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Current Location : Bangkok, Thailand (Google map)
Last entry date : 06 July 2008

This passenger van did not get lucky in the crossing on this washed out road. There is some water power rushing down.

12/Jun/08 to 15/Jun/08

Pakistan has its hot season in May & June. Even in the northern areas high above sea level, temperature sometimes rises to the 40s °C. On the 2nd day ride down to Gilgit, it was like riding in an open oven. My backside felt like it was being cooked by the vinyl seat while my head inside the helmet was being roasted. My plan, however vague, was to stay for a few days at the Madina guesthouse in Gilgit and make day trips into the surrounding mountain area. Wishful thinking. The baking weather was too hot to sleep. And during the day the best place to be was in the shed and underneath the fan, which was how I spent the next 3 days – just like the locals. “Buy a pair of traditional Pakistan men’s clothes to keep the body cool and breezy” the other travelers kept saying.

Three days later, I headed westwards at 6am following the Gilgit river upstream intending to reach Shandur Pass (3500mtrs above sea level) some 8 hrs ride away. Its up in the plains at Shandur Pass where the famous polo competition takes place in July every year between the towns of Gilgit and Chitral. It’s such a serious rivalry “must see and be there” event for people in the region. At this hour the soldiers who set up roadblocks in the night-time waved me through. Unlike the KK Hunza valley, the Gilgit valley is less abrupt, but still very impressive. I never did make it to Shandur Pass after a petrol station’s pump (whose pressure was unregulated) burst the top seams of the fuel tank. Luckily I found the young mechanic Didar Ali who managed to dismantle and seal it back nicely after an hour’s work. Although Didar did not speak any English, he refused to accept any money for the job saying through his friend translator Raja Abid that I was a guest in his area, and instead offered me a cold drink. I couldn’t thank him enough because it was to me, a major bike problem.

The road follows the river upstream and there were a number of villages located by the river banks. They seemed so peaceful and the villagers are often curious enough to come out to talk to me – like when the men and children at Phander came to visit my campground parked in their scenic peaceful backyard. That evening I had the best sleep in my tent since China.

Food wise its mostly spicy stuff – curry, brayani rice, etc. Most of us travelers use only bottled water to drink and even brush our teeth. The locals have very strong stomach as I’ve seen them drinking straight from the river. On my return the next day to Gilgit, I had my fair share of food poisoning. Surprisingly all travelers I met say its best to just let it out and not take any medication. I spent the next 2 days tossing up in bed and making sure I was not too far from the toilet. One of those things … in life.

Marc de Jong, the Dutch biker, whom I rode with in Iran was on his way up the KK to Gilgit with another biker called Yves Besancon. We agree to meet up here. It was an excuse to stay a while longer than expected while my tummy ache goes away.

It’s a bikers’ and hikers’ world in North Pakistan. In some of the photoshots there are roads or jeep trails running up between the mountains. At the friendly Madina guesthouse (a home away from home) in Gilgit where I stayed a week, I met keen hikers who came from all over to trek and explore the surrounding mountains. They tell of stories of riding in jeeps on clift hanging dirt tracks no larger than the jeeps themselves, joy of long walks in the mountains, camping out with the shepherds, staying at base camps, walking on glaciers, etc … and the scenery. The scenery near the top, everyone said was just awesome. Beats being at work, some added. And I’m lying in bed.

7 Responses to « Along the Karakoram Highway (part 2) – side trip into the Gilgit & Phandar valley  »

  1. j’aurais trop aimé voir tout ça avec toi…C’est magnifique! love, Lydia

  2. finally you are near home,i guess you are on schedule,great picture,nice scene especially the camp,bike with mountain in the back.stay safe .

  3. You got lots more to write than this ….. maybe will tell us more when you are down here. Yeah! you got to beware of all those tasty food along the way! Give us a call when you are nearby.

    Peter

  4. Hi Sheen,

    Looks like a lot of fun. It reminds me of my younger days when I used to play in a river. It’s the best way to cool down. Be careful with what you eat and drink. We are looking forward to the “teh tarik” with you.

    Take care,

    Teresa

  5. Siew Hoon & Victoria7 July 2008 à 1:22 pm

    Hi-Sheen,
    Thanks for the interesting update and beautiful photos. Sorry about the food poisoning; Thank God you recovered well. Soon you will be reunited with Lydia,Jade,Pearl and Gem. Very happy for you all,and also for our family. Take care, and also be careful of what you eat and drink.

  6. You must be in Malaysia by now. YOU DID IT. We are so proud of you 😉 Tu voulais le faire et tu l’as fait, si ca ce nest pas un exemple… On a tous tres hate de te retrouver, en attendant repose toi bien et savoure ton pays. On taime!!!

  7. Eh, not so fast, still in Krabi Thailand. Its so nice here. Should be smiling in M’sia this time tomorrow …

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