Its been a week of emotions as I reflect on the past and present. The events leading up to the final leg of the silk road in Pakistan were more than I ever expected or dreamed of. How many times people had said NO, it cannot be done. Where it all started even confuses me, just by the title of my blog: Garths Africa. I had no idea I would ever be here, never really thought things thru, calculated the risk or challenges. But here I am !
The difficulties of getting into Iran on a motorcycle, the Iran guide, the visa, insecurity in Pakistan, worries about westerners taken hostage, up to 5 police staying the night at a hotel, escorts to walk down the street... A quick road side stop to add air in a flat tire was an issue, knowing I was not in a place where fixing a flat was an option.
It seems behind me now, in a region of Pakistan where friendly shop owners refuse my money for a coke & chips while I rest from the heat. Pakistan is concerned about there image and is working very hard to change. Police are for my safety , the locals all ask what are my thoughts about Pakistan's. They care and do not support what has happened before and want to show others that its safe to be here. Most westerners would see police escorts as a big problem, but as its often said here: there is no problem , we just want you to be safe !
Taftan is the dirty border town between Iran and Pakistan, comparing it to the border of China in the north cannot be done. Brits, Canadians, and Americans are not allowed on the final leg of the KKH ( Karakum Highway ) the famous highway is one of the worlds highest paved roads linking Asia to Europe and replaces the original Silk Road. It took some begging, diplomacy, senior officers, and refusing to let No be an option but in the end, myself , Dan and Heiko were granted permission to travel the final 50 miles of Pakistan to THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA !
If ever there was a loop to ride, this ride will forever be remembered. The day started at Eagles Nest Hotel in Kirimabad , it over looks mountain peaks exceeding 21000 feet, north of Gilgit , the gateway to K2,
A massive land slide about 5 years ago completely wiped out about 15 k on the KKH . Now the Chinese have partnered with Pakistan to rebuild the highway. Until the road is rebuilt goods to and from China to Pakistan are all loaded from large trucks to small boats. Porters work endlessly unloading trucks into boat after boat, and again back onto trucks 15km later.
The challenge of getting a 200kg bike on and off a small boat was easy in comparison to the river crossings that followed. The KKH will always be in need of repair by the very nature of its location.
In Georgia I met a fellow rider Dan. We enjoyed beers, laughs, fantastic rides, and struggled thru the diplomacy of overland travel. Departing ways in Gilgit, I wanted to travel alone again. It may be a foolish thing traveling alone after the recent river crossings, and police escorts, but I know I will always have a friend close by ...
The loop unlike many rides around Washington State leaves you breathless .. picking up a bike in the river after a ride to 15075 feet ( 4720 meters) is hard work. The past few months of poor diet, and constant moving about, have shed any muscle left on me to nothing. Looking in a mirror I ask what happened ? the skin is hanging off me ...!! I worry the eagles may be looking at me for lunch if I don't start doing some push ups or something...