Guns, weed but no booze: Pakistan on a GS (150..)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Asianrider, Apr 19, 2019.

  1. BCPilotguy

    BCPilotguy n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2019
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    Prince George
    I'm not worried about the bike, it's a rental and fully covered. I'm more thinking about travel medical insurance. I read the fine print on more than 10 different policies today and they all have some variation on "Not valid for countries for which a travel advisory has been issued". I used it on my last trip, so I'd rather not be without.

    I have a fairly aggressive rough plan/wish list for my time in Pakistan (around 3000 km total). We'll see how much of it I actually get done.
    Asianrider and mb300 like this.
  2. Bora

    Bora Adventurer

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    Jun 15, 2006
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    What a brilliant RR! I'm from India, and Pakistan is really beautiful, and not as crowded as Ladakh and Spiti Valley have become! Subscribed! And waiting for the next update earnestly!
    Asianrider and mb300 like this.
  3. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    Apr 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    195
    After the crazy footbridges, all that's left is a double-track across the river bed and one last good suspended bridge.

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    So the mystery remains: why build two nice bridges at either end and leave the middle part uncrossable?

    After I put back my bags on the bike, I noticed them swaying left and right... surely something had to give

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    Yup, the "luggage" carrier hadn't been designed for big loads on bad roads. Not surprised here. I strap it as good as I can and got the first village. There's a small shop, I show him the problem and mime the welding job: good enough, I'm directed to the next village 5 min away. Indeed there's a guy with a welding machine. You can go anywhere in the world, it's a safe bet you'll find a welder not far. Well, not so much as q "welder" as somebody who can use the machine, as the job is not always up to our standards...

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    Notice the sunglasses he's not wearing... oh well, different standards again.

    That seems to do the trick, at least it keeps me going for a while. I continue up the valley. It's a dead-end but it sure must be beautiful. The road isn't bad. Soon I reach a kind of holiday center near a hot spring.

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    The place looks semi-famous here, there are several rooms and a restaurant, all a bit run-down although par for the course over here. There are no customer though. I ask if I can have lunch, so they go fetch the cook to fix something. In the mean time, they show me to the hot pool, where the locals are bathing and sometimes washing. Sorry, no photo as they're not welcome here.

    And off I go, on more bridges and rough roads.

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    It's getting lake so I need to find a place to crash. I decide to try the villages on the other side of the valley. Steep descent, river crossing and up on the other side to nice plateau.

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    It's a beautiful place. The road is shite, but it gets me to the next village with a beautiful sunset over the mountains.

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    That's the kind of place so remote that they don't get to see any foreigner. In fact, I guess they don't see anybody outside their own valley! I stop and go talk to some guy who owns a little shop. No English here obviously. I explain that I'd like a place to sleep. He gets it and he just shows me to his own house, after parking the bike in front of his shop. It just seems so natural for them..!

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    He brings me to a large, empty room and tells me to get comfortable. I ask to pee and wash, so he shows me to the outhouse (a pit) and.. to the stream that runs through the village street! Women are washing clothes there.. so I just wash my face and hands and that'll be good enough for tonight.

    The guy sits with me, and try to communicate but the result is frustratingly sparse. Long uncomfortable silences follow. I think they're OK with it but I never get used to ti. They're so nice to me and I can't even explain to them what the heck I'm doing here. I spread out a map and show him my itinerary, but I'm not sure he knows a lot about the rest of Pakistan. A couple other guys show up to meet me but there's not a lot more communication going on. Then food is brought in by the wife. As usual here, the women and men are segregated and eat in different places. In the kitchen for the women and girls and in this room for the men and boys. Maybe when they're by themeselves they all eat in the kitchen but with a stranger, it's no way.

    Then the guy starts to smoke and just rests, while I read some book. And then as it's pitch black outside (there's no electricity here so there's only a battery-powered lamp to light up the room), the 2 boys come in and they spread blankets on the floor, while I use my inflatable mattress (I like it soft...). And they just crash and we all fall asleep, like this. Simple life!

    That was a fun day! that's exactly what I was looking for when I came here. Remote places, crazy roads and beautiful people.
    River Rat, DCrider, td63 and 17 others like this.
  4. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    195
    The next morning I bid farewell to my host an return to the right side of the river, as the road ends here on this side.

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    The road quickly turns to not much. It gets increasingly difficult to ride.

