Cycling on the Roof of Pakistan (part-1)



Before you reach to the destination, you have to face the headache of packing your luggage, making sure all the things are in place, getting on the right transport but they do not always go as expected. Its the test of your psychological strength right at the start of your journey. Like for us, the Journey didn't start as we expected it and we had to face and overcome the unexpected.

Day 1: Lahore - Rawalpindi

Saturday June 15, 2013

It was raining early in the morning when we set off from Lahore. The showers of rain turned out a huge blessing with cool breeze in summer morning. The morale was high, and we quickly finalized our bags and hired a “Ching Chee”, which took us from home to the bus station.

Rainy weather early in the morning
Rainy weather early in the morning
Photo with the "Chang Chee" walla
Photo with the "Chang Chee" walla

The bus station was a mess and bewilderment. It took us a lot of time to ponder and decide what our best option was. We decided to depart immediately without wasting too much time we took bus and thanked Allah and finally the journey had started.

We reached Rawalpindi at 8:30PM and were amazed to see the rush and queue of passengers at the Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) Bus Station. Passengers were rushing and trying to reach Gilgit, Hunza and China. Unfortunately we werenot able to get a seat in any of the buses and spend the night in Islamabad.

NATCO bus stop, Rawalpindi
NATCO bus stop, Rawalpindi
Stood waiting at NATCO bus station
Stood waiting at NATCO bus station

We booked the seats for next day on a coaster which was supposed to leave at 7PM. Islamabad is a peaceful place and we rested there for the  night.

Day 2 - 3: Rawalpindi & Heading towards Gilgit

Sunday June 16, 2013 - Monday JUNE 17, 2013

We choose to travel by bus to Gilgit. Later in the evening when we reached Rawalpindi, we thought we could enjoy the scenic beauty of Islamabad. We had noticed the immense difference between the people of Lahore and Islamabad. People in Islamabad are more content (mellow in speaking, accommodating and friendly) as compared to Lahore. Roads were wide and dainty. We have seen trees grown in both sides of the roads’ shoulders either way from ingress to egress of the highway. This environment creates less and/or nill pollution in Islamabad making it an ideal city of Pakistan.

Fruit shop in Rawalpindi
Fruit shop in Rawalpindi
Colorful shop in Rawalpindi bazar
Colorful shop in Rawalpindi
Famous *Afghani Naan* in Rawalpindi
Famous "Afghani Naan" in Rawalpindi
Beautiful roads of Rawalpindi
Beautiful roads of Rawalpindi

In the evening, we left early for the bus station to arrest the very chance of missing the bus ride. We were finally felt relived when we saw our entire luggage was hooked inside the bus. We were about to start our journey that we have been dreaming about.

Our hearts were pounding as we were approaching the mighty Karakorum Highway (KKH). On the way we enjoyed natural scenery and rocky mountains. We stopped for dinner and Isha prayer near Haripur and started journey again on Karakorum Highway (KKH) in Kohistan District.

The roads were uncrowded, beautiful and green in Kohistan, a welcome change from the heavy traffic of Abbotabad. Fresh air welcomed us when we reached Thakot Bridge. The bridge joins Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with other parts of the country.

Fare list - Rawalpindi to Gilgit (RS: 1650)
Fare list - Rawalpindi to Gilgit (RS: 1650)
Stopped at Haripur for dinner
Stopped at Haripur for dinner
Stopped at Haripur for dinner
Kohistan at dawn

Heartbeats started to count in as we were starting the journey on the Mighty Karakorum or Karakoram Highway (KKH) near Hassan Abdal. The Karakoram Highway traverses to about Twelve (12) Major Towns in Pakistan and Four (4) Towns in China, viz

1. In Pakistan KKH involve the towns of: Besham, Kohistan, Chilas, Gilgit, Parri Bangla, Danyore, Goro, Nagar, Aliabad, Gulmit, Passu and Sost;
2. China KKH comprise the towns of: Tashkurgan, Upal and Kashgar. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is the highest paved international road in the world connecting China and Pakistan across the Karakoram Mountain Ranges through the Khunjerab Pass at an elevation of 4,693 meters (15,397 Ft.). KKH connects China’s Xinjiang Region with Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Regions serving as popular tourist attraction. The highway is adjudged as the 8th Wonder of the World. KKH was started in 1959 and was completed in 1979 and officially opened for public use in 1986. The highway connects the Gilgit-Baltistan Region of Kashmir to the ancient Silk Road that runs approximately 1,300 Kms. (810 miles) from the City of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Region of China then to Abbottabad, Pakistan. An extension of the highway southwest from Abbottabad forms the N-35 then coalesce with the Grand Trunk Road (N-5) at Hassanabdal, Pakistan. The KKH is the informal name of the Karakoram Highway. Officially, KKH is better known as N-35 within Pakistan and the China National Highway 314 (G314) within China.

