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

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

  1. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    Waking up in the morning, the view is just as great.

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    I must have been sleepy still as I crashed the bike. Good thing I don't have a 300 kg monster to lift up. No damage this time.

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    I go back to toward the main road, but instead end up on a small path next to the river. There a re many bridges crossing the river and these wooden suspended bridges all pretty iconic of the region. I love them. This one is definitely NOT following the safety rules of the EU commission.

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    I walked it on foot. No way I'm bringing the bike here. No room for mistake.

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    The next one was a little better, I guess.

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    Let's find out.



    Sorry for the shaky video. It looks like I'm drunk and swerving across the bridge. It's just the bridge itself swinging behind me! it's a pretty weird feeling, like you didn't know how to ride anymore... that's the kind of fun you can have in those countries.

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    I push on down the valley, until the next town and a proper petrol station.

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    The main Ghizer valley is oriented west-east, but there are many side valleys going north. These are famous for trekking, and although I'm not going to hike much, I want to explore one. So I head up Yasin valley, straight north toward the Afghan border. No, the road doesn't go all the way to the border, but there are high passes that lead to Wakhan from there.

    I stop at a first checkpoint to write down my details, where they tell me there are many guesthouse up there to chose from. The ride is great, mostly OK pavement. Arriving at the main town, I'm blocked by a gate at another checkpoint. I get to meet with the head of the police. There's not much going on here and a tourist arriving on his own is something of a novelty. And, I'm sensing, a burden too. Something to watch over very closely. So the guy offers me to show me to a guesthouse. It's a win-win, as I don't have to look around to much and they know exactly where I'll be staying. Sometimes you have bad surprises as they lead you to big, expensive hotels. But there's nothing remotely like that in this villages. So we end up in a very nice house with 3-4 rooms for guests. It's empty so they're pretty happy to see somebody arriving.

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    I'm not sure about the Chinese architecture style, it's not even one-of-a-kind here. Must be trendy.

    Incidentally I must have caught a stomach bug or something and I'm not feeling well. So I decide to rest here a couple days before moving on. The owner is just so nice, and attentive, it's too bad he or nobody else speaks English.. except the cops. After making sure I'm OK and telling me not to wander out at night (like there was a stripper club down the street), the police split. I ask for hot water so they set up this nice water heater for me. En suite !

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    I take a shower, a couple aspirins and hit the (nice) bed without dinner.
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  2. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

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    Did you take a dip in that lake where you camped? The water looked really clean. It's probably pretty cold though, eh?
  3. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    The next day I'm feeling a little better but weak. The head cop is back at breakfast to check out on me. He's at pain to explain that everyhting is 100% safe here, but still.. you know.. I tell him I'm resting at the hotel.

    Nothing better than a nice ride to recover so I leave all the bags in my room and take off.

    Wondering about the electrical safety rules in the bathroom (or lack thereof) ? you ain't seen the high voltage power lines.

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    Sounds about right !

    Just outside of the village I meet these guys having fun, I guess you call them the local MC (minus the cuts) ! Selfies of course.

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    The valley then makes a fork. I try the left side, Khoi valley, and ride way up crossing small villages on a road that becomes narrower and narrower until there's room only for a bike. Lots of kids are dressed in school uniforms. It looks like most of the kids are attending school, which is good. If you keep going (on foot), high pass connects to Yarkhun valley, which connects to Mastuj (see a few posts back). So I go back and take the other fork.

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    This one leads to Darkot pass, on a major trade route across the Hindu Kush to Wakhan (through Broghil pass) and then on to Central Asia. It used to be pretty busy, nowadays it's a dead end. This is major trekking country, or used to be before it all went south after September 11. Afghanistan is about 15 km away as the crow flies.

    Eventually I reach the end of the good road, where it crosses a wide alluvial fan where a faint track is still marked.