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    There's a nice view over the Zil plateau across the valley where I've slept the night before. The road keeps gaining altitude.

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    I get stuck on the first steep section with my carter scraping the rocks and the rear wheel losing traction. I get help from a guy passing by. Later on, it gets even rougher, so I reluctantly turn back. My goal was to get to Arando, the last village up the Shigar valley that's connected by road, but what's the point if I need to walk back because I ruined the motor ?

    On the way down I cross a family cutting grass for the winter.

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    It's pretty steep and everything is done by hand.

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    Carrying the hay back home is also done by human power, I guess they're too poor to get a donkey. Or maybe those don't survive long in those environments ? or they eat too much ?

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    A little while downstream I spot a lot of activity down near the river with lots of animals around. I'd seen almost nobody until now so I have to go see what's going on. I leave the bike with the bags and take my camera with me. I get to the bridge...

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    No, no, calm down. I'm not gonna ride over that bridge. It sure looks like it could use a little maintenance.

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    What happens is that the shepherds are bringing their goats and sheep to sell at the market, which is in the village over the other side of the river. Which can be crossed only by this bridge. No way a goat can cross that, so the solution is to carry them over by hand.

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    They put a couple goats in big baskets, bring them over, and come back for more.

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    Even if you don't have a basket, you help anyway.

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    The goats don't seem to mind, for those who worry about their well-being.

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    Even the kids have to be transported like this.

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    The traffic back and forth is hectic, especially when there's an old guy (or a less sure-footed foreigner crossing).

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    All of this was good fun, I took a ton of photos. And a video.

    River Rat, DCrider, td63 and 25 others like this.
  5. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    Switzerland
    Fantastic portrait-shots btw... absolutely love them.
    just out of curiousity, what camera equipment do you use?


    Welders:
    Well the sunglasses make no shit difference... for stick welding you need at least a shade 10 welders glass to protect your eyes.
    I've seen it in too many places... the guys get quite good at welding with their eyes shut and work it by feel... but most will have suffered from severe eye damage after a number of years.
    I've seen all sort of welding-lens substitutes being used, from slitted cardboard to partially taped over sun glasses...
    I work as a blacksmith / fabricator & machinist and do a ton of welding... I couldn't imagine working without eye protection.... and I mean welder's 10-shade glass isnt' exactly expensive even for remote poor standards... it's mostly ignorance from what I came to learn... like why bother.
    td63 likes this.
  6. Frank Lammers

    Frank Lammers Adventurer

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    Location:
    Arnhem, Netherlands
    What a rewarding couple of days! I’m genuinely enjoying it just reading the report! Can only imagine what it must be like being in the true heart of a countries culture. A-ma-zing
    DCrider likes this.
  7. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    195
    Thanks.

    Yes, sunshades aren’t going to help your eye vision, but at least they’re protecting against flying sparks of burning material. That can hurt pretty bad.

    Most of the “on-the-Fly” shots I took with an iPhone I kept inside my jacket. Easy to get out, point-and-shoot, go.
    I do also carry a dSlr that I keep protected inside my bags, therefore it sees less action. When I stop and see an opportunity for shooting something that’s worth a better quality and experience than an iPhone, I stop and get the gear out.
    I used a 70-200/4 for some of the portraits on the bridge. 16-35/4 for the wide shots.

    As good as your gear is, it’s worth shit if it stays in the bag. Hence the smartphone.
    Kyron, SteveTheLocal and EastRoad like this.
  8. mADVta

    mADVta Adventurer

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    Wroclaw, PL
    Very captivating reporting & writing style! I devoured whole report in just one day :)
    Waiting for more :lurk
    Safe ride, Asianrider :)
  9. EastRoad

    EastRoad Road Viking Supporter

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    Switzerland
    This quite literally mirrors my own experience - on my last few trips, the majority of the photos were taken with the smartphone - for the last two I even left the entire DSLR thingy at home ;)
  10. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

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    vancouver bc
    brilliant. stunning photos.
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  11. Ducatijim

    Ducatijim Hopeless Poseuer!

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    Reporoa NZ
    ??? Waiting.
  12. Gestalt

    Gestalt Been here awhile

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    China/Thailand
    You ok ? It has been sometime now.
  13. RhinoVonHawkrider

    RhinoVonHawkrider Long timer

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    Jul 18, 2009
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    Eastern Pa
    Hopefully he's been kidnapped by women with loose morals.

