Thursday, October 22, 2009
Skardu is in a basin surrounded by 360 degrees panorama of snowy peaks, wide gorges and The Indus river. Wow! This is way different to hot Punjab in south, in fact is totally different to anything we came across on this trip. The locals looks more like Tibetans or Chinese, the landscape is picturesque and climate chilly. People speaks local dialects, they appear to be more indifferent when they see white faces like us, but never less warm-hearted when we approach them. From this perfect starting spot we decided to cycle to Gilgit and then possibly higher north.
Just that I'm not all right. I woke up with sever sour throat, headache and running nose, nothing pleasant for biking in chilly air and up and down roads. But the surroundings are so extraordinary that I refuse to take a bus or pick up! I'd rather push the sickness aside and cycle it all. Easier said than done, but eventually I managed! Every climb I sweat like a pig, just to dress rigorously on the top and slide down cutting trough the cold air. Today we will do even less km than yesterday, but surprisingly is not just due to me -Dusan is in heaven and his camera too. (I hope you too -pictures will come soon) We found another superb camping spot -this time close to Indus, with hot spring pouring out of the rocks and magnificent peaks all around us.
Last day to Gilgit is like hell for me. My body is searching for the last bits of energy left somewhere... I don't even know where... coughing, sneezing and marveling at the sheer beauty around me. We reached the junction with KKH (Karakoram highway) and pushed the pedals to the regional capital of Gilgit.
The town is big and looks wild . We found the "bibles" no 1 hotel Medina and there I went straight to bed... waking up the next day with the worst sickness I can recall in recent past. Well but still the cycling was worth it, now I will rest and get well. In the mean time the lads can explore the surroundings -this will occupy them for a while so nobody minds that I'm stuck here for a while!
Guys planned to go hiking for 3 days, but Dusan woke up with sever sore muscles ofter their one day trip to 700 years old Buddha carvings in a near by rock face. So now we are two lying in the bed. The other two went for the hiking with one day delay... over all Gilgit is something like our base for almost a week... hopefully we recover fully! Back to our strength and lets go tackle the 4700m Khunjerab pass!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Train journey was an adventure on its own. We stirred some dust on the train station with our oversize bikes, trying to load the panniers together with bikes to the luggage wagon, but failed, so dragging them to the other side of the train, locate our seats, just to find out that they were taken, so politely kicking out the unlucky passengers, all this in hot and humid and jammed wagon. But eventually -as usually- we got what we wanted and managed to sleep for most of the night.
After the Multan police terror, we were fearing the worst in recent-terrorist-attacked Rawalpindi, but suffered a bit of a shock when we found our selves alone and could leave the station without the Kalashnikov guys! Wow! Freedom again! Cycling to Islamabad was short but the longest in Pakistan without escort. There we found a nice Rose & Jasmin garden where we could pitch our tents and go to find out how is it with our Burmese visas...
Now we are just waiting and chillin in the garden, thoroughly planing our Karakorum trip to the north. There are few other cyclists who came from Kirghistan and China, so they have all the valuable information about the must-to-do highway in Pakistan.
Velkorysy pani policajti nam velmi jednoznacne naznacili, ze dalsiu noc uz by sme mali stravit niekde inde. Napriek tomu, ze Janci s Arjanom boli schopny pokracovat na bycikloch, museli sme si "z bezpecnostnych dovodov" do Ziaratu vziat pick-up vsetci pospolu. V horuckach, totalne vystaveny, natisany na korbe drziac sa cohokolvek sme dorazili do horskej dedinky Ziarat, kde nas cakali tri dni vyzdravovania.
