Karakoram Highway: Gilgit to Karimabad
We didn't stop to take a picture.
Gerry accidentally broke into a Pakistani military compound today.
This is another one of those stories that sounds like it can't end well...but, hey, I'm writing this blog post, so I suppose that I've already spoiled the ending for you.
Here's the story, Gerry had spotted a deadgoat-like logo on a gate at the side of the road. Understandably, he was eager to take a picture with it. He leaned his bike against the gate, turned toward me, and smiled for the photo. Yielding to the weight of the bike, the gate doors swung open. Inside were some Pakistani army guys (who were rather surprised to see us). Fortunately, the guys were relaxed about it; I guess that they have bigger concerns on their hands than a white dude in spandex.
The riding today was steady climbing through some incredible mountains. The highlight, without a doubt, was rounding a corner to see Rakaposhi. Rakaposhi is a stunning, snow-capped behemoth of a mountain, the sight of which reduced me to nervous giggles. It is so mind-blowingly enormous and beautiful that it was hard to look at. It was as though looking at it caused some kind of physical reaction in me as my mind tried to make sense of how nature could produce something so grand.
A police man, Waseem, befriended us in Karimabad, where we are staying tonight. As a consequence of some communication limitations, he thinks that Gerry has two wives. And, it turns out, he thinks that's pretty awesome.
Waseem was extremely kind with us, helping us find accommodation (for $2/night), taking us for some post-ride chicken soup, some milk tea with a local, and then showing us around town.
After leaving us for a brief rest, Waseem returned to our hotel to take us for dinner with Mr. Foo, who he described as his *best* friend (possible translation issue). Mr Foo is 50 years old and works here as a construction engineer on the Karakoram Highway. We had no language in common, but that didn't stop Mr. Foo from enthusiastically trying to communicate with us. He also showed us some kind of free style karate moves.
Mr. Foo was completely wasted.
Waseem had to keep the intoxicated Mr. Foo in line to keep him out of trouble. He would shout, "Mr. Foo! Hurry up!", "Mr. Foo! Watch out for the car!", and so on.
Another man, Mr. Liu joined us for dinner as well. Mr. Liu is also an engineer on the Karakoram. He spoke english and was not drunk, so we had a chance to learn from him a few things about the chinese works on the highway and the life of a chinese engineer over here.
In a very matter of fact way (ie. not looking for sympathy), Mr. Liu told us about how he has one day off per month (ie. no weekends), during which he is *not* permitted to sightsee (after all, he is there for work, not tourism). After two years of this, he will be entitled to his first holiday allocation, which will last for one month. While he is working in Pakistan, he must stay at a hotel that is exclusively for chinese workers and the pakistani police that are there to supervise and protect them (and, in the case of our police friend, be a companion to them). Outside of the hotel (compound), workers are expected to 'follow the culture', which he says discourages any kind of integration, since it is not precisely clear what that means. What is clear, is that they are here to work. Anything that could be construed as something different is not worth the risk.
Suddenly, Mr. Foo's drunkenness was slightly less hilarious and a lot more sad. It is really sweet that Waseem (who is also probably lonely: away from his family on a remote post) makes the effort to give guys like Mr. Foo companionship and care.