Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Karakoram Highway - Paris to Islamabad

It was a few years ago when Gerry first asked me if I would like to do a ride with him in Pakistan. At the time, it was an area about which I knew very little. It was also an area of the world that was not exactly on the top of my wish list for tourism. And, anyhow, my schedule didn't permit for such an excursion.

"Sure, but not now", I told him.

Gerry brought it up a few more times; clearly this was stuck in his mind. But I always found a reason why I couldn't go. Then, in February, he asked again and I could think of no reason to decline. The wheels were finally set in motion to make his dream trip a reality.

Though we have done very little by way of precise planning, this trip required a significant amount of lead time - mostly to coordinate obtaining new passports and visas (for pakistan and china) amid frequent travel schedules for both of us. But we made it work.


I united with Gerry (who was coming from Calgary) in Doha, where we were scheduled to take the same flight to Islamabad.

Our flight was delayed, which gave us time to purchase a fake wedding ring (aka sexual harassment deterrent) at a small shop in the airport. I felt a bit stupid because I didn't know which hand it was supposed to go on, but Gerry helped me with that. I would say that my purchase would rank as the fastest wedding ring purchase ever (it took longer to pay for it than to find it).


With our 4am arrival time, we decided to take a rest day before riding - to get the bikes and our heads together (Gerry took the Project Manager position to which he is accustomed).

It is Sunday, which means that almost everything is closed here. So, the afternoon consisted walking over to 'the mall' (ie. A bunch of small shops surrounding a parking lot) in the blazing daytime heat and ate lunch while watching a team of guys do some welding and construction work under conditions that would definitely not meet the safety standards of any western country.

Seeing that we were sweating in the shade, our water brought over a fan, which he connected to some kind of electricity source (illegal?) By cutting the cord with his teeth and connecting the wires to some wires hanging out of a concrete wall. It was very sweet.

Oh, and I received my first lesson in Pakistani cuisine; 'a little bit spicy' means really freaking spicy. I think that I'm going to like this place! Until, of course, I get sick...

We celebrated the start of our long awaited adventure with dinner in the Margalla hills, which overlook the city. It is cool and lovely up here, overlooking the lights of the city and enjoying some pakistani music. It seems like the thing to do on a sunday night in Islamabad.


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