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

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

  1. Karambisi

    Karambisi Adventurer Supporter

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    One of my all time favorite reports! Thank you, and for the lure of a part of the world that I never even thought to explore, now becomes a bucket list destination.
    Greetings from East Africa
    steved57 and Asianrider like this.
  2. Vectored2adv

    Vectored2adv Been here awhile

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    Captivating narrative and photography. Do you speak any of the local languages? Great idea to simply purchase a bike there instead. No fear of unavailable bike parts I assume. 390 has my attention too.

    Greetings from Atlanta, Ga. USA.
  3. steingar

    steingar higher life form

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    High adventure.
  4. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    No, English only. That's enough to communicate with 90% of people I guess. But that'd still leaves out 20 million people..! kids for the most part don't speak English until they go to school. And then they learn only if they stay there long enough. Elementary school is taught in Urdu.
  5. Idiotix

    Idiotix n00b

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  6. battdoc

    battdoc Old Enough

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    Bravo Laurent! I grew up in Punjab India and had no idea how beautiful other side of the border is. Crazy bridges and amazing riding, absolutely fantastic.
  7. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    In the morning, I wake up to this sight:

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    Which isn't half bad is you ask me. The big summit across the valley in Hunza is Ultar Sar, 7300m and something (that's 24,000 feet for you metric-challenged yankees). We're talking big here. I guess there aren't many places on this planet where you can look up on a 7000m peak from a hotel room, reached on a paved road. And there are several to choose from over here.

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    After a quick chai and parantha (what else ?) and take a stroll to the big attraction here, the glacier.

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    They'd have everything to make an awesome hard-enduro race, but they're obviously not into those things. There's a famous multi-day trek starting from here and climbing up to get a great view on all the mountains over there that are hidden. I was contemplating doing this for a while, but my back is killing me and I don't think I can hold up for several long days of hiking. But it's supposed to be awesome.

    For now, I just enjoy the view from one of the platform they've built for their tiny caf├ęs.

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    On the way back, I notice the fast-growing vegetation on the side of the road look... well, familiar.

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    It grows everywhere here. I guess that's why it's called weed.

    Enough of botanics, I pack my bike and get down to KKH to return to Gilgit, before the next adventure. An indeed, it's going to get a pretty interesting day!

    On the way down, I notice those stands where people offer free drinks to passer-by. They are temporary and only just been built. I ask about it while I have a drink and they tell me it's a big day. One fo the main religious celebration of the year. All the area here is predominantly Shia muslim, and for the Shia, Ali, grandson of Muhammad, is the main figure.

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    So I just learned that today is Ashura, the day all Shia mourn the death of Ali, grandson of Muhammad, killed at the battle of Kerbala. This is a big deal for religious people, and most here are pretty religious. On this day, it is customary to give away food and drinks to other people. Hence the booths.

    I reach the KKH and descend with the view on Rakaposhi in front of me. A good thing in Pakistan is that there is almost no traffic control. And little signs on the road, except sometimes a few cryptic ones.

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    I guess it means something like "slow" or "careful" but for all I know it could mean "do a wheelie for the photo". But hey, I'm riding a 150 so I'm not in danger of breaking speed limits.

    Just before Gilgit, in the village of Danyor, the KKH is closed and a deviation is in place that brings me across small residential streets. I follow the traffic until I'm brought back to the main road and blocked again by barriers. I ask the guys and they tell me that basically, the road is shut off the day and there's no way to get to Gilgit. Damn. But at the same time, one guy invite me to leave the bike here and follow him to have some rest and food. Could it be that they've thrown a part for my birthday ? naaaahh... no stripper on sight.

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    Obviously, the celebration is in full swing and all streets are blocked. I leave the bike in a safe place, as told by him, and we go to a school where they prepare and serve meals. It's early in the afternoon and I haven't eaten anything, so I gladly accept the chicken biryani they had prepared. There was tons of food left, it seems they have cooked enough for the whole town. It is supposed to be free for anyone so I'm not ashamed to eat my plate.

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    Great guys, very eager to please a foreigner on this special day, even a non-believer. It doesn't matter to them. It's a strike contrast to the rather aggressive display of martyrdom that I witness in the procession on the main street.

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    The procession is a succession of pick-up trucks with big banners and very loud music, followed by a big crowd of people. So far, nothing surprising. Except maybe for the portraits of Ayatollah Khamenei, but he's the main leader of the Shia world, although an Iranian.