Na treti den uz vsetko vyzeralo fajn a teda ze pokracujeme. Po par kilometroch sa mi vsak vratili teploty a po chvili navaly horka zacali striedat triasky - zle nedobre. Dalsia noc na zaprasenej zemi policajnej stanice (noclahy v hoteloch a volny pohyb nam boli nekompromisne zamietnute) len zhorsila moj stav. Slapanie v horuckach uz malo naozaj velmi daleko od nejakeho radostneho putovania. Poslednou bodku v tomto nestatnom useku nasej cesty mal stupidny policajny prikaz. V dedinke Mekhtar sme sa usadili na zemi ako tak na noclah vhodnej restauracie. Nasadil som Paralen a jedine, co mi chybalo k prezitiu noci bol pokoj. Asi po hodine sa prepoteny v spacaku prebudzam na hluk diskusie medzi mojimi companieros a policajtmi, ktory trvali na tom, ze sa musime presunut na ich bohumily stanicu - tak znie prikaz od nadriadenych, ktory si sedia niekde stovky kilometrov daleko. Po dvoch hodinach neprestrelnych argumentoch sme donuteni k presunu. Stanica ako inak spinava a zaprasena.. Nocujem teda aj s na prach alergickym Jancim na korbe policajneho nakladiaku. V najhorsej noci nasej vypravy, v dedinke do ktorej a z ktorej vedu len prasne cesty sa po prvy krat zdavam a na druhy den nasadam na autobus do asi 250 km vzdialeneho Multanu, kde konecne sa odovzdam do ruk doktora.
Doprovod mi robi svajciar David, ktory je na tom len o nieco lepsie ako ja. Zvysok nasej patice sa nepodava a pokracuje na bycikloch.
Pred mestom DG Khan nas z autobusu necakane vytahuju policajti a ze vraj do Multanu uz musime len v doprovode eskorty. Od toho momentu nas uz policajti nespustaju z oci a obaja sa ocitame v "bezpecnom zajati". Do Multanu dorazame v noci. Hladame volny hotel, no vzdy ked policajny nakladiak zastavi priamo pred hlavnym vchodom a vyruti sa z neho banda ozbrojencov doprevadzajuca dve doslova blede tvare, odpoved z recepcie je jasna - "Sme plne obsadeni..". Nejakym zazrakom sa asi na siedmy pokus ubytujeme a rano vyrazam za najvacsim dobrodruzstvom tychto dni - do nemocnice. Nuveritelne rusna nemocnica sa stava este rusnejsou ked sa tam zrazu zjavi beloch v doprovode patice chlapov vyzbrojenych kalasnikovmi. Ked doktorovi, ktory sa so mnou bavi ako s prezidentom vysvetlujem, ze posledny tyzden nevidim ziaden rozdiel medzi tym co zo mna vychadza pri velkej resp. malej potrebe, nasadzuje mi injekcne antibiotika. Postupujeme do miestnosti na to urcenej, kde sa ma sestra pyta taku cudnu vetu: "Want you share your bed?" A teda, ze preco nie. Ja som za kazdu srandu.. Usadzaju ma na postel, kde v ubohej polohe lezi niekto s infuziou v zile. Na posteli oproti stvorica chlapov pacifikuje niekoho v brutalnom zachvate, do toho stale prinasaju a odnasaju ludi na posteli v najzufalejsich stavoch.. Snazim sa neznepokojovat horucou atmosferou, no i tak pocitam kazdu kvapku mediciny, ktora z flasticky nado mnou prudi priamo do mojich zil..
Jedine, co mi tu polhodinu na nemocnicnej posteli premielalo hlavou bolo obrovske stastie, ktore sa ukryva v nasom obvykle dobrom zdravotnom stave. Nuz ale clovek je tvor nespokojny a k stastiu mu vzdy tak trosku nieco chyba. A tak i ja sa tesim na to, kedy to uz bude cele za mnou a zacneme opat slapat do pedalov.
Na druhy den uz doraza, v policajnom aute samozrejme, predcasne z cesty stiahnuty zvysok patice. V pondelok poobede, vsetci dostatocne zotaveny vyrazame do severneho Islamabadu - vlakom. Dva-tri dni vizove formality a vyzvedy o bezpecnostnej situacii na Karakoram Highway. Iste je zatial len to, ze nemaly usek bude v autobuse..
Taky je veru nas Pakistan - viacmenej autobuso - vlakovo - eskortovy.. No stale neuveritelne zaujimavy!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Surprisingly getting the police escort to supervise us trough Baluchistan was smooth and easy. Riding on the famous Pakistan roads is a different story... and having a 24/7 police control is nothing of our interests. We are all very independent and pretty skilled travellers so having a babysitters all day long is quite annoying... but we tried to find advantages in this situation and the breathtaking scenery of wild Pakistan mountains is substituting all the disadvantages of our dear new friends... and there are plenty of them.
