airspace as the Indian-Pakistani border here is extremely sensitive. We didn't know how this all ended but in the worse case the balloon had to be picked up by Pakistani army helicopter. In the meantime we had problems as well, especially me. The sun made the snow melt which increased the amount of mud. I stored all my luggage in the car so it was easier for me to get through. Nevertheless I fell several times and had to rest every 200 or 300 metres. After 2 hours we got a long rest and managed to have covered only 6 kms.. My rests gave the Danish plenty of time to take pictures and video's (from me as well). With their digital camera they also shot pictures so I was able to send these pictures around attached on an email later back in Gilgit.
Trying to get out of the plains working my way through the snow (all the lugguage is is in the Mithsubishi!)
After our rest it was getting easier fast as we got below 3800 metres where it didn't snow that much and the sun already dried up the mud. So Chilam was reached without further problems. Yeh, one problem left when we passed the roadblock to the National park again. But because he still hadn't any tickets we got through without paying anything.
We had some tea at the same hotel and drove back to Astore without any further problems. The next day we drove all the way back to Gilgit to spend there a couple of days to relax after the exhausting trip and to see the pictures taken.
Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM
October 12, 2000 GMT
Pakistan - 2
Islamabad (18-09-2000) till Tarashing (12-10-2000)
On Monday 18 September I left Islamabad to go up north to the Chinese border following the Karakoram Highway (KKH). First I went to Murree on a busy road but it got very quiet after I passed Murree. Not so surprisingly after I missed a turn and was heading to Kashmir (the disputed area between Pakistan and India).
At a roadblock I had to turn around and took the road towards Abbottabad, which was a lot of off road as they were 'working' on the road everywhere. From Abbottabad I entered the Kaghan valley trying to cross the Babusar pass (4601m). Gion had crossed it but told me it was a difficult pass to cross. I was alone but gave it a go. But when it started to rain around noon when I was still in the valley and I started to slide away I turned around and drove back to the KKH following it up north.
I planned to stay in Thakot but there were no hotels and all the truck stops refused me to spend the night with them so I had no option than to drive to Besham through the dark along the Indus River. Using my high beam (as everyone does) I arrived in Besham without any problems and found a cheap hotel. That night it rained heavily so I made the right decision not to cross the Babusar pass.
The next morning the weather wasn't good at all. It wasn't raining but it was heavily clouded. I drove along the KKH up north but all the high mountain peaks were covered in clouds. The road itself was absolutely great as the roads winded along the river with the steep mountains around. My plan was to go to Tato to see the sheer north side of the Nanga Prabat (8125m) but it was too clouded to see anything so I decided to continue to Gilgit. 40 kms. before Gilgit it started to rain and it didn't stop until after I reached Gilgit.
Despite the weather the last couple of days I had my rain jacket in the bottom of my luggage roll and decided to continue driving and got soaking wet. If I stopped to get my jacket I would be wet anyhow and my stuff would probably be wet then as well. Just take a hot shower in Gilgit. Unfortunately the hotel only had hot water between 6 and 9 am and pm but a couple of hot teas and dry clothes worked fine as well.
The next couple of days the weather didn't got any better, still heavily clouded and an occasional shower. I didn't really mind as it gave me time to read about what there was to do in the north and read a good paperback. But after 2 days the weather didn't improve and because there was nothing to do in Gilgit I decided to leave on the third day anyhow.
I was unlucky because they told me it has been a perfect weather for the last couple of weeks, but I had to take it as it came so I left. Actually the weather wasn't too bad, fairly cold (but you could dress for that), hardly any rain but clouded so you couldn't see the mountain peaks.
After an hour drive I met the two Austrians in their Landcruiser. We stopped and had a chat. They went to the Khunjarab pass (4730m) on the Chinese border (the end of the KKH) and had perfect weather. They were heading back to Gilgit now. I drove on and had lunch in a small restaurant near Karimabad. When I got on the bike again I met the Austrian couple on the bike almost immediately. They went to Sost but were stopped there because of a landslide. They waited for a day but still couldn't pass. Because the weather was getting worse as well they decided to turn around. As we were talking the clouds started to open up and we could see some blue sky. Later on the sun came out and we could see some snow-covered peaks and took some photos. Also they said there was no petrol in Sost anymore so I filled up my tank in Allayabad once more.