    There are old people, kids, everyone (but very few woman, that's how it works there...).

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    And there are people clothed in all black, or wearing only a tank top.

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    These guys are special. They would follow the procession clapping their chest, and then when the truck stops they gather around.



    And then it gets wild. They start violently pounding on their chest as if in a transe.

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    But they don't use chains to flagellate themselves, as one can see in Iran (and which I found while I was seeping in a mosque in Iran)

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    So they keep doing this at regular interval and people look from the road or follow them.



    ... and that goes on and on for hours. You get the idea. I go back have some rest in the shade and chat with my new friends. Finally the road opens and I'm clear to drive to Gilgit and I get myself a room in the Saul guesthouse. What a day !

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  8. Macsporran

    Macsporran never lost ,just on a different road

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    excellent Ride Report , a real adventure , you have a great eye for a photograph .I enjoy the way that you explain the pillars of Islam that are incorporated in to their house design . I hope that one day I will tour the stans
    Asianrider likes this.
  9. ObdewlaX

    ObdewlaX Adventurer Supporter

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    WOW!

    A little late to the party but
    , holy crap! Your ride report has been very entertaining... great photos & story telling! What an adventure!
    Asianrider likes this.
  10. Pipeman

    Pipeman Been here awhile Supporter

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    I have. Spend lots of time in Quebec, often see Miami sweatshirts on them too.
  11. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    The next day will be more riding-focused. Today's objective is the (in)famous Fairy Meadows road which is supposed to be unrideable. Not so much because it's hard (and it is, because I gave it a go 10 years ago), but because the taxi drivers have a put in place a de-facto monopoly on this destination, with very inflated prices. But a first a bit of background to explain the situation.

    Fairy Meadows is famous all over Pakistan for its beauty. It's a plateau situated just in front of Nanga Parbat, the 8000m peak. The problem is, to get there one needs to first drive a very bad road to a dead end where a 2-h trek starts. The thing is, the road is so bad that "normal" SUVs wouldn't make it. Only jeeps can do it, landcruisers don't venture there. In addition, there is absolutely no parking anywhere on this road. So the only solution is for a taxi to drop you there, and to pick you up a few days later when you return.

    So a sort of taxi mafia has formed who control the road and make sure nobody bypasses them. One way this is by (I suspect) making sure no maintenance work is ever done on this road. There's no other way to explain the horrific state of disrepair of this stretch, whereas other similar roads (such as the Shimshal road of a couple days ago) is in MUCH better shape. But I didn't know that yet.

    So off I am from Gilgit to Raikot bridge, about 1h down KKH.

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    It seems there are no speed limit per se, only a "design speed", whatever that means.

    In Raikot bridge I stop at the taxi stand and start to chat with the drivers. They tell me that there's nothing stopping me from riding up to Fairy Point, the end of the road. Good! But there's still a problem: I have quite a load a baggage and there's no way I'm going to lug them all the way to Fairy Meadows. I could hire a porter to carry all the stuff up there but I don't like that. So I head for the hotel nearby and while I order some food I ask if I can check some bags here. No problem, they have a storage room and I see even a push bike stored there. So I take only my daypack with a few clothes, the tent, sleeping bag and mat. That's as much as I need for a couple days up there.

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    With the added benefit of making the bike lighter and less top-heavy. Yeah, OK, I could have made the whole trip like this. Or even lighter, without the tent and sleeping bag. But I like a little comfort.

    So off I am and after only 5 minutes I figure it will be quite an uncomfortable ride. Those brave enough to try and do it in a car would definitely turn back after just 200m. Same for the overloaded 1200GS. Me, I just feel sorry for my back... I take it slowly (how could I do it otherwise), maneuvering the bike to bring it down into the huge holes and up and over the boulders littering the road, without breaking it. Well, I still lose a foot peg and.. the rear brake. No big deal, I fix on the side of the road and keep going.

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    There's very little traffic, as expected, but the few taxis that I pass seem mildly pissed that I would bring my bike on THEIR road.

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    I can imagine the bumpy ride for the passengers, though not as bad as for me as they have proper suspensions, and the brief felling of panic as the driver brings his wheel inches from the void to pass another jeep...

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    Finally, after 1h I enter a high valley and get my first glimpse of the face of Nanga Parbat.