Just to get out of Quetta we had 4 different police cars driving with us literally from one major intersection to the other one... Few kilometers out of the city and we are testing our bikes: gravel road and dusty fields. Riding time is slow not just because of truly off road riding but also due to our individual needs. Picture here, pi break there... plus David seems like he caught some bad diarrhea in Quetta. All this caused that our original plan to reach Ziarat (only 90 km) failed and we had to stay over night in a very small village somewhere in the middle. Police gave us shelter on their filthy station, that was nice from them, but the food supplies were limited to one very suspicious tea house serving some food and shops with snacks. We were hoping to hitch a truck and get to Ziarat, but again failed... so OK, lets stay at the police station. In the evening we went to paint the "town" red and went for the dinner. This turned out to be the biggest mistakes of the entire journey...
The next morning more than half of our 5CC i.e. "five cyclists crew" woke up, or better to say finally saw the dawn of the day, into a nightmare. Dusan, Kevin and of course David have had a sleepless night, changing patrol each half an hour or so... Why? Their bowels urged them to do so. When I saw them in the morning I hardly recognized them, they were bleak and weak. Diarrhea completely exhausted them. Since there is no toilet in the police station, I suppose the area around must have changed into a dangerous mind field. Me and Arjan wanted to cycle to Ziarat and meet the sick there, but the police had a different idea about it all and jammed us all into a small pick up truck -five bicycles, 30 pieces of luggage, us five plus police man plus driver and for short while one other passenger -Pakistan no problem!
In Ziarat we were lucky to find a very reasonable refugee hut -the most important facility -the toilet- was right next to our rooms and the garden was nice for chill out. Just before the night came I felt a strong urge to go to The Room and hoops, I got it as well. What followed was hell on earth. Strong bone aches, cool chills interchanged by hot showers of sweat and of course fairly constant intervals of complete dehydration trough the buttocks hole! In the middle of the night the difference between the urine and the excrement was just the smell... So for the next two days we were all out of order. Surprisingly just Arjan survived. Between the rest of us there was quite a difference in timing of the inevitable, but eventually all of us got into the same horrible stage, only one miraculously escaped the evil bacteria that puts even the strong travelers to their knees... or squats...
After 3 days we started to be quite sick of just lying around so we set off. Still not perfectly fit, but eager to cycle. The 90 km from Ziarat to Loralai were spectacular -Junipers forest and rocky terrain resembled Jurassic era, the trees are dating some 2000 years but they are just few meters high. Fortunately it was mostly down hill otherwise we would not make it since our bodies are still very weak -well no wonder! We had completely evacuated our intestines and didn't have enough time to replace the fillings... In Loralai the police told us we have to stay in the police station because is allegedly too dangerous to stay in a hotel. There is nothing we can do about it, but we are convinced that the next night we will just directly go to a hotel... ha! how naive we are, we'll find out soon.
From Loralai we kept on cycling east, but Dusan is getting back to pretty severe stage -it was far too early for him to set off from Ziarat. The rest of us are not overenthusiastic, I still can't eat properly and what's coming out of me doesn't look to healthy either, but generally I'm fine. But Dusan is really having a long lasting nightmare. 6 days of strong diarrhea can be very dangerous. We have to stop in a small town. The gravel road shows that this is again just a pothole place. We checked in a hotel -well sort of a hotel, its just a room next to dirty toilets adjacent to restaurant for truck drivers -the price is funny 30 rupees ( 30 cents), but its really just a emergency shelter. Unfortunately the local police chief is blindly obeying his duty and that's too bad for us. His commander gave him an order that we have to stay at the police station and there is nothing what we can do about it. We have very sick person who is already lying in a bed and needs to rest, but no! we have to move him to a dusty police station on the other side of the town -it took us two hours of arguing and we would have achieved much more if we would have talked to a white wall than to these simple people. So we move the convoy and spend the night on the back of a pick up truck because the room is way too dusty.