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    People travel here mostly on bike, they stop to let their passenger off and to take their shoes off. Then they get their feet wet, put their shoes back on and continue on. Normal.

    It's getting late and I'm getting a little far away from the guesthouse. Not sure if I need an authorization to come here, at least I didn't see any checkpoint. But let's head back.

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    Fortunately I'm not rained in, but that was close. Back to Taus guesthouse. That was a great day after all!

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    Tonight's BBQ on the main street.

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    That rag looks pretty clean to me, it can't do much harm to an upset stomach, can it.. :hmmmmm

    I try to chat with some guys who're speaking English. Most of them don't. Here they speak Burushaski, as in Hunza and Nagar, although the're different dialects. In Switzerland we're used to this, they speak a different dialect of Swiss German in every different valleys of the Alps, or almost. But they're all connected to German. Here they're surrounded by Khowar-speaking people. Burushaski is a very peculiar language as it has no connection with any other known language. Think Basque language e.g.

    The next day I check out of this nice guesthouse and down the valley. As promised, I stop at the police HQ to tell the boss I'm out. But he's not there so I leave the message to the guys here.

    Back on the main road, I have only a bit more than 100 km to go on a good road. But the traffic is getting worse as I reach the bottom of the valley. Arriving in Gilgit there are tons of cars everywhere, completely chaotic. It seems the city has expanded form the last time I visited 10 years earlier, but I find the guesthouse I used at the same place (Madina guesthouse), though under a new management. Still nice and with room to park the bike in the garden. Good place to meet other travelers too.

    I'm shown the place to get a new SIM card because, you know, different province, different cell operator..

    Gilgit is really the center of Gilgit-Baltistan province, so I have to decide where to next. KKH (Karakoram Highway) runs through here, but although it's in the bucketlist of many, I don't think KKH is the best road to do, especially since they've entirely resurfaced it. I'm more attracted to the small side valleys from KKH. But first, I want to go visit Baltistan, which I had never been to.

    Sorry, not many pics for this day as I just didn't feel like taking any.

    Attached Files:

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  4. elron

    elron Still Standing Supporter

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    A Most Excellent RR.
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  5. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    Naaah too cold. But others would I guess.
  6. Leegaard

    Leegaard Adventurer

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    Thanks . I really enjoy your RR.
  7. steved57

    steved57 Been here awhile Supporter

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    Still loving this RR
    Keep it coming
  8. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    I leave Gilgit gliding down the smooth blacktop that the Chinese have just laid down on the KKH.

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    I've made up my mind, I'll go to Skardu but not on the direct road, I'll take the Astore valley and climb up to Deosai plains. Going downhill the bike is almost pleasant to ride, but I didn't make it far before I have to stop for my first puncture. I had taken a repair kit in case it happened in the middle of nowhere, but there, in the middle of a village, under the scorching hot sun.. I just wheel it gently to the next repait shack. They're everywhere in those countries, when there's traffic, there's business.

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    The kid must've been 14 at most. But hey, maybe his family spends on him bringing home some rupees. In no time he gets it fixed, with a new inner tube as the one that the tyre seller fitted was paper-thin.

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    And off I am. At the turn-off there's a bridge that gets me on the other side of the Indus. This was actually the best road to access Gilgit during the British Raj. There are no high passes and a lot of pastures for grazing the pack animals. The Burzil pass connects Astore to Kashmir, but it is, obviously, closed nowadays.

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    The pavement becomes much worse, at some places only patches remain. The road follows the river in a tight gorge and the vistas are fantastic.

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    The few patches of green (irrigated land) stand out in this brown, mineral environment.

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    And then something strange happens: while I'm taking photos, a few dual-sport bikes pass me. Like, real bikes: large displacement trail bikes. Pakistan plated! And then a pick-up truck shows up with more enduro bikes in the back..