My plan to go to Sost was useless now, so I decided to go to Passu. Around this very small village along the KKH there were some nice dayhikes recommended to me by a Dutch couple I met in Gilgit. They came all the way from Kashgar (in China) on bicycles and started their trip in a former Russian republic. During these two dayhikes the Pakistani should have enough time to clear the landslide.
The next morning the weather was great and I went out for a walk across the Hunza River. The track wasn't really something special but the scenery was. Steep high mountains all around you made you feel very small. But absolutely the best part of the trip was the bridge to cross the wide Hunza River. 7 steel cables were spanned across the river. 5 of them for the floor with wooden sticks woven through them about every 80 cm.. The other 2 cables were used to hold on to and these were connected to the bottom cables by steel wires. Crossing the bridge was a challenge but not very difficult. It was just a matter of staying concentrated on where you put down your feet.
Fortunately there wasn't any wind so the bridge didn't start swinging. After passing some little villages I had to take a same type of bridge back over the river. This one was more scary than the first one as the wooden sticks were thinner and partly broken. Also there was another swinging bridge build right next to it but this one was completely fallen apart only holding some bit on its remaining steel cables. Seeing this bridge doesn't give you a lot of confidence in the bridge you had to take. But I made it back to other side of the river. Later I found out that the second bridge I crossed was already 45 years old as the totally broken bridge next to it was only build 2 years ago in a failing attempt to make a bridge big enough to get cars over the river. Now they (still) had to carry everything on their back over the river.
According to the guidebook I had to walk back to Passu along the KKH, but I decided to walk to the nearby Borit Lake. Here there was a little hotel with a restaurant where I had some cups of tea. The lake was beautiful set between the mountains and its reflections were great. I met 2 Japanese and together we walked along the Passu glacier back to Passu.
Somewhere we must have lost the right track as we had a very steep descent down to Passu and we ended up in someone's garden, which we had to go through. They we doing their laundry in a stream but weren't very surprised to see us.
Back in my hotel they told me that the landslide was cleared already as this afternoon a convoy of Chinese trucks passed by. So I decided to go to the pass tomorrow immediately. The weather was great the next morning: no clouds and a lot of sun. Nevertheless I put on my fleece jacket and dressed warmly for the pass and left Passu.
10 km after Sost I had to wait for the landslide as they were clearing it. This appeared the most notorious part of the KKH and rocks were rolling down continuously. What they were clearing now had rolled down last night. I had to wait for about half an hour only as an officer sometimes blew a whistle and the bulldozer had to pull back because too many rocks came down.
Before I passed the landslide I looked up and when no rocks came rolling down I passed the area quickly. The rest of the trip to the pass was easy but it got cold above the 4000 m.. I met a lot of cyclists along the road struggling to get up. The scenery got better after every corner and I enjoyed the clear weather as I was able to see all the surrounding peaks clearly.
My road ended at a roadblock about 300m before the border stone, as I couldn't go into China. I could walk to the stone if I wanted but at 4730m even 300m is not an easy walk. The Chinese border checkpoint was another 500m ahead so the border stone was actually in a kind of no-ones land. Just after I arrived a German guy showed up and a Pakistan border official arrived on his little moped and offered to bring the German guy to the actual border stone but he couldn't get his bike started again. I offered him a tow but that wasn't necessary. I could drive the last part as well if I took the German guy on the bike as well. And so I went with my bike into China although not for a long time.
After making some pictures we returned to the roadblock and most people left (because of the waiting at the landslide we were all arriving at the pass around the same time) as it was too cold. I was dressed well against the cold and decided to use my lunch there. It was great to sit there in the silence and enjoying the spectacular scenery. On my way back to Passu I passed the landslide area again and stopped to eat an apple. While I was talking to the workers suddenly a lot of stones rolled down and it was clear to me that this was a dangerous area. I returned to Passu just before dark. It was long day but a really beautiful one.