    And they have him tied up plying him with sex and booze

    Or he's resting in an area without the interwebs
    Spoilyfarts, mADVta and Asianrider like this.
  14. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
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    After watching the shepherds and their animals leave for the market, I continued back to Skardu. As I came to Shigar, the final of the rally was in full swing. I stopped to watch a little as I was keen to see some real action, but it was quite dull. I was not in the right place, probably. I didn't see bikes, only 4x4s.

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    After the last competitor raced, the road was opened again and I was free to go. I t was later afternoon by then, but I still decided to continue on to Khaplu, the last sizable town up the main valley, along the Indus.

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    It's a very good road, so I could make good time but I still had to stop for a few photos and at a police checkpoint midway. Here the Shyok river joins the Indus, which is flowing from a side valley, leading to Balatik in Ladakh, across the LoC. This valley is forbidden to us, but the Shyok valley is open until Khaplu. I reach there at dawn, with my useless headlight trying to light up the road ahead. I head for the PTDC motel where I try to haggle a tent spot. They would have none of it, so I go back to the main street and check in into a very sad place, but with friendly staff and a good restaurant packed with locals - always a good sign.

    The next morning, I go visit Khaplu fort. Like the others, the fort has been converted to a luxury hotel.

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    Could be pretty nice if you've got the cash (200 - 300$ I think), which I don't, but I can still tea on the lawn.

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    Most expensive tea yet, at about 10x the price on the road. Almost 1$, ouch ! ;-)

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    Nearby is a large wooden mosque, unfortunately forbidden to visit by non-muslims.

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    I also indulge in a hair cut, largely overdue.

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    The guy wouldn't take any money from me for that...

    Kids were playing football (soccer) on the polo ground, which is 4 or 5 times longer. Must be exhausting... !

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    I went riding above the city, there are some awesome views over the valley. Some beautiful rides around here.

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    Next goal: ride up to Hushe, the last village on this side of the K2, maybe this time they'll let me through and maybe I'll have a glimpse of the famed mountain by hiking up on a ridge.
  15. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    :jack More like the second option but I'd take the first one if I weren't with the miss. :clap

    I'm currently in Kyrgyzstan, not too far up north from Pakistan. Lots of booze here, and, funny thing (or not !), kidnapping is an ethnic thing here. Mind you, it's guys kidnapping girls, they want to marry them even though they can't pony up with the dowry. It's rampant since the communists went down. Crazy shit.
    td63, Kyron, yamalama and 1 other person like this.
  16. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    195
    Yup fine. I've been travelling across Europe, Russia and Kazakhstan (on 4 wheels... sigh!). Crazy country. 2000 km of steppe, totally flat and scorching hot. Talking about a bad place to live in.

    Incidently - although it's got nothing to do with the current RR - we managed to witness the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft from the steppe. A great show! if those crazy Russians were to put the same amount of engineering in their bikes than in their rockets, they would beat the shit out of the BMW and KTMs out there !

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    Ok, I'll be back to the RR for a couple updates and then get off the grid again as we enter Pamir. Thanks for your comments.
    DCrider, BillUA, mADVta and 8 others like this.
  17. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    195
    Here's a map of the area and the different roads around Skardu (courtesy Google)

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    I came in from Astore, through Deosai and then Skardu. Then I went up Shigar road to the confluence where I've been turned away before reaching Askole valley. I crossed to the other valley over the ragtag bridges and then rode up toward Arando but not quite making it. Then I came back to Skardu, rode to Khaplu and there's the road to Hushe coming up.

    K2 is on the top of the map (Tibet is in the top-left corner). There's a famous 2-week trek from Askole up the valley to the confluence of the glaciers south of K2, called Concordia (after a similar place in the Swiss Alps). Then there's a 5000+m-high pass to cross to reach Hushe.

    All the way to the right of the map is Siachen glacier, famous for being the highest battlefield on earth, with Pakistanis in Indians lobbing shells to each other when they're bored.

    All the roads leading to India are closed to tourists, obviously, but those in blue are open (except for Askoli where you need a permit). There are absolutely no roads to China (Tibet), we're talking 7000m-high passes here !
    BillUA, mADVta, Rich Rider and 11 others like this.
  18. husqvarna

    husqvarna Been here awhile

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    May 29, 2007
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    One of the best reports on AdvRider I have ever read. The true spirit of adventure - disregard what the "authorities" say, go anyway and find out, invariably encountering god and decent people. Inspiring.
    DCrider, BillUA, td63 and 4 others like this.
  19. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    195
    Out of Khaplu I take the road up the river. It's a beautiful day, and the view from the road if fantastic.