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    Now, that's something you never, ever see in Pakistan. Import duties on foreign bikes (or cars) are crazy, like 100 or 200%. So almost nobody can afford it. What's going on ? And then a couple guys on "normal" bikes (Suzuki 150s too) coming down stop to have a chat. One of them is Goyar Hayat, one of the most famous biker in all Pakistan. You may have seen his posts on HUBB.

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    Unbelievable. What are the chances ? we chat a little. He's riding back home from Astore. While we talk some of the trails stop and we all can chat. It turns out, those guys are from a bikers club, from Islamabad, and they're going to a rallye in Skardu. I didn't even know there was a rallye happening in a couple days. I knew there's one taking place in the desert down south (the Cholistan rallye), but that takes place in winter.
    They ask if I'm going this way, and tell me to tag along. I'm game !

    Astore is the main town in the valley. It's a big mess: a very narrow and steep road with far too many vehicles, trying to cross or just parking on the street. I manage to squeeze through easily but the cars are hopelessly stuck.

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    I look for a restaurant as starving by now, but then the bikers gang pass me and tell me to ride on. OK, I buy a pack of cookies and a coke and gat back on the bike.

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    The guys seem to have a blast, but I'm just jealous... It doesn't matter the views are amazing and I have no trouble keeping up with them as they're not pushing it. Anyway, they'll have to wait for the pickup to catch up at some point.
    One more pic because it's such a beautiful day.

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    We keep going until they regroup and tell me to go ahead in front. There's a fork in the road, the valley ends in a dead end because of the bloody LoC and the conflict with India. I need to take a side valley that will lead to a pass and a high plateau. At the first village there's a large party going on. I stop to see what's going on. People are a bit surprised to see a foreigner here, but they quickly (as the custom requires) ask me if I want anything to drink. Well yeah, that would be nice.

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    It turns out there's a wedding and the whole village (and more) is invited. They bring me in the shade in a tent and ask a kid to fetch a plate for me.. it's well past lunch time and there are lots of food remaining. And I'm starving, so I'm a happy camper.

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    The kids are running around, it's pretty joyful. I ask to see the groom. He's not so friendly but still makes sure I've had something to eat. I ask if I can make a donation for the newly wed and he says yeah, of course !

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    The road climbs in a very green valley. It's beautiful, much greener.

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    I catch up with the guys who had passed me while I was eating at the wedding, they're having a chai near a tent pitched under big trees.

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    Up the valley there's a police checkpoint where I have to register (like everybody). Then the road gets much steeper, the little bike struggles but keeps going on 2nd gear. Not bad for the altitude, I'm now above 4000m. It gets chilly too, time to put on an extra layer. I cross this very colorful caravan of horses and people from a local tribe, probably Baltis (?). One of the horses flips out and starts to run like crazy, shedding its load on the way, which the guys have to pick up and put on another horse.

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    The road is bad, gavel with fairly big rocks and very steep. I love it.

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    The top of the pass is actually flat, I've reached the Deosai Plains, a high Tibetan-like plateau that reminds me of Ladakh (think Tso Moriri). Immediately after the pass, I'm treated with a fantastic view on Sheosar lake (height: 4140m).

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    Not bad, uh ? I spend some time clicking away until the bikers join up. Lots of selfies and photos, of course. And then the XLV rider decides to go see near the lake. I follow him, but the track is marshy is partially destroyed. I take a detour but I'm quickly stuck in a mud hole. Fortunately, the bike is featherweight, and the seat is low, so I kind of lift it out of the hole and reach the lake shore.

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    Other are less successful and need some help to get unstuck. There's no room for error with a 200 kg bike..

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    It's now pretty late, and still a pretty long way to Skardu.

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    Fortunately there's camp site near the lake. Some guy has rented out the place and pitched a few tents to rent. I ask if I can pitch mine, and he's OK, for a small fee. Plus he can cook tonight. Great.

