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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Asianrider, Apr 19, 2019.
The amazements continue...
Spectacular stuff Laurent. Thanks again for posting
wow! pakistan was never on my list (but not for the usual reasons). now, reading your RR, pakistan slipped up to the top! i will definitely go within the next 2 years. thank you for the eye opener!!
Absolutely incredible. Thanks for this report!
What's better than start a ride with a view like this ?
I'm headed toward Khunjerab Pass, 4600m. For most of the tourists, this pass is the highlight of the trip on KKH, but for me, who's already been through it, I know it's a bit disappointing. But 13 years later I'd like to know how it changed, and it's only a few Ks away.
I pass the turn-off to Shimshal valley (we'll get back to this later) and stop at Sost for a tea and quick breakage as I has bargained a night at the hotel without breakfast. There's a checkpoint after 5 minutes where one needs to register with one's passport, as well as pay a fee for entering a national park. The ride up the pass used to be restricted to people with a Chinese visa, or you had to leave your passport there. Not anymore, now you just leave your details. Note that the push bikes aren't allowed up the pass, if you're headed to China on a bicycle, you need to load it on a bus, because China forbids to ride a bicycle on their side of the pass, and one can't buy a bus ticket up there.
It's still pretty early, and most (Pakistani) tourists start their journey from Hunza or even Gilgit so the road is pretty quiet. The road starts in a narrow gorge that's pretty nice.
Actually it'd have been much better on a powerful bike because the tarmac is new and smooth. Getting out of the gorge I hit the first switch backs. It's now well above 3500m and as you can imagine, no peg scraping for me.
I've put on all clothes I've brought with me. The cold is biting and since I'm just sitting idle on my seat, I freezing to death. Finally I reach the pass, which is actually a plateau so not very spectacular, as you can see.
A few years back there wasn't anything but a wooden shack and a lone border guard.
Now there's a big building on a Pakistani side and a massive gate between the two sides, where tourists (of both countries) come and take selfies. And.. and ATM ! I didn't try it but it's a nice thought. Chinese officials were visiting as I arrived.
5 minutes later a group of Pakistani riders arrived. I'd met them at the checkpoint earlier but it took them longer to reach there two-up on 125s..
The Pakistani riders were missing a few fellow riders. They finally arrived much later, with one guy bleeding from the knees and elbows... he had crashed and - of course - had no proper protective gear. But how can one crash on a smooth pavement going up at, probably, 15 km/h ?
There's nothing much to do here so back I go. I return to Sost and get lunch and some fuel, before checking out a small valley called Misgar nested right next to the Chinese border.
"World's Highest ATM" - great!
No Hong Kong protesters here - move along....
Just awesome pics.
Unreal place - must go.
If I wear a Maple Leaf on my jkt & say Ehh a lot, will I have a problem if I go?
Misgar is of particular interest to me historically because it used to be one of the main trade routes between China (and Central Asia) and the Indies, before the Chinese built the KKH across Khunjerab, which is less steep and therefore better suited to motor vehicles.
Surprisingly, the road is being newly paved.
But it ends pretty quickly upon reaching Misgar town. I continue on to see how far I can go, the maps are pretty confusing about this.
Then the road deteriorates but it's a great ride nevertheless.
A bit technical at time.
Until I reach an army fort.
Yeah, it really says "Death is my protector". That's not exactly what I'd like to hear if I'd been serving there..!
Here I'm stopped by a pretty aggressive guy who claims to be military or police , though in plainclothes. I'm pretty close to the Chinese border and as usual here one needs a special permit to get any closer. The valley (like most other side valleys) is a dead end so I just rode back to Sost, enjoying the great views.
It's a nice valley, but not really worth the detour - unless you're trekking and have a permit. Another valley looks more promising, just south of this one, called Chapursan.
Thanks but.. what's wrong with being Canadian ? you lost me there.
Note that Rhino is from the US. Some Americans like to wear a maple leaf on their kit when abroad assuming they then won't be identified as American. Never seen a Canadian wearing a US flag tho......wonder why that is?