The next day I realised how lucky I was as the weather had changed completely: it was clouded and drizzling occasionally. The mountains on the other side of the Hunza River were completely invisible. There wasn't any use to go out for a day hike as there was hardly anything to see so I decided to take the bike and drive down to Karimabad. But first I drove up to Borit Lake, had some teas and enjoyed the views when updating my diary.
On my way to Karimabad I had some rain. In Karimabad I tried to find a hotel with a parking place for my bike but this was impossible as the town is build on a ridge and all hotels and/or gardens were only accessible through stairs. So I ended up parking my bike opposite my hotel. The afternoon I spend together with a Dutch and a German guy sightseeing the town and had some diner in a local restaurant. Just before we left the 2 Czech bikers entered the restaurant. They went up to the pass today and had a terrible weather. They managed to reach the pass but had some snow and the road was quite slippery because of ice. Furthermore they didn't see much from the surrounding peaks as they were all covered in clouds.
The next day I spend walking in and around Karimabad. First I went to Altit, a small village close to Karimabad, to enjoy the location of the fort and all the local people who were on their land harvesting. An old man was picking apples and asked me if I wanted one. I ended up with 8 apples in my daypack. Next I went to the fort itself. The fort itself was not spectacular but there was nobody around and I had the whole place for myself. Sitting on the roof I enjoyed the river deep down and the small village on the other side. Lots of fruit was spread out on the roofs to dry. Also I saw women around, something you don't see on the streets here in Pakistan.
Back in Altit I met the 2 Czechs again. They just returned from Eagles nest and were about to pack their bikes and leave to Skardu. Eagles nest was a hotel at a 1.5 hour climb from Altit where I went as well. The weather was absolutely great almost unclouded and so lots of sun. Therefor the scenery from above was great. You could see Karimabad, Altit, the Hunza River and all the huge mountains on the other side of the river. After an hour enjoying up there I had to turn back as it was getting dark within a couple of hours and because I didn't want to walk the same way back I asked if there was a track directly to Karimabad. There was one and after received the necessary directions I started to head back. Soon there wasn't a track to find anymore so I climbed over the rocks when I met an old man carrying a bundle of hay on its back who pointed me out I was following the wrong track. I wasn't following any track at all but neither seems he. So I simply followed him hopping over stones and irrigation channels slowly getting down. There was no way I would have found this way on my own and was really thankful to my 'guide' to return to Karimabad before it was getting dark.
Wolfgang (the German) and I had decided to do a day hike up to the Ultar glacier the next day and when we woke up the sky was unclouded and sunny already. So after a brief breakfast we were heading off. The climb along the river was steep and most of the time there was no track at all and we had to simply climb over the rocks. While the valley was very narrow we couldn't get lost so after a break on a meadow about half way we reached Ultar meadow close to the end of the glacier. After a long rest and lunch we walked up to the glacier before returning back down. When we about half way down we heard a big rumbling noise around the corner (coming from above) and suddenly we saw a big cloud coming around the corner. It got bigger and bigger and was coming towards us. So we took shelter behind a big stone and I tried to put on my rain jacket but managed only to wrap it around me before the cloud reached us.
On the glacier there had been an avalanche and although the avalanche itself didn't hit us its clouds full of snow and ice did. It fell like it was hailing heavily but it lasted only for 10 minutes, and when we came out of our shelter the sun was shining like nothing had happened. There was ice everywhere but it melted away quickly. We got out of it unharmed, just a little bit wet. We took a cup of tea on the meadow halfway and the guy there told us this was quite normal here. Normally it happened when the sun was warming up some fresh snow, just like it did now. This wasn't a big one. But it was big enough for us especially because we initially had no idea of what was going on. When we returned in Karimabad they hadn't even noticed the avalanche.
The next day I took it easy and left Karimabad early in the afternoon heading for Minapin. Because I had plenty of time I went into Nagar valley first which wasn't something special but it was a perfect piece of off-road driving. In Ayallabad I wanted to get petrol but it was finished. So I reached Minapin with almost an empty tank.
