This is part of the second section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from India
14/4/97 Pakistan was a different scam. Not the official but his assistant requested me to change $US at a reduced rate for helping me through Customs quickly. I politely pointed out that this was illegal by Pakistan law and perhaps I should talk with his boss, whereupon my documentation was returned. Paying any form of bribe or inducement in these situations only encourages these people to make travel more difficult so that they can get more money.
15/4/97 First impact of Pakistan after India, more happy and helpful people, not that the Indians weren't. To get into the city of Lahore, three people, two on motorcycles and one on a bicycle, led us and we followed. We were escorted to a restaurant not by a tout but by a friendly person going out of his way to help. The chip on the shoulder of “we are as good as you” in India has been replaced by pride and genuine friendliness. A day of enjoying and absorbing the life in a new country around Lahore.
16/4/97 Lahore to Islamabad and good road, divided highway half the time although full of brightly painted trucks and fish eye buses to overtake. The pride of the people to dress up their vehicles, not for tourists, but for everyday use is great. The buses, trucks and three wheelers all painted, even more than in Bangladesh. Being on a plateau, albeit low, made the air cold and we got caught in a couple of thunderstorms which dampened the trip a bit.
17/4/97 Well, Islamabad, like any planned city, is a bit soulless and without character or history. The new Faisal Mosque, capable of seating 100,000 is impressive in sheer magnitude. The three hour trip to Peshawar, again good roads, was marred by two factors, the idiot minibus drivers and a near miss accident. The mini buses replace the larger buses for quick service between centres and rely on high speed transfers. They overtake without regard to oncoming traffic and force almost everything off the road. A man with two small children on his motorcycle did a U turn in front of me without looking then stopped right in my path. With heavy braking we stopped just touching his front wheel. I had previously learnt in these encounters that a warning yell, a real scream, has more effect than the horn (people here are horn deaf due to its constant abuse), and it also releases personal anxiety. On hearing the yell they will usually freeze or move backwards allowing you to swerve around.
18/4/97 Today is Eid, the Islam holiday where stock are slaughtered and eaten in celebration. Hundreds of animals are killed in the streets of Peshawar with the blood draining onto the ground. These animals have been lining the roadsides since we entered Pakistan, their owners parading them in the hope of a sale. Dressed up with colourful ribbons and paint, they have been fed high quality food to ensure tenderness and plumpness. In the afternoon, thousands of animal hides were brought to the old city from surrounding areas for sale or donation to charity. Also part of the meat is given to the poor or less fortunate and the rest eaten as part of the celebrations.
19/4/97 Moving again, Peshawar to Mingora. Road and traffic good by local standards. Stopped at a view point for ten minutes when a man with good English invited us to his house for lunch. A tasty spread of local bread, mutton with salad and sauces. Prepared by his wife (whom we never saw) the spices were mild and tasty. The women in Pakistan seem invisible, less than 1% of people sighted while travelling are women and then they are covered from head to foot. For a westerner used to appreciating the beauty of women around, this can be quite depressing. Another meat meal in the evening. We selected our cut hanging in the street. Again a tasty dish. Meat is much more readily available here than in India and the flavourings mild suiting my tastes after the hot Indian foods.
20/4/97 Mingora to Chilas up into the Swat valley and across the Shangla Pass. The whole of northern Pakistan seems to be in the throes of spring with bright green fruit trees and lush grass everywhere. Once we hit the Karakoram highway things change to mountain desert. The people here, tall with Afghan features and serious expressions even in the young boys, seem less friendly although accepting our presence. At two places we stopped, we felt we were imposing on their privacy and after a brief rest we departed. Here the only greenery comes from snow melt water, diverted sometimes for many kilometres along earthen channels, to semi fertile and not so vertical land where crops and trees are planted. Goats and cattle seem to graze the dirt with such sparse coverage.
21/4/97 Chilas to Sust at 3000m. We learnt this morning that the Khunjerab Pass was opened 3 days earlier. The highest border crossing in the world at 4700m, over twice the height of Australia's tallest mountain. Sust is the hopping off spot for the last 85 km ride to the top. Today we passed 5 glaciers, two close to the road and many small friendly villages. There seemed many genetic problems associated with the small inbred communities in some villages. The barren mountains constantly changing from slate to conglomerate and sedimentary rocks with broad river valleys.
22/4/97 Sust to Khunjerab Pass, 86 km. Since entering the Karakoram Highway we have passed nine check posts where passports and visa details were entered in books. The last, 30 km from the top, thank goodness. On the way, a wildlife officer pointed out through his telescope, 16 Ibex sheep grazing on one of the higher mountain slopes. Although sunny, the day was freezing with the wind in our faces and the blown snow off the taller peaks all but blocking the sun's rays. The last 2 km still had patches of snow and ice on the road and it was necessary for Kay to walk over some icier sections. The bike went down once after sliding into a deep wheel rut. Luckily the last two kilometres of road to the top was clear and we were at the top of the world, 4700 metres (15300 ft).
Move with us to a very short foray into China , or go to our next visit to Pakistan
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Peter and Kay Forwood,