We are bit fed up with our police guards, so next morning we ignore them quite significantly. Dusan and David are taking a bus to Multan, Dusan needs to see a doctor, the rest will meet them there in 3 days. So Me, Arjan and Kevin are still heading eastwards quite enthusiastically... not knowing what's ahead of us.
The gravel road didn't end few kilometers after the town as we were assuming, it didn't end after the strenuous climb that followed... no... it changed into the dustiest ride we ever encountered. I had to put on my mouth filter, because each time when a truck passed us we were lost in clouds of dust so thick that couple times I had to stop to avoid falling down from the bike since I couldn't see anything. It was hot, It was dry, It was bumpy and few times we found ourselves in a dust twisters. Eventually it took us almost all day to conquer 40 km of real off road riding. Interesting, but much welcomed was that my wheel survived... during the whole bouncing ride this cheap Iranian back wheel did a very good job, but right after we got on a good asphalt surface, just 2 km before Kingri I got another flat tire -I lost the count by now... This time we wanted to stay in the police station in the town, since we didn't have any energy left to continue, but no, the police are just doing exactly the opposite what we would like to... fortunately this time they saved us from a big hassle and allowed us to stay there.
The next day we planned to cover 150 km all the way to DG Khan so we woke up early and rode constantly... The landscape here is beautiful, probably the greenest since west Turkey so we were really enjoying the ride. Our police "friends" started to be much more sloppy and there were few miles that we drove without any escort. Yes! This is freedom... from Rakni climbing up to a mountain pass in 1800m and than down in definitely the most scenic gorge and valley I have ever seen, totally free... fresh air, loose from the guards and unbelievable views drove us to an edge of sanity, I felt like drunk from all the beauty around me. So when on the other side of the mountains an Elite police escort waited for us we didn't mind. They drove us all the way to Multan, because due to security reasons no foreigner can stay in DG Khan -Pakistan has its nuclear weapon factory there... we didn't mind at least they saved us a full day cycling in humid, hot and flat Punjab. Right at the foot of the mountains the climate changed dramatically. It will take me few days to adjust, but that' fine.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Z Persepolisu sme si k severu stopli nakladiak, co sa neobislo bez dalsieho sklamania. Panko sofer sa od nas snazil za svoju velkorisost vymamit asi desatnasobok standardnej sumy.. Bola by to veru smutna spomienka na iransku pohostinnost. Nasledujuce udalosti vsak nastastie napravili nasu mienku o velkodusnosti Perzanov.
Pred prichodom do Yazdu nas trochu prekvapilo asi 50 km puste. Kolesa akoby sa lepili na rozpaleny asfalt tiahnuci sa suchou krajinou niekam do nekonecna, vody malo, sklamani z dalsieho pokusu o okradnutie, defekt.. No nic moc, veru. V tom zrazu pred nami stoji auto a pri nom usmievavy chlapik. Caj, igelitka stavnateho hrozna, usmevy..
Potom ako sme dorazili na okraj pustatiny, dostavam na benzinke dalsi defekt, nezalepitelny. Menim dusu, no postradam odtahovac ventilkov, ktory som si zabudol v Esfahane.. Vsimol si to panko, ktory bez opytania nasada na motorku a po chvili prinasa presne to, co potrebujem. Na nic sa nepyta, len daruje.
Ceresnickou na torte iranskej pohostinnosti toho dna bol nakladiak, ktory nam na znamenie spomalil a dovolil sa zan zahaknut. Zvecerievalo sa a my sme potrebovali prekrocit hory, za ktorymi bola voda. Bez jeho pomoci to bolo bez nadejne. To, co sme vsak doteraz nezazili bolo, ze nas vzdy po kazdom kratkom zjazde (v ktorom sme sa ho vzdy pustili) v horskom terene cakal, aby nas mohol vytiahnut do dalsieho stupaka. Nakoniec v sedle snad tritisic metrov nad morom len zatrubil a zmizol. Akoby sa zrazu vytratila vila, ktorej sme chceli podakovat za to, ze nas previedla cez tmavy les..
Komfortne sme si zjazdili no podhorskej dedinky a v orechovom sade reflektovali posledne celodenne cykloputovanie v Irane. Povestna iranska pohostinnost, budis zachranena!