In Minapin I wanted to make a day hike to Rakaposhi base camp. So I left the next morning at 6.30 am.. It started with a steep climb for about an hour and after 3 hours climbing I reached Hapakun, a meadow where I could get something to drink. There I met a Swedish guy who came down after spending the night at the base camp. He told me that the steepest part was still to come, which I hardly could believe. Unfortunately he appeared to be right as the valley was ending with a steep ridge of moraine I had to climb up. This was hard because it got steeper the closer I reached the top and I had to climb up over loose stones. But the scenery when I reached the ridge was great as I had a beautiful view over the glacier, which was a real big one. Walking along the steep ridge wasn't easy but I managed and found back the track. Looking back it appeared there was a track but guy at Hapakun had directed me in the wrong way. Later on he would say that there were 2 ways, an easy and a hard way but he didn't tell me about this in advance!
Reaching Rakaposhi base camp was now a piece of cake. Except for the local owner of the restaurant there was nobody around. I climbed up on the moraine ridge and enjoyed the stunning view. A glacier came down from Rakaposhi (7788m), and another came down from Diran (7257m). They came together in a big valley (where the base camp was as well) and then continued down together. I had my lunch on that ridge enjoying the overwhelming scenery and stayed there for about 2 hours. I could stay there much longer but I had to return to Minapin. This time I followed the track down which was much easier and I arrived back in Hapakun.
The steep descend down to Minapin wasn't too bad either so I arrived in the hotel way before darkness set in and was tired, but half as tired as a thought I should be considering the whole trip. This was definitely the best day hike I made here in North Pakistan but also the most strenuous one.
It was time to drive back to Gilgit and I finally found a petrol station with petrol after 470 km.. I never thought my bike a such a big range. My plan was to go to Skardu the next day, so I left Gilgit early. But when I left the KKH the police stopped me telling me that the road to Skardu was blocked but it took only 3 more hours to clear the landslide. I continued driving to the landslide and had a great time there together with a lot of the locals just looking how they were clearing the landslide with a big Caterpillar. In the meantime I had my lunch and after 3.5 hours I was able to get over the remains of the landslide with my bike. So finally I could continue my trip. But it lasted only for 5 km before I was facing another landslide, a much bigger one. So I turned around back to the first landslide and arrived there just when the first cars were passing it. I told them about the next landslide but didn't believe me. I passed the first landslide again and returned to Gilgit revising my travel-plan as it would take them probably about 2 days to clear the second landslide as well.
My plans were to go to Skardu and then continue to Astore over the Deosai plains, a big flat area at an altitude over 4000 metres. Officially the jeeptrack was open till late September, early October. So if I was lucky I still could make it. On the campground in Islamabad I had met an Australian couple on a motorbike who took this route. They said it wasn't too difficult except for two river crossings. Because the are no bridges you have to go through the water. How high the water will get depends on the amount of rain that had fallen. It would be difficult to do this track on my own but at least I could give it a try and see how far I could get.
But now I couldn't get to Skardu I planned to drive to Astore and up to Skardu over the Deosai plains. But when I passed the Skardu exit the next morning I saw a long line of trucks waiting before the bridge. They couldn't all have turned around so I asked the police officers if the road to Skardu was open and... it was.
So no Astore today but Skardu. The road was great. Very very winding, going up and down, quite narrow and squeezed between the river and the steep rocks. Regularly the rocks where hanging over the road. So the 170-km road to Skardu wasn't a boring road to drive. 30 kms. before Skardu the valley opened up and the river got wider. Together there appeared a lot of soft sand so it looked that Skardu was in the middle of a desert (but with plenty of water). I checked into a hotel where I was the only guest. It shows that the tourist season was over (ends in October), which didn't mind at all.
After a good night of sleep and a great hot shower I wanted to go to Hushe valley, east of Skardu but this plan was bombed instantly when I went to my bike a saw the flat rear tyre. Two big nails worked their way through the tyre. No problem as I'd got plugs to repair the punctures. So I started to repair them, but at the most essential moment: pulling the plug into the tyre it all went wrong. Instead of pulling the plug into the tyre, the plug broke. I tried 4 different plugs but they all broke. Later I found out I had cheap plugs which breaks very easily, I needed the stronger ones. So I took the tyre to a local repair shop where they repaired both holes within 30 minutes (as I was working on this for 2.5 hours without getting anywhere) and it cost me only Rp. 50 (less than USD 1!).