    The night is freezing but that's not a problem. The thing is, I'm not yet acclimatized and the altitude gain today was extreme: 2500 m difference between Gilgit and here. So I have hard time falling asleep and wake up the next morning with a headache. But no big deal.
  9. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    The night has been pretty cold because there's frost on the bike.

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    But that's OK, the scenery more than makes up for it.

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    After a breakfast I pack my tent take the bad track that crosses the plateau.

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    It's pretty nice but maybe I was expecting too much because I'm a little underwhelmed. Maybe the lack of high summits around me ?

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    Also the road is shite so it's rather slow going with the crappy suspensions.

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    There are no villages, no animals, nothing for miles and miles.

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    I ride for about one hours until I reach another camp near a concrete bridge over a river.

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    There's another camp here where one can sleep and eat. Still more bad road.

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    This is a national park so you're not supposed to get off the road.

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    And another hours of that untilthe end of the plateau and another camp near a bridge.

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    I can still see the remains of an old suspended bridge near the new concrete bridge. That one is significant for me, as I'd seen this iconic photo for a long time, posters hanging un various parts of Pakistan. As soon as I'd seen it, I thought: I need to go there.

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    But unfortunately that bridge is long gone. Adventure out, security in.

    That's the end of the plateau, now comes the precipitous climb down to Skardu.

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    The road is fantastic, though in pretty bad shape.

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    I cross a few jeeps but not many. No bikes at all (the bikers gang rode last night to get to Skardu).

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    The landscape changes radically as I lose altitude. Eventually I reach a reservoir feeding Skardu with fresh water.

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    And I reach Skardu shortly after lunch, I find a very local restaurant that serves me an excellent dal.

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    Skardu has become a fairly big city, spread over many kilometers. There are tons of options as far as hotels are concerned, but I had my idea on where to head for: the PTDC motel, usually not the best choice, but this one is special. That's where most climbing expeditions to K2 and other 8000s start from. Ity's an iconic place and it's got a very special aura. There's even a museum dedicated to the first expedition that submitted K2 (1954). Their rooms are a little out of my price range, even after haggling, but they have a spot of grass where I can pitch my tent. And from there, the views are.. wait for it...

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    .. out of this world. From my tent I've got a much better view than even the best rooms. And I get to use the facilities.

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    Best camping spot in Pakistan. I'll stay a few days here !

  10. DCrider

    DCrider Live from THE Hill

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    Wow!
  11. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    The next day I leave all the bagages at the hotel and go for a ride around Skardu. I take the paved road to Shigar, across the wide Indus valley. There's a small pas and up there is a very nice view on the Shigar valley.

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    Shigar village is known for its fort. It's quite nice, bur transformed into luxury hotel (like many of the forts around here that used to be inhabited by the local prince).

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    Tourists can visit a small part of the fort that's been transformed into a museum.

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    But the garden really stands out. Time for High Tea I guess.

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    In the same village there's also an old wooden mosque, on of the few remaining.

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    Back on the bike, I head for the other side of the Shigar river, through a good concrete bridge. But parallel to it, the former wooden bridge is still intact.

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    On the other side of the bridge, a police checkpoint and a log book. This one must see no tourist at all because it's strictly in urdu.

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    But the cop doesn't read English, so he translates to me the column titles and I fill in my details.

    The road on the other side is only patly paved. Then, unexpectedly...

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    Yeah, sand ! Even some shallow dunes. The small, unladen bike does surprisingly well in these conditions. I even have some pretty good fun.

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    This is across the valley from Skardu. So I have to get back to the other side, using another very nice suspended bridge.

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    You know how much I like bridges.

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    It's one of the last large wooden bridge, that takes cars as well. Most have been replaced by concrete or steel ones.

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    Back to Skardu, I stop at the polo field. They're playing and many people attend. It seems to be pretty popular.

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    Very nice day. Tomorrow is the first day of the rallye, so I'll go and see what's going on.

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    Back at the hotel for a sundowner (of sort). I never got tired of the view.

