The last report was about the terrible earthquake in Pakistan and I was feeling
pretty upset and useless at the time.
Well, after trying to get involved, like many others, I was told that it was a job for the army and the experts and the best thing to do was keep out of the way so I decided to
travel on if I could.
The camp site in Islamabad resembled a motorcycle rally ground as several overlanders had gathered. Three Germans,( 2 BMs, 1 Transalp, all with TONS of luggage) two of whom I had already met in
Quetta, two Belgians on Transalps( not so much luggage) a South African on a KTM (less luggage and heading west) and little me ( in comparison, hardly anything).
We had a great night singing round a camp fire and
myself and the Belgians (Chris and Elke) decided to head off in the direction of Peshawar and spend a night together before splitting up to go north by diverse paths. They chose to do the high, difficult pass via
Chitral and me, being a wimp, chose the lower pass via the Swat valley. We hoped that we would meet somewhere at the northern end of the KKH and go together to Chinese border. the Germans were following a day or so
As it happened we all met up in the same place in Karimabad in the Hunza valley and enjoyed some spectacular scenery together and good food.
My few days alone brought interesting experiences with the local
people and they showed me a Buddha carved in the rock in one valley and some Stupas. I rode to the top of the Swat valley which had had recent snow fall and was far too cold to camp so I stayed in a nice hotel. However,
as they don’t put the heating on until December I was sleeping with all clothes and a beanie on even inside!
When I joined the KKH I also had some local help with replacing a clutch cable on a particularly lonely and
intimidating stretch of road. I was grateful for the help as I hadn't done a Suzy cable before. The job took two hours though and I camped by a Helipad that night as it was the only place I could find in the rocky
The ride to the Chinese border from Karimabad, with Elke and Chris, took all morning and it was bitterly cold at the summit of the Khunjerab pass. However, I had a tiny drop of Bulgarian Slivovitch for
us to toast our success, so we had a party with that. We were a little late coming down, (stopping to photograph some Yaks) to the next town to spend the night but very happy that we had finally made it all the way up.
The next day we went to see an orphaned snow leopard cub that the park rangers were looking after and then went back to Karimabad where we went souvenir shopping as their local crafts are so good.
Elke and Chris
wanted to explore the Skardu valley which leads off the KKH towards the disputed Indian border. I had to get my visa renewed in Gilgit, which is rather similar to Belfast in that their are two religious factions firing
at one another and a very nervous police force with lots of guns pointing everywhere. On my second attempt, in between curfews, I was successful and so followed the others to try and get at least one day walking
in the mountains. This we did and, as it is now autumn were treated to some very colourful trees contrasting with the snowy mountain peaks and bright blue skies. Bloody freezing cold at night though!
incident on the walk back from a high village, was when some local boys, who were rather suspiciously following us, were bemused when we started singing "Gum Trees" with the actions. They ended up laughing and
As C and E's visas were also due to expire but their passports were in the Indian embassy in Islamabad, we had to try and make it back to that city as soon as possible. There followed three long days of
riding, which included having a puncture just on twilight on one day and, on the final day we had several traumatic experiences.
The road north of the earthquake area follows the steep sides of the Indus river valley
and they are narrow with no protection on the edge. They are also in very poor condition, lots of rocks and potholes. I was leading at the time when a Chinese truck came round the bend in the centre of the road leaving
me hardly any space to pass on the very edge of the cliff. I had to try otherwise he would have hit me head on so I tried to squeeze past. The tail end of his truck caught my pannier and I knew I was going to fall but I
couldn’t allow the bike to fall to the left or I would be over the cliff so I steered to the right , almost fell but managed to recover. The other two were nearly hit by the same truck. Pakistan drivers seem to be a bit
more considerate on those roads.
Further down, in the earthquake zone , we saw many relief camps at the side of the road, tent cities and refugees from the hill villages everywhere. The road was packed with army
lorries and aid vehicles. Plus, as it is harvest season, the potato trucks coming down bringing chip material to the cities. The diesel fumes in the air choked us and made my eyes stream and the spilt diesel on the road
made riding difficult. Not to mention dodging kids throwing stones and cattle and other animals and humans in the road.
We were exhausted, but on the last stretch ,when a truck I was overtaking decided to turn right
(its left hand drive here) and , in attempting to miss it I went off into the dirt and fell quite heavily. Fortunately neither me or the Suzi were seriously hurt so we all carried on to get to the camp site at Islamabad
just before sundown.
Now I am preparing to leave for Lahore and then India. I had the welding done on the crash bar today and am getting this report off for you. Photos will follow shortly.
Pakistan has certainly
been a very interesting country. The earthquake was traumatic, of course, but the beauty of the northern regions is really awesome and , on the whole the people have been friendly and helpful. Its amazing how many speak
English, even in the remoter areas. It is a very colourful country with different dress styles. I have a great Hunza hat now, normally worn by the men, so the women all laugh when they see me in it.
This last month
has been an experience I will never forget and I have yet again met some wonderful people. Thank you to all of them and to you, my Faraway friends who are reading this.
Love to all Linda