Stunning report. Huge thanks for taking the time to write it
With a nice late afternoon light I get back to the main road for a few km before taking another - good - gravel road up Chapursan.
I don't fancy taking a room in one of the few nondescript hotels on Sost Main Street, I'll probably find something up the valley.
It's quite a long way to the end of the valley, about 60 km, where I know there's a guesthouse, but there's no point in riding in the dark. So I stop at a little roadside shack and ask if there's a guesthouse somewhere close, or even if I can sleep in the shack.
Instead, the guy offers to come to his house and sleep there. Wow, great ! I wait with him until he closes down his restaurant and in the mean time he cooks for me some delicious dumplings of yak meat.
It's to like it's rush hour, after 1h with no-one coming, he shuts the doors and I follow him to his house.
After a good night sleep - I was knackered - I take off under a great blue sky.
I cross a few villages where people tend to their fields or their cattle.
Very peaceful and quiet, with little traffic. Perfect.
The road isn't really challenging, and rather well maintained, so I can just sit back and enjoy the scenery (and so can you).
Eventually I reach Zudkhun village, the last sizable settlement in the valley. I spot a sign for the guesthouse I was looking for. But there's nobody there so I kick my boots, lay on the sun and enjoy the view. I just don't get tired.
Eventually a kid arrived and I manage to let him know I'd like to talk to his father. I think he got that because not too long after my host arrives and I introduce myself. He's more than happy to open his guesthouse for me. It seems that this late in the season there aren't too many tourists. So I have the whole room for me.
The house is built pamiri-style, because the valley here is populated by Wakhis. I had seen the exact same configuration in Tajikistan's Pamir, which is indeed not very far north, but behind 2 borders. The five pillars (there's one hidden) symbolize historically zoroastrian deities, but since the Islamization, they're now identified with Ali, Fatima, Hassan, Hussein and Mahomet.
The roof window, called chorkhana is typical of the pamiri (wakhi) houses. The different layers stand for the 4 elements: water, fire, earth and air.
It's still pretty early in the afternoon so I go hike above the village for a nice view on the valley, before returning and get a good night of sleep.
Been following since the beginning- fabulous pics and report
Still following and feasting my eyes and mind on your wonderful RR
Like many others, I'm really enjoying your Ride Report. Pakistan was not on my to-do list, now it is.
Merci pour le voyage, n'hésites pas à le faire durer !
Nothing with my Northern neighbors - Good people who love beer & Hockey!
My question is more based on Anti American sentiment by Pakistan (well at least its leaders). I'm thinking if someone was doing what your doing with a USA passport - life expectancy would be short - but I've known to be wrong.
I suspect the "on the ground reality" is different to what the press would have us believe. In that part of the world - certainly the areas the OP (AsianRider) is wondering in, "mehmaan-nawazi" (hospitality) isn't taken lightly.
Most folk the world over are concerned with their day to day grind and providing for themselves and their folk. And when they come across strangers - curiosity takes over.
I think once upon a time - (US) folk probably thought the same about travelling thru Russia, but the countless ride reports of the phenomenally positive experiences those folk have had in Russia - says it all.
That is assuming - politics is left at home.
I guess this touches on why this is such a great RR. In his first posts Laurent talked about the situation (as in the view of the western world) in Pakistan, as in the parts where you can and where you shouldn’t go. And I think one should not take that advice lightly. At the same time Laurent does not blindly follow those directions, but makes his own decisions about where to go. And that makes it such a brilliant adventure.
Thanks all fo the nice words. I'm trying to alternate between more adventurous biking tales and more esthetic pictures to please all. There are a few more installments coming with funky roads , I'l trying to keep up with the current 9-5 office hours.
Well, I didn't talk much politics but on the one hand there is the official talking which is a lot or rubbish and propaganda, especially when it comes to India. And then there is the layman who knows his own government is corrupt and incompetent, so he assumes others and especially the American's is also full of shit - in which case most would agree of.
My guess is that most Americans would be treated like other Westerners, which is with a lot of curiosity and much hospitality. And probably a lot of asking what's the deal about the guy with the orange hair tweeting all day long ?
Only the Indians aren't welcome in Pakistan, unfortunately.