The notable mountains that can directly be seen while travelling on KKH are, namely:

1. Nanga Parbat at Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan - The 9th Highest Mountain of the world at 8,126 meters in height (26,660 ft.)

2. Rakaposhi at Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan - 27th Highest in the world at 7,788 meters in height (25,551 ft.)

3. Diran at Gilgit-Baltistan , Pakistan – The most dangerous mountain in Pakistan

4. Shishpar at Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

5. Ultar Peak, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

6. Tupodan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – Known as the “Cathedral Peaks” near Passu

7. K-2, World famous 2nd Highest Mountain in the World after Mount Everest

The region includes some of the world’s largest glaciers like the Baltoro Glacier. Five 8th Thousanders of the world (Mountains taller than 8,000 meters or 26,000 ft.) are in Pakistan accessible by the Karakoram Highway (KKH).

Many glaciers can be seen while travelling on KKH, viz:

1. Minapin Glacier

2. Passu Glacier

3. Ghulkin Glacier

4. Khunjerab Glacier.

The need to have a more elaborate description of the Karakoram Higway and the corresponding mountain and glacier landscape picturesque along the highway validates the detailed scenic enumeration of the mountain and glaciers to be encountered while travelling on the KKH highway.

We stopped near Haripur for the dinner and Isha Prayer and moved on KKH in Kohistan it was natural green in geographic landscape beauty . After Abbotabad, vehicular traffic was smooth sailing. Fresh air permeated and welcomed us when we reached Thakot Bridge. This bridge connects Gilgit-Baltistan and NWFP to other parts of the country.

All the buses were convoyed by Police motor vehicles to make sure of the safety of all passengers. Our Long journey in Kohistan came to rest at Dasu, where we stopped for the breakfast.

Kohistan people are known to be unfriendly with tourists. To our minds, we fervently hope some change of attitudes as Kohistan is a dreamland tourist attraction haven of luxurious natural Waterfalls interspersed within and beside the luxuriant green vegetative mountains. One can see the Indus River flowing just by the side of the road. This river is also known as “Shair Dariya” & “The Mighty Indus”. It is the combination of Hunza River, Gilgit River, Khunjrab River and other Nalla’s that join it. Summar Nalla, Khyal Nalla, Dubair Nalla are the main river tributary of the Nalla’s. Nalla is a Cold, Clean water source coming from the Glaciers.

The combination of tall and rugged mountain terrain and its spiral looks are testament to the belt of “palaeozoic rock” that adorn the mountain ranges that within these rock belts lie the “Alluvium” and “Pleistocene” mineral deposits. The rough, rocky elevated mountains runs in perpendicular synergy with the Indus river making a noise like a wild lion being a scary landscape scenery for some people. The turbulent continuous flow of stream from the Indus River seemingly loud resounding music along the mountain slopes in any given moment of the day. There are more than 50,000 pieces of rock art and petroglyphs scattered along KKH that are concentrated at 10 major sites between Hunza and Shatial. The carvings were left by invaders, traders and pilgrims that passed along the trade route as well as by the locals. The earliest of this rock art dates back 5000 BC and 1000 BC showing animals, triangular men and hunting rock sculpture in which the animals are drawn bigger than the hunters. The carvings were packed into the rock with stone tools and are covered by thick patina to display their age.

Thakot Bride, Kohistan
Thakot Bride, Kohistan
Mountain in Kohistan
Mountain in Kohistan
Indus river at Pattan/Komalia
Indus river at Pattan/Komalia
Mysterious
Mysterious
Dasu, Kohistan
Dasu Kohistan

Pakistani Trucks are known in the whole world for their beautiful decoration. Locally, these trucks are called “Jingle Trucks” that provide a lot more pleasant road ride on the Karakoram Highway.

After travelling for almost 18 hours, we finally reached Summar Nalla. Summar Nalla is a joyful place to have a cup of tea. When you travel from Dasu towards Chilas this is the only rest stop in after 57 km. Ride. Summar Nalla considered as a favorite stop for tourists because of the fresh cold water from the glaciers that gives new life in the summer season.

Sumar Nalla, near Shatiyal
Sumar Nalla, near Shatiyal
Sathiyal
Sathiyal
Near Chilas
The enterance gate to Chilas city.

We reached Gilgit at 7:20 PM after more than 24 hours of long distance travel that could easily tear us apart and negate our spirits/motivation. The scenery along the way was too entertaining and it didn’t make us feel bored and weary that finally we reached Gilgit City. We started cycling from the Gilgit bus station en route to our hotel. This experience, somehow had been our privileged first pleasures of cycling in this remote area. Nothing much happened after we reached our hotel as we retired in deep slumber.

Trucks on KKH
Trucks on KKH
Flat tyre on KKH
Flat Tyre on KKH
Somewhere on KKH "a spring"

Read Next ...


"Cycling on the Roof of Pakistan"(PART-i (Introduction)  PART-1 / PART-2 / PART-3 / PART-4 / PART-5)
- Content and Photos by Author..

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