I decided to have a look around town but there was not much to see. The mosque was not so nice but very colourful especially against the pale hill behind it. Also there was a fort on this hill. The fort itself wasn't really special and half of it was off limits anyhow as it was used by the Pakistani army. But the views from it were great.
In the afternoon I decided to go to Shigar for no particular reason than to check my rear tyre. The road to Shigar was great. It started when I crossed the bridge over the Indus River. I had to climb up the riverbank through soft sand including a hairpin. Then about 1,5 km straight through soft sand so I could use my skills learned in the Jordan desert. The last 15 km was over narrow jeep tracks through the mountains scattered with stones. Very bumpy but a lot of fun. In Shigar I simply turned around and drove the same way back to Skardu. My rear tyre had stood this test perfectly so I was ready to continue to the next stage tomorrow. Filling up my tank with petrol was a big problem as only the 4th petrol station had petrol for my bike.
It was clouded the next morning but I decided to drive to Khapulu and there cross the Shyok River into the Hushe valley. Here also the fun started after crossing the bridge. This time there were big stones in the riverbed I had to drive over. These big stones caused a big shake up of the bike but I got through it without any problems. Then over a narrow jeep track up north through soft sand, muddy water and climbing up steep hills, it was all on this track. I passed Machulu village but before Kunde my rear wheel slipped away for an unclear reason so I fell and had some damage on the bike. My tank bag had fallen off the bike (broken zip), my left cylinder protection bar was bent and a broken plastic protector of the same cylinder.
So enough damage to turn around and have it repaired first. When I drove away my left alu-pannier fell from the bike as well (a broken plastic hook). I was lucky I had some straps with me to tie it all back on the bike and drove back to Skardu.
The weather was very bad the next day, I felt bad also as finally had got diarrhoea). A lot of rain and heavily clouded. I could forget my trip over the (high) Deosai plains as it was certainly snowing there by now. Repairing the damage from yesterday in Skardu was a big problem as today it was Friday (05-10) so most shops were closed in this Muslim country. This all made me decide to drive back to Gilgit today and have things repaired there tomorrow.
Driving out of Skardu I hit a cow! I managed to stay upright which the cow didn't manage. It fell but got up and ran into the bushes. The local people, who saw it all happening, just waved at me as I passed as if this was a normal thing to do here. I had some rain on the way back to Gilgit but mainly enjoyed the road. It wasn't boring at all driving it for the second time.
Close to the bridge before reaching the KKH I passed the 50,000 km on my bike. This meant I had already driven over 30,000 km since I left home less than 5 months ago.
The next day I had to repair the damage on the bike. At the hotel they advised me to go to Iran Autos. The protection bar was fixed again properly although it was necessary I stayed close, watching what they were doing because sometimes they had strange ideas. Eg. they wanted to cut the protection bar with a plasma burner and weld it back together. When I suggested they hammer the bent plates straight they responded with: "That's also a possibility". The fixing of the panniers was the least difficult problem. They couldn't repair the broken zip of my tank bag so I had to sit on the back of their moped and they drove me to a tailor. First he refused to repair it saying it was not possible but finally he agreed to replace the zip. I could pick it up after two hours. I killed the time looking at a local polo practise game which reminded me at a little children soccer game: Everyone is where the ball is and no tactical concept is used at all.
When I picked up my tank bag I found out that they put the zip on the wrong side and sewed the bottom of tank bag back in upside down. But hey, what can you say for Rp. 120 (USD 2). The rest of the day I spend repacking my alu-pannier.