Na druhy den nam zostalo uz len par prijemnych kilometrov do hlineneho Yazdu, kde sa opat stretavame s irsko-svajciarsko-holandskou trojicou cyklistov putujucich nasim smerom. Podla ich slov nie je mozne k pakistanskym hraniciam byciklovat a tak pekne pospolu nasadame na autobus, ktory na hranici menime za dalsi iduci az do pakistanskej Quety. 1500 km pustou krajinou nas teda vsakovake okolnosti prinutili "blafovat", no nevadi, neprisli sme si tu nic dokazovat.
Sme teda v Quete, kde sme mali na vyber z dvoch moznosti. Budto si vziat vlak/autobus na menej zaujimavy juh, odkial sa da pokracovat na bycikli alebo poziadat o vojensky doprovod na 500 km prechod krasnym horskym terenom. Zda sa, ze sme Allahovi sympaticki - dnes rano nam bolo vyhovene v ziadosti o pridelenie eskorty a tak v sobotu rano opustame tento ostrov relativneho pokoja v nepokojnom Baluchistane, smer vychod.
Opat som to trosku pretiahol, no pre tych, co to vydrzali az potialto este par riadkov o prvych dojmoch z Pakistanu. V prvom rade neuveritelna spina - vsade:) To, co v ukryvame na skladky, lejeme do podzemnej kanalizacie je tu neustale na ociach. Niezeby som to u nas doma nejako postradal, no posobi to akosi prirodzenejsie.. I ten neuveritelny hurhaj je akysi iny nez ten bratislavsky, no objektivnejsi budeme po par tyzdnoch.. Okrem tychto menej prijemnych realii sme vsak nadseni zivotom prekypujucimi ulicami. Obrovska zmena oproti ustrachanemu Iranu. Na kazdom kroku niekto nieco predava, vyraba, opravuje, vari.. Neuveritelne pestry vyber jedal, napojov - vsetko podavane s usmevom a navyse za symbolicke ceny. Celkova atmosfera je fascinujuca. Zasiahlo nas to natolko, ze sme sa rozhodli trochu poupravit povodny plan. Co najrychlejsi prechod Pakistanom menime za zachadzku do kralovstva horskej cyklistiky - .. Ale o tom na buduce.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
After really relaxing days in Yazd we were ready for some bus overdose. First we took overnight bus to Zahedan. This was quite pleasant, the Iranian transport is very luxurious. The morning in the Border town was still pretty Iranian like even though the people's faces changed quite a bit, the landscape even more. This is pure dead land of rocks and sand. The people live here just from trade I guess. We took a share pick up truck to the border. There we had a brief introduction into Pakistani bureaucracy -just to tune us in for the following month. This is an ex-British colony and the Britons did leave some fingerprints here -one is their paper work!!!
Than some more busing. Another 14 h over the flat hot desert, the last bit was extra bumpy so this time we didn't sleep so well. First we were wondering why it takes the same time as in Iran, but the distance is almost halved? Well we've forgot to input the Asian factor: praying and police check... at least each half an hour we stopped for one of those... 5 am in Quetta was a shock but everybody was too tired realize it. The next day we got it in full power. So far we have been moving forward very slowly, step by step, or push by push, but this time we jumped a good 1500km eastwards and the change was more dramatic than anyone of us could imagine. Dirt, chaos, smog and stench. Oh is that really a sour floating down the street? Rubbish, cats and bagging kids! But wow nobody is harassing us as much as the Persian did!
Our plan is to get a permit to cycle from Quetta to Mulat via Ziarat and Mularay... everybody is saying that we'll need an escort so we are not really hoping to be successful, but let's give it a shot. The authorities are very relaxed as well as serious and accurate. Where will you stay? How many km you can do in a day? Be aware that's a hilly region... but yeah, we will issue the permit and provide you with a police escort and all of this for free!!! WoW and WoW. This is how they treat tourists here? That's nice! We all agreed that in Europe they would just simply say NO, you can't do that, take a bus, full stop.
So now we have two more days to explore Quetta. OK. Let's go shopping... so we all bought the local outfit. It's comfy and the people do give us a bit more slack, we don't shine like freshly arrived tourists anymore. Have a look and give feedback please.