Travel story
Stage 11


Khunjerab pass, the highest guarded mountain pass in the world

Great Venture
Great Venture

Entering Pakistan through the Kunjerab pass is ridiculously amazing. Located at about 4693m, it is the highest guarded mountain pass in the world and is quite spectacular, remote, exposed and cold.

Yet, we get the warmest welcoming ever. People everywhere, shouting, dancing, photographers, flags, music, … Just crazy! Are we stranded in some kind of protest or procession?
None of the above. It just appears to be Pakistani hospitality. Apparently, they travel all the way (sometimes for several days) to this border to welcome us, tourists. Pretty cool right? Truly amazing, Pakistan Zindabad!

We now finally ride on the Karakoram Highway, the highest highway in the world! Seeing Pakistani trucks on the road is every time a treat for the eye. They are completely painted and beautifully decorated, have small bells on them, an abundance of auxiliary lights, horns and mirrors, cotton “things” and are always freshly washed! True pieces of art.

Afghanistan around the corner 

Leaving our luggage in Sost, we are ready for a few day trips and explore some side valleys.
With only 30km away from Afghanistan, the remote Chapursan valley in upper Hunza is our first destination. Some call it Chapursan, others Chiporsan or Chopurson valley. I don’t know the name exactly, but the locals either.

Because it’s such an isolated valley, every village has their own language. Most people speak Wakhi. But the villagers of Raminji (only 20km further) have a different religion and language. They speak Burushski and belong to the ismaili sect of Islam. This remoteness results in having a completely different language at the end of the 70km long valley and being unable to understand each other.

We are riding towards the Afghan border and this feels like one of the most remote places I’ve ever been. It’s absolutely stunning and we are surrounded by big, snow topped, glacier coated mountains. The valley is full of surprises, friendly people and different cultures. At the end of it, we are treated with a panoramic view of several +7000m mountains. We are now only 30km away from the Afghan border, and could see the border-ridge, but felt 100% safe. Up to the next valley!

Living under tension 

The Hussaini suspension bridge in Pakistan is considered as one of “the most dangerous” bridges in the world.
It is a very long suspension bridge which has been rebuilt several times due to earthquakes, bad construction and severe weather conditions.
Watch your handholds and steps since this footbridge features unpredictable gaps between the sticks and wooden planks (If they’re still in place) which serve as a makeshift walking path. Yet, this is their daily track to work.

A massive Cathedral 

Going down the Karakoram highway, we pass the Passu Cones, or Passu Cathedral Ridge and it’s just stunning! Several steep, cone-like mountains scratching the sky with their fingers.
But that’s not the only impressive view in Gilgit Baltistan (northern Pakistan).
Gilgit Baltistan holds several of the most dangerous mountain climbs in the world. The region is home to the K2, the second tallest mountain in the world and here, the Himalayas, Karakorum and Hindukush mountain ranges meet each other.
 They hold 5 of the 14 mountains worldwide that break 8000m. Oh, and there are also over 100 “smaller” mountain peaks of 7000m and higher.

Save our friends 

Riding up Shimshal Valley, another hidden and beautiful side valley was a true adventure!
Well… sort of…
We get up early to start the track and arriving at a police checkpoint. There, we see the names of Mark @me_motorcycle_world and Roxy @rtw_roxy in the logbook, they started about one hour earlier so probably we’ll meet them on the track (We crossed China together with them).

Riding into the Valley, we got treated with gravel, spectacular views, loose rock, sand, river crossings and suspension bridges over deep and treacherous canyons. We arrive at a big river crossing and see Roxy, Mark and her Honda Fireblade standing in the river. but why? I’m pretty sure they are not washing the bike.
Roxy’s bike battery died in the middle of the river and they couldn’t get her out… they stood there already for a while, holding it up straight, so were happy to see us.
We help the bike out, cross the river and one by one get stuck at the steep loose and rocky climb just after the river. Several of us fall but luckily (with the help of some locals) we manage to push all the bikes on better ground.

We continue to the end of the valley, have a quick snack and try to fix Roxy’s bike (probably a broken regulator). Luckily Laurin (@twomotorbikes.onedestination) has a spare one. We fit it, bump start the bike and off she goes!
On the way back to civilization, Laurin gets a flat (again) but no worries, some swearing and sweating later, we are back on the road! Unfortunately, Roxy isn’t that lucky since her battery isn’t charging anymore and we need to bump start the bike at least 10 times before it completely gives up. As the night kicks in, having no reception and being quite remote, we decide to park the bike along the narrow track and Daniel (@sdworldtour) gives Roxy a lift back home. We set off in the pitch-black night and ride the last 20km of the narrow dirt-cliff-into-deep-river-track.
At 11:30PM, We finally reach Passu. What a day, what a night, what an adventure!

Skardu's Hell road 

The road towards Skardu is pretty tight and in very, very bad condition. It stretches for about 190km, which would be easily done in 1 day, but after more than six hours we only did 50 km.
Several traffic jams due to the difficult road, big trucks crossing each other, road works and rock blasting transformed this road into a road of hell. A full day of mayhem: dusty, soring hot, hectic, painfully slow and stressful. I didn’t leave empty handed though…

While overtaking a truck, a pothole was deeper than I wanted… Result? Front wheel in the air, my pannier hits the truck and I almost crash against a tree. Luckily the tree and truck were fine. One seam of the pannier tore, but for the rest no damage.

After the last blasting and road clearance of the day, a guy invites us to his home and we happily accept his offer since it was getting late and dark. “It’s only half an hour up the mountains and then we are at my village” he said. Sounds perfect!
We slowly start driving up a steep mountain path, one guy drops the bike, I drop the bike, one girl drops the bike and so on and on… The road is fucking hard, we are tired, dirty and hungry and don’t like it anymore! Our fully loaded bikes are a bit heavier and bigger than the 125cc they are riding on… Eventually we park Sami’s bike (the girl) at the side of the road and she hops on a bypassing 4WD towards the village. After about one hour of hard work, we also arrive, in complete darkness and totally exhausted. Our host felt so sorry for us that he apologized maybe a hundred times! Luckily, he cooked a very delicious meal and the beds were perfect! Tomorrow we need to ride back down though, but that’s worries for later.

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