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  12. 3 bike

    3 bike Adventurer

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    Fantastic report and pictures, It all looks amazing !
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  13. Frank Lammers

    Frank Lammers Adventurer

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    Just one word to describe it: epic! Those changes of scenery and the emptiness of that plateau are just as stunning as those beautiful valleys!
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  14. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    Here's a video of the ride through marshlands to get to lake Shosar. The bike bike were struggling, I came through all right with a bit of a push ont he legs..

  15. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    The next morning I went to the site of the Sarfaranga rallye. Sarfaranga is the name of a small desert-like range between Skardu and Shigar. It's rather small, and I found out that all the racing takes place there. So it's little disappointing because it's basically a big loop that the participants must take several times.

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    The race hasn't started yet, instead I arrive just at the start of the official opening ceremony, with lots of officials and high-ranking army officers. As I look around, I hear something quite unexpected coming up.

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    Yeah, that's marching band playing bagpipe... I guess the British have left quite an impression here. Somebody shows me free chat to sit on.. I'm not into these kind of things but hey, that could be funny.

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    No, in fact it wasn't. Just speeches by the local brass, mostly in Urdu. So off I go, hop on the bike and keep going. The thing is, today is the qualification round. The final will come a couple days later.



    So I head up the Shigar valley, in direction of Askoli, which is as far as one can drive in the direction of K2. That's where
    most treks to K2 start. For those who've been to Nepal and maybe to Everest base camp, that's not like this here at all. The area around K2 isn't inhabited at all. After leaving Askoli, one has to hike one week to get to K2 base camp without crossing any village. This is a much tougher trek, one I would very much like to do but I know it'd be too hard for me and my back. But if I can drive until the last village that's be nice.

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    The first hour or so is OK, then the road turns to a bad double-track.

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    There are some soft sand stretches.

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    Because it's such a difficult ground, the road needs constant repairs. When I rode it there was a tractor clearing up rubbles that had come down the mountain.

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    The
    cars were blocked, but as they saw me coming they quickly leveled a narrow footpath so that I could slip through.

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    The ride is great though. After a couple hours I arrive at a barrier, near a rather large police/army compound. The guys goofing off here show me where I need to show my permit.. of course, I don't have one. The guy I talk to is pretty unpleasant. Fortunately there's a
    Japanese tourist with his guide being processed. The guide translates for me and I find out that one needs not only a permit, but also an official guide to get nay further. Ok... too bad, I'll head back.

    A few klicks back there's a village and there's abridge
    crossing the river. Excellent, I can try and ride up the other valley.

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    So I cross this very fine-looking suspension bridge, and follow a faint double-track to... a
    dead-end. The valley here is very wide and the bridge spans the main part of the river, but there are other smaller rivers that need to be crossed to reach the other side of the valley.

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    All I can see is a rather precarious foot bridge. The water seems a bit too deep so no way to ford it. So what's the point of this large suspended bridge if you can't get any further ?

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    As I walk around trying to make sense of this, a guy comes to me. And... what follows I still can't quite believe after all this time, but do you see where I'm going here ?

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  16. Tikitour

    Tikitour Adventurer

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    Great ride report! But...., "And... what follows I still can't quite believe after all this time, but do you see where I'm going here ?" , your last group of photos don't appear to be loading and now I'm left in suspense.
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  17. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    Hi Laurent, this video seems to be unavailable unfortunately.
  18. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    My bad, it wasn't public. Fixed.
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  19. Asianrider

    Asianrider Been here awhile

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    What, you don't like a cliffhanger at then end of an episode ?

    Now that we binge-watch a whole season at a time on Netflix, we forget how it was to wait one week between each episode... !

    It's coming up, hopefully soon.
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  20. Cobra5150

    Cobra5150 What? Where?

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    This looks like the most dangerous part of your trip so far. I would have camped just a little further from the edge of the cliff. One of those rocks would hurt.

    Great RR!
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