After packing all my stuff on the bike I left Gilgit to see a Buddha just outside town carved in the rocks. It appeared to be something disappointing to see so I turned around and left for Astore. As it was too late in the season to reach Astore over the Deosai plains I (had to) choose for the easy way: along the KKH and via Jaglot. Although it wasn't easy at all. The KKH was easy but after crossing the bridge over the Hunze River at Jaglot the asphalt ended and the road continued as off-road. Winding through a small village following a narrow road wasn't easy and once I passed the village it didn't got better as the road was very bumpy because of all the stones. Also I occasionally had to stop to let oncoming vehicles pass. The road wasn't actually too difficult when you slowed down and stayed concentrated. Therefor I needed much more time than I expected. My goal for today wasn't Astore but Tarashing on the south side of Nanga Prabat, the starting point of some good hikes. But when I reached Astore at 4 pm I decided to stay when they said that Tarashing was another 2 hours and the road was getting worse there. So I took a basic hotel in Astore only to be reached after a steep climb with the bike.
Because it was only another 2 hour drive to Tarashing I decided to make a short hike to Rama lake the next day before I went on to Tarashing. So I walked up the hill passing local villages. The weather wasn't good and it started to hail a bit. I kept on going enjoying this weather as I was sure I wouldn't see anyone around. But when I reached the lake, 1000 metres above Astore, there were two tents and a 4WD. Another Dutch guy put up his camp there yesterday late. He was born in Pakistan but living in Holland for over 20 years now. He had his own businesses here and had just a brief holiday. They (he was together with a local guide and a driver) were just preparing some soup against the cold. Their offer to have some real Dutch soup I couldn't refuse. So we had a nice conversation in Dutch inside his tent. This was suddenly interrupted when he wanted to change a gas cartridge of his cooker and the remaining gas caught fire (there was another cooker on). We left the tent immediately and then tried to extinguish the flames which was easy. There were some holes in his tent and sleeping bag, I had some burned hairs but nothing serious. The taste of the soup was even better afterwards.
I spent much longer up here then expected so I had to return down to Astore, when he offered me a ride in their 4WD. They had to go down to Astore to repair a puncture anyhow so I had a free ride down. Back at the hotel I met the Danish couple I met before in Esfahan so my plan to leave changed again and I stayed for another night here. Their plan was to go to Tarashing as well so we decided to go together. When I drove towards Tarashing I met Javed, the Dutch Pakistani, again and he told me they had big problems to leave the lake as they were almost snowed in. I didn't drive together with the Danish as I drove faster on my bike than they did. But around noon we both had arrived in Tarashing. The hotel rooms were way too expensive so I put up my tent in the garden. The rest of the day we didn't do anything but relaxing and preparing for tomorrow's day hike.
Our goal was Herligkoffer base camp, and I met several people who told me it was possible as a day trip. First we had to cross a glacier which was easy as there was no snow or ice at all, only stones. The path was marked so we got through without any problems. The small local village we crossed next was great to see. People were looking at us and the other way around.
Further up in the valley all the huts were abandoned as they were used during the summer season only. After crossing a ridge we arrived in a small valley with a small stream and a lake. This was a lovely place: lots of trees full with yellow and brown leafs were together with the snow-covered mountain peaks reflecting in the lake. And there was silence; absolute silence.
The base camp was another km. ahead and reached after a brief climb. The camp was abandoned so we climbed up the moraine ridge and enjoyed the scenery over the glacier, had a rest and some lunch. The scenery wasn't as great as in Minapin. clouds were partly covering the peaks. Pity, because the main attraction here was the sheer mountain walls. We did see however an avalanche coming down one of the peaks which was a great thing to see as long it was happening on the other side of the glacier.
We followed the same track back to Tarashing, at least we tried to. In the valley between the two villages we lost the track and ended up in a big field of loose stones. Climbing over these stones we tried to find our way back to the village and so to the track. The base camp was further than expected and also the Danish couple was getting tired as this was their first hike in Pakistan. They also carried a lot of equipment with them. We had to keep on walking to be back before it was getting dark but when they suggested to wait till the full moon came out before crossing the glacier I offered to carry their backpack which they gladly accepted and so we managed to get back before it was getting dark. We all were very tired so we just prepared some instant noodles and coffee and went to bed. The next day we started very easy staying long in our sleeping bags.
Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM
September 17, 2000 GMT
Pakistan - 1
Taftan (05-09-2000) till Islamabad (17-09-2000)
Crossing the border was so easy and relaxed. I was offered a chair when they were doing the paperwork of my Carnet (bike papers) and had tea as well. After finishing everything I spend the night in a hotel in Taftan the border town on the Pakistan side.