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    Just after the bend I'm blocked by a police checkpoint. They tell me the road is closed. Duh, the road leads to the army basecamp on Siachen glacier, so it's pretty sensitive. I trace my steps back and take the bridge that gets me to the other side of the river. Just as I reach the other side I feel the bike swinging side to side... yup, the luggage carriers broke again.

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    I limp to the next village and start to look for a workshop. Everything's closed but there's a sign that shows I'm on the right place, with a phone number. I call up, but the person answering speaks no English. Somehow, he understands I'm at the shop and after 10 minutes he arrives on a bike. It's pretty obvious what I need him for so there's not much talking. He quickly gets to work and fires up he's antique welding machine. I stop him and gesture to explain him that the steel tubes are too thin and need reinforcement. He reaches out for a piece of rebar, which fits almost perfectly. He even has a grinder. Great, we're in sync !

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    Notice the large steel bar to ground the bike, pretty often the ground leads on their machines are broken and they don't bother replacing it.

    As we put everything back together a guy on a motorbike stops and asks in English if I need anything. I tell him I'm all set, but he tells me there's a great place just a few km away. I follow him to a nicely kept garden with tables and huts in the shade, and a fish pond in the middle. Even though we're at 2600m altitude, the sun is very hot at midday.

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    Turns out the guy is a somewhat-famous local guide that does a lot of mountaineering with foreigners. Apparently, he also owns or has stakes in the place because he givers orders to everybody.

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    He orders fish for me, which seemed appropriate given the fish pond. Only it turned out to be real expensive, and it didn't even come from the pond... oh well.

    I finally leave for Hushe. The road is actually pretty good, on a decent pavement.

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    The usual checkpoint is fine with me riding on up the valley.

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    But it quickly reverts back to gravel, although not too bad.

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    Meetings some kids who enjoy having their photo taken.

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    The valley is really beautiful with nice scattered clouds in the blue sky.

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    The last few km are a bit rough but nothing too bad. They're working on paving the road, I guess in a year or so it'll be much easier to bus tourists in (for better and for worse). Finally, I arrive in the village and check in at the famous refugio Hushe, founded by Italians mountaineers (Italians are everywhere here because they were the first to summit K2).

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    Normally it's pretty busy (and expensive) because all trekkers who come from the Gorongoro La trek end here. But this being the tail end of the season, I'm all alone and I haggle a good price for a room. The room are much higher standard than usual, it looks more like an alpine chalet. But there's no mistaking it for Italy, the shower heater isn't working so I end up washing with bucket water. I also ask the manager to get me a local guide to hike up to a ridge where there's a nice view of K2.

    Waking up early the next morning the weather is cloudy so I cancel the hike. The guide - an old guy from the village - still shows up and is a bit disappointed not to go, but I don't see the point to walk up there if there's no clear weather.

    So I spend a rest day here walkign around the village and taking photos.

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    It seems the locals here see too many tourists clicking away without asking for permission because they're pretty photo-shy and refuse to let me take pictures of them. Too bad, in other, not touristy places it's never been a problem.

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    It's harvesting season and there's a lot of activity in the fields.

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    Note that the wealthier ones are "mechanized", that's the first time I see a weed whacker used for this but it makes sense. If you can afford the petrol to run it. Otherwise, it's by hand.

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    The next day I go back to Khaplu.

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    They're laying down asphalt on the road.

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    They're actually mixing tar and gravel on the spot, it saves big on transportation costs.

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    I cross the Khaplu bridge (again). I never get tired of those views. Even the panos on the iPhone look nice..

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    I continue on toward Skardu.

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    Which I reach with time enough to visit one of the few remains of Buddhism culture before Islam settled in.

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    Phew. I didn't get to see K2, but I did get blown away at every corner by the fantastic vistas.
    River Rat, DCrider, BillUA and 19 others like this.
  20. elron

    elron Still Standing Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2010
    Oddometer:
    640
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    Now Scott Free Wis
    Just amazing, quite eye-opening in an informative way. This is easily becoming a classic RR. (Edited. removed photo question as i found the answer)
    Asianrider likes this.