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Pakistan: Crossing Borders

Need some salt? 

Great Venture
Great Venture

On my way to the Indian border I ran out of salt so decided to top up my shaker with some fresh stuff. The second biggest salt mine in the world is located in Pakistan and famous for its pink Himalayan salt. It produces more than 350.000.000 kg per annum, which should be enough to refill my shaker. There are 19 stories, which extend to about 730 m inside the mountain and the tunnels cover more than 40 km. They estimate that there is still 100 to 600 million tons available to mine. Enough to salt our fries and dinners for a couple of years more.

The mine includes a replica of Minar-e-Pakistan (a statue of Allama Iqbal), a model of the Great Wall of China, a mosque and another of the mall road in Murree
Having enough fantasies of salted food, I headed to Lahore, the capital of Punjab, second largest city of Pakistan and gastronomy hotspot. It’s full of tiny crowded streets, hectic traffic, a long (and bloody) religious history and amazing Punjabi food.

The Badshahi Mosque or (Imperial Mosque) is the largest Mughal era masjid (or mosque). It is Lahore’s most iconic place and was built in 1671 by Emperor Aurangzeb. After the fall of the Mughal era it was used as a garrison by the Sikh empire and after that the British Empire used it too for military purposes. A lot of souls rest here…

Eating my last Halwa Puri and drinking the best Lassie (with Amazing fresh “yoghurt-crust” on top, I head towards the famous Pakistani – Indian border.

Pakistan and India: friend and enemy

Crossing Pakistan to India (Wagah border) is probably the most epic border crossing in the whole universe. This border closing ceremony happens every day and is eccentrically amazing to see. Lowering the flags at the Attari-Wagah border is a daily military practice that the security forces of India and Pakistan have jointly followed since 1959.
The drill is characterized by rapid dance like manoeuvres, raising legs as high as possible as some kind of battle, and showing off their big mustaches. It is some kind of symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, but also their brotherhood and cooperation between the two nations. Pretty interesting to see these two “friends & enemy” competing with each other.

Walking back to my motorcycle, I come across a familiar bike: Roxies Fireblade! I wait for her and we ride into the night towards the next city. Barely hitting the usual cow on the highway and dodging dusty potholes, we make it safely to Amritsar.

The holiest place in India

The golden temple (or Harmandir Sahib) is the holiest “Gurdwara” and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism people. It’s an open house of worship and all people can visit freely, get a free meal or sleeping place.
Over 100.000 people visit the shrine daily (day and night). People come here to relax, pray, take a bath in the water, have some dinner, sleep, volunteer or talk with others. My “evening visit” evolved to a night visit with food, amazing talks with locals and meeting new people. A real spiritual and inspiring place!

Belgians and their beer

After the hard and strenuous task of a Belgian and his beers, being sober for more than a month in Pakistan (a strict Muslim country) is quite a test of endurance. Entering India resulted in a hunt for the first beers to drink.
A microbrewery in town fulfilled all my wishes resulting in an amazing spectacle of beer tasting, burgers and being prematurely drunk, with absolutely no regrets.
 I must say, they had some really good beers!

The worst day dropping bikes

I meet up with to Germans, Jessi and Mo, who were also traveling by Motorbike (two up) and we decide to team up for a couple of days. We planned a trip in Killar to drive one of the worlds most crazy roads: the Killar-Kistwar road which is supposed to be carved out of near vertical rock cliffs, spectacular views, river crossings, mud passages and even riding under a waterfall, Let’s see how that works out!

We start with some unforeseen events just under the Sash mountain pass. It was closed due to recent snowfall and bribing the military checkpoint didn’t work either. Moderately annoyed with the current situation we decide to go back, around and start from Kishtwar and drive towards Killar to eventually cross the Rothang Pass.

Riding towards the Kishtwar-Killar road and valley is absolutely amazing! Colder climate and green valleys welcome us. We drive through the Muslim region of India (north west), which reminded me of Pakistan but with a little grim appearance. After all, the Indian government doesn’t really like Muslims, which results in an abundance of military in the region and a suppressed feeling.

.As we start the second day, the views and valleys become more spectacular and impressive. Snow capped mountains and steep valleys emerge. Due to construction works on the road (explosive blasting) we need to wait about 3 hours and lost a significant amount of time that day. Combine this with some serious rainfall from the previous days and you have an awesome (but painstakingly slow) off road tracks!

Mo and Jessi are riding two-up on their Teneré 750 and as you can imagine, paddling through the mud and river crossings is not easy… Not at all.

The sun is slowly setting and so is Mo’s energy. For a long time, we end up riding in the dark on this gnarly road with a sheer cliff next to you, riding under waterfalls, avoiding potholes or even just trying to stay upright.

Stalling, dropping and trying to restart the bike countless times couldn’t last. Mo’s bike battery died completely and we end up pushing his bike with 5 other locals to the next settlement for road construction workers. Since there are no hotels around, nobody speaking English, no place to set up our tents and it is cold and dark, we end up asking the workers for accommodation but no luck. Fortunately a super friendly guy eventually gives us shelter and serves us some delicious rice with dhal.

It has been a tough day…. Mo and Jessi were completely exhausted and quite done with it. Jessi actually had a bit of a mental breakdown and didn’t talk nor sleep that whole night… As the night continues, I talk a bit with Mo and try to calm him so he can catch a bit of well needed rest. The track is definitely not over yet…

The next day goes luckily quite reasonable. Jessi got through it and Mo could recover a bit. The road conditions are way better and the sun is shining! Unfortunately, Mo’s carburetor is starting to play up a bit but we can happily make it to Killar. A proper rest day and fixing the bikes is what we all desperately need!

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