The next day I had a long trip ahead, from Taftan to the first mayor city in Pakistan, Quetta, was about 650 km.. But the road conditions were different (=worse) than in Iran. But as I was warned for this it didn't came to me as a surprise. The first 200 km. was actually a perfect new wide asphalt road. The next 450 km. was a narrow road full with potholes. Every time a truck came ahead I had to slow down and pass it carefully. With cars or pickups this problem didn't appear in theory as we could pass each other easily.
But that was the theory which should work well when they were going to their side of the road as well. But some of them simply stayed on the middle of the road so I had to dive into the shoulder with about 80 km/h, which wasn't a fun at all. So even when a pickup approached I had to slow down and be prepared to go into the shoulder. Also I was warned for the speed bumps, which were very hard to see, but I only remembered this warning when I was hitting one before a railroad crossing at full speed. I managed to stay on the bike and then suddenly realised that there was another speed bumps at the other side of the railroad crossing, hit the brakes and made it safe over the next one.
Because of the extremely cheap fuel in Iran there weren't any petrol stations along the road here. Everywhere however there were barrels standing with illegally imported Iranian fuel. Of course they weren't sold against Iranian prices but against half the official Pakistan fuel price. They were using old cooking oil cans of 5 litre and poured it in the tanks using a hose and a funnel. This guaranteed leaking petrol everywhere but with my help we tried to reduce the spilling as much as possible.
Around 5 pm I arrived in Quetta and found a hotel where I could cheaply camp in the garden. Pitching up a tent cost only Rp. 80 (USD 1.50) but parking my motorbike cost another Rp. 150, then a 10% tax was added so I left and took a hotel room (elsewhere) for Rp. 250 and free parking.
Quetta I liked immediately. Of course it was a dirty city like everywhere but people were actually doing something. Most of the time it wasn't all efficiency but at least there was activity going on. Something I had missed in previous counties. I took a day rest here before I headed of for the next trip to Islamabad.
When I was ready to leave, the next morning I noticed the Toyota Landcruiser of the 2 Austrians I met in Esfahan, they must have arrived yesterday late as they were still asleep when I softly knocked on their room door and got no answer.
The road from Taftan to Quetta was perfectly marked compared to the roads elsewhere in Pakistan I found out know. There are a lot of markers along the road saying how many km's it is to the next towns but the city names are in Urdu only. But this was just a matter of getting used to and wasn't a real problem. I also had the advantage that I could use my GPS for additional navigation. The fact that you're using main road doesn't give any guarantees about the quality of the road. A perfect smooth road can get full with potholes around the next corner so you have to drive careful and defensive all the time. Sometimes the asphalt ends completely and you have to drive off road for a couple of km's. I even had to cross a riverbed as they were repairing the bridge (although I didn't see anyone at that time). This all makes it impossible to plan ahead where you want to spend the next night. Simply just drive and see how far you can get.
After Lorelai the clouds got darker and just before Kocheri it started to rain so I took shelter at a small restaurant (a kind of truck stop) along the road and had some tea. When the rain ends it was about 5 pm already and the owner of the place asked me if I spend the night here. There were rope beds standing outside everywhere. Mainly used for people to sit on when they had some food but also to lay down and have a little rest when you're tired. He was very glad with my decision to stay here and so I was able to eat some real local food as he had just three big pots on the fire and there wasn't anything else to eat. But this wasn't any problem as the food tasted good. At night they carried out one of the rope beds and put it next to my bike and I slept on it inside my sleeping bag.
Truckers stopped the whole night to have some food or to repair the punctures in their tyres so it was quite noisy but I slept well. At 6.15 am they woke me up with the message that my breakfast was ready. This breakfast wasn't something special as they had only tea, tomatoes and crackers.
The trucks however were something special to see. The are very nice and colourful painted and they all take out the doors of their cabin and make some new ones of wood which are much smaller but are integrated with the design of the rest of the truck. Furthermore they are richly decorated with all different colours of small lights and with pieces of metal hanging on metal chains so they swing to each other every time the truck hits a bump which makes a lot of noise.
