Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Cycling to Asia, week 15
Why? Why do people willingly undertake such hardship as: long train trips, discomfort in buses, food poisoning, almost a heatstroke from hot weather, catching flue in cold mountains, diarrhea, fever, dirt everywhere, fatigue etc just to see something or in the better case experience other things? Yes, the nature can be beautiful and calming. The cities are just the opposite. Is that temple worth it? Or is it the ancient statue? All is just impermanent peaces of stones or bricks... But I like it!!!
No, no traveling is awesome. The experiences are useful, knowing the cultures as well -just that the side effects can be shocking sometimes longlasting. After severe cold that took 8 days to get back most of my previous strength we finally left Gilgit. I still didn't feel much like cycling but I really had enough of lying around. We took a bus to Sost -just 80 km from the Chinese border. A journey in a small overcrowded peace of junk on the "best quality" gravel road is unforgettable -specially when it stretch from original 8 hours to 10 hours... The sardines in tin have better conditions... Sost is 2700 m high which is obvious from the first moment you stretch your legs from the bus. Cold and hostile -this was probably just due to another power cut, but still. Cold hotel room and freezing water -what can beat this?
Kevin and Arjan likes challenges so they decided to finish the whole KKH and cycle to the Khunjerab pass. Just a 80 km of pushing the pedals up the hill all the way to 4700m. Nothing for us. Me and Dusan don't have to experience everything. Riding down to the south is good enough. Finally just us two. Lads were fine, but riding in two and riding in four or five is another story. Well and me and Dusan got pretty well together... some easy riding followed. Except the first day form Sost. The sun didn't show up. The frost everywhere is real and the barren landscape around makes the whole scenery quite hostile. There are no trees just rocky slopes and gravel road, together with the wind it's a survival riding -OK, OK, with little bit of exaggeration. My sore throat doesn't help. The cold is sheer. I enjoy that, never less.
The next days changed a lot. Simply add a sunshine and you can cut the happiness from our faces. We ride trough the heart of Hunza valley -easily background for paradise stories. Autumn colored the whole scenery with extravagant colors. Sun pleasantly warms us up. The peaks are covered with white toppings. The sky is turquoise and the KKH is excellent cycle path (but horrible road if you plan to drive trough). We stop on every turning and take pictures of every valley. World like from a fairy tale is obvious statement, but I can't avoid it.
We camped in Aliabad, with the view of majestic Rakaposhi (7700m). The night is "fresh", but our gear is good enough. Minimalism is extremism. Not recommended!
More relaxed riding probably doesn't exist. The road copies the river, goes up and down, turns left and right and what's quite appropriated by us goes mostly downhill. But still we hardly do 50km a day! Record is just 28km. What can you do if it's so immensely beautiful? The only "problem" is hot water. After 4 days of cycling shower would be nice, but if there is no electricity then there is no hot water. Simple but cruel. Our saviors are local barbers. They always have hammam -nothing like the Turkish ones, but gooood enough for sweaty frozen riders.
Back to Gilgit, booking the bus ticket to Rawalpindi and hurray for souvenir shopping. Blankets, local hats, scarfs... beautiful stuff.
Next day another suffering bus ride. Nothing compared to the one we undertake to get up here, but still an experience. Totally jammed bus seemed like the only connection to Pindi -the driver stopped to pick up almost everybody, during few hours we ended up 4 on seats for 2 and a kid in European standards. How naive we were when we trusted the ticket seller, who promised that it will be just for us... lol! The bus averages 20km/h -bit better then bicycle... this can be understood since the road goes trough the highest mountain range in the world... Sounds good, ini? Not for Dusan who spent half of the journey with his head out of the window leaving the content of his stomach as a trace behind us. Somehow I did manage to sleep -how? Even I don't know. We were pretty chewed up when we got out, just able to ride to Islamabad and get some sleep in the Rose&Jasmin camping. All this just to get our Myanmar visas and get to India.
So you can imagine our disappointment when we got the the embassy. Eager to apply for our 3 month visas, suffered a shock after meeting the Ambassador. With all the respect a typical example of bureaucratic puppet. We have send him all the required documents from Gilgit, to speed up the process of application. All for nothing, since he didn't process our documents, basically didn't do anything -just because he didn't have our original passports. By the way he is not going to send them anywhere, or do anything else than stick the visas in them. Now when he has them he can send our documents to Burma and wait till they reply. This will take at least one week... HURRAY! What shell we do in this boring modern capital?
I let you know.
Posted by janči just a traveler