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    As I reach the end of the valley, I find out that there is absolutely no flat area anywhere except on the road. So I ride to the end and stop to ask the drivers sitting here waiting for passengers where can I park my bike. "Just leave it there, it'll be fine". Ok... what can go wrong ? again, I wouldn't leave my 15000$ Africa Twin like this, but this "thing"... yeah, Insh Allah !

    [​IMG]

    I strap all my staff as well as I can and head for the head of the trail.

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    As you can see, the road definitely end here, if you aren't Graham Javis. I've gained 1300m elevation with the bike, but the next 800m will be on foot.

    The other thing about Fairy Meadows, is that you need a police escort. A few years back, a terrorist attack on a group of climbers left 11 dead. It happened not far from here so since there the foreigners need an escort. It's not too bad, though, you just show up at the police camp (a small wooden shack), give your details and wait a bit to form a group with other tourists. A policeman walks with you until Fairy Meadows, free of charge, although I wonder what the poor guy would do in front of a group of well-armed terrorists. But it's a message sent to them.

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    The sun is pretty hot and the trail is steep. All the heavy building material has to be be carried by men, no way you can put a beam like this on a donkey...

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    I quickly lose my escort as he slows down to wait for the slower ones of our little group. Eventually, the trail climbs one last ridge right in front of huge glacier to reach Fairy Meadows, a fairly large flat area nested between the glacier and the Nanga Parbat steep face.

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    Im surprised by the infrastructure: I expected a few cabins and some tents. But there are dozens of small wooden houses built for the tourists.

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    There's a lot of building material laying around and whole camps being built. The tourism is booming in Pakistan and everybody want their share. Unfortunately this place is not meant to host hundreds of tourists everyday, all with their need of water, heating wood and their wastes. I hope they'll do something soon to curb down the building of new huts up there. Because it is a beautiful place and it needs to stay so in the future.

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    All that's left is register here with the police and go find myself a nice spot to camp, because I don't want to (and haven't booked) a hut.

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    There's plenty of space to pitch a tent but you have to do it in specific places, and pay a small fee to the owner of the camp. Once I saw this..

    [​IMG]

    .. I knew where I wanted to wake up the next morning.
  12. 1NiteOwl

    1NiteOwl Office Adventurer

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    I thought that AdvRider had deteriorated into a bling and advert blog for wannabe weekend warriors- and then came across this report a couple of weeks ago. What a breath of fresh (mountain) air!

    When I visited Pakistan in 2009, you could just see the Himalayas to the north of Islamabad through the smog from the heavy traffic. The main highways, on the other hand, carried very few vehicles of which most were the colourful decorated trucks endemic to this region.

    Back to the present- I had given up posting on this website again, but perhaps it is still worthwhile sharing some experiences here. Thank you for the inspiring photography and insightful narrative. I know how much work it is to put it all together.
    Jetlag Jon, elron, DCrider and 4 others like this.
  13. RhinoVonHawkrider

    RhinoVonHawkrider Long timer

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    The Rhino likes da U
    But hey whats not to like....

    I'm a firm believer in Mehmaan Nawazi

    I will ride in Pakistan one day with or without a Maple Leaf

    Beautiful place images%20(2).jpg
    Pipeman likes this.
  14. steved57

    steved57 Been here awhile Supporter

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    Been following this since beginning and still mazes me - the pics and writing that is
  15. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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    Keep in touch!!

    Shane
  16. carlsberger

    carlsberger ManyPauser

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    Wow this is one of the best ever, I'm hooked. Thanks for opening our eyes to what many of us will never have the chance to experience, absolutely amazing on so many levels.
  17. Gone_Ridin

    Gone_Ridin Been here awhile Supporter

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    Oh, is Quebec part of Canada again?? Damn it....
    Great report, not a country I had considered visiting,... before reading this. On the radar now for sure!
  18. Pipeman

    Pipeman Been here awhile Supporter

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    Ha! For now......The snowmobiling capital of the world. I spend a lot of time there in the winter and ride with friends from Ontario they prefer It to Ontario trails as do riders from New Brunswick.
  19. Gone_Ridin

    Gone_Ridin Been here awhile Supporter

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    Pipeman,? And they let you into Quebec?! Thought they were against anything to do with pipe!!
  20. PaulArnold

    PaulArnold n00b

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    Such a beautiful place. What impressed you the most up in the hills? I have considered to take a trip to Pakistan with 2 of my old friends. :-)