I went into the Punjab where the army had a shooting practise at the shooting range. It's not a restricted area, so all local people are gathered around the range to see how well their army was shooting. The shooting session has to be stopped temporally when a cow tried to cross the shooting range. After someone chased it away they continued shooting.
I crossed the broad Indus River and followed it up north. The Indus valley is very green but this is only because they irrigate the area. As soon as they don't irrigate a place there's nothing else but plain desert. My maps weren't the best ones as the Tourist office in Taftan had only maps in Urdu but had translated the major cities. I took a wrong road and got on a small local road which wasn't bad at all because there's much more things to see compared to the main roads, but the road went worse every kilometre so I turned back to the main road and spend another night at a local truck stop. This truck stop was better than the previous one as there were much less trucks stopping by and they were able to serve a decent breakfast in the morning. From here it was easy to reach Islamabad in a day but I had to make a little detour as motorcycles were not allowed on the highway. There's only one highway in Pakistan and this is between Lahore and Islamabad.
The campground in Islamabad was situated on the south side of the city in a nice area full with trees and, most important, the campground was restricted for local people. So here it was possible to really relax without locals were gathering around you. The campground was totally deserted when I arrived, but not for long. Before I was able to put up my tent two bikers arrived, a Swiss and an Austrian guy. Later an Australian biker arrived as well on a KTM so it was a nice meeting.
The Australian got his bike for free as he asked the KTM factory in Austria if they had a bike for him as he was planned to do a 50,000 km trip through Europe and Asia and finally they gave him the new 2001 model to test it out. The only 'restriction' he had was that he had to return after his trip to the factory so they were able to take the whole bike apart for inspection.
The campground in Islamabad was a relaxing place to be. And the problem with most relaxing places is that you're staying there much longer than expected. I spend a week there doing all minor things, but basically doing nothing. I went on the Internet a couple of times, bought some decent maps of Pakistan, India and Nepal.
The Austrian had bought an Enfield in India and planned to drive it back home. But two days after he left he returned as he heard a funny sound in his engine. in Rawalpindi (close to Islamabad) they took apart the whole engine and found a piece of metal in it. Where it came from, nobody knew but after a couple days delay he was able to continue his trip back home and I haven't seen him back since. Paying some extra attention to my bike I saw that there was a crack in one of my alu-pannier. I went back to the same motor shop as where Hartmund (the Austrian) had 'repaired' his bike. They couldn't weld aluminium but they put an extra steel plate behind it for additional strength and did the same for the pannier on the other side. This repair took about 4 hours and cost me only USD 6 including the steel plates. The next day the steel plates already started to get rusted but who cares about this. It will hold for at least a couple of months.
The Australian on the KTM left for India but in return an Austrian couple arrived on a bike from Iran as well the two Austrians in the Landcruiser I saw in Quetta. They heard me knocking on the door but didn't respond on it.
Gion, the Swiss guy, waited for spare parts send from home and together we decided to make a tour through Islamabad as we hadn't seen anything of it yet. There's not much to see in Islamabad as it's a new city (less than 40 years old) and well planned. I thought it was similar to Brasilia, which was a lot of concrete boxes to me. But Islamabad was different. It was spacious as well and also a lot of concrete was used but probably because people were actually living there it was not bad at all although it hadn't the charm and chaos of an ordinary Pakistani city. First we went to the huge Faisal mosque (financed by Saudi Arabia) where about 70,000 people could follow the service. Not all of them inside but also on the big squares around the mosque. The next stop was a viewpoint north of the city, which showed clearly how much green there was in Islamabad. Finally we went to a lake close to the campground to have a drink because the temperatures were still high (around 30á“).
The day before I left Islamabad an Encounter Overland truck turned up on the campground. The same organisation I used over 2 years ago for my round-trip through South America. It was nice to see that hardly anything had changed since and so it brought back a lot of memories. But when I turned around to see my tent and motorbike and I was glad I had them now and wouldn't be on that truck anymore. The amount of freedom I have now with the bike is so important for me now that I wouldn't miss it. But I never had regrets making that trip with them and I'm sure I wouldn't have made this trip if I hadn't made that organised trip.
Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM