Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog

Chitral-Gilgit Start
The road turns bad from Booni, 80km from the Shandoor pass.

Again this is another one of those fabled cycling routes that cyclist travel to from all over the world to complete during their summer vacation.
The pass isn't that high at 3720m but it's still a tough climb with over 2200m of climbing to do.
The pass is also famed for having the highest polo ground in the world. In the northern areas of
Pakistan polo is king and the king of all matches takes place every year at the very top of the Shandoor pass between the major towns of Gilgit and Chitral. The Shandoor is a kind of midway point between both towns.
Thousands of locals make it to what is the sporting highlight of the year. Tent villages and rough shod food stalls appear from nowhere to feed the supporters. The polo match is that important even the president (or the next highest ranking official) helicopters in the see the final of the three day event.


Looking Back Down the Chandoor
View back down the Shandoor

After 2 days bed ridden in Chitral I left for the Shandoor pass. I'd been completely wasted in the previous days and even pumping my water filter was hard work. But I'm not one to lay around complaining so I decided to set off for the pass.
But I felt different. Not just weak. My body was aching all over but it also felt like it had somehow changed. I felt as if I'd lost severe weight over the last few days. Not just fat but muscle mass and an incredible amount. It's not good news!
It now feels like the more I cycle the more weight I'm losing, immediately. Like I'm wasting away as I peddle.
It's like when I sit on the toilet with the squits (and I do that often:). I feel that if I stayed there long enough I would eventually shit my whole body out and dissapear down the toilet through my own bumhole....or is that only me who thinks like that?
Anyway....I struggle along and knock off about 80km of steady uphill in decent scenery and settle down for a nights sleep in the only hotel on offer. More crap food for dinner....

Nearing the Shandoor Summit 
Well and truly knackered with 5km to go

Wake and open my bedroom door to find locals praying at my door when I opened it. It's about time the Pakis woke up to who I am I thought....but then I realised it was the only bit of free space available for them to pray:)
Had a big filling breakfast of.....dry bread....and chai and headed off. At least the valley today became more beautiful with some deep gorges and incredibly rough roads. In
India the roads are rough but you get a little break on a patch of tarmac every now and again....not here.

 Shandoor Lake
The Shandoor lake

I foolishly imagine that I'll make it to the pass in one day but die in my tyres at the bottom and again take the only available room. I order everything on the menu, basically dahl, chapatis and chai but it's the worst food I've ever tasted and I throw it out the window in disgust. I need energy so nibble on my dry fruit.

Food Stop on the Shandoor 
Elevensies on the Shandoor

I skip breakfast just because the food is so bad and pig out on dried apricots instead and push on up the 10km up the pass. It's bloody hard and rough and I hardly have the energy to peddle but I have company for 1hr as a little local kid tags along beside me for some fun:)
The views back down the valley are good but not remarkable.
I takes me 3hrs to do the 10km and thats a cycling average of a mere 4.8kmph....too fast:)


Heading to Gilgit
Back on the tarmac heading to Gilgit

At least the pass is awesome and peaceful. It's more like a plataeu than a pass with a big lake and a polo ground. It'd look far better if the clouds would lift!
I find a restaurant and tuck into fried eggs, chapatis and chai....yum yum yum:) before making a move down the other side before the cloud and rain hits. It's a rough old bone shaking desent and I'm cycling against a wall of wind and I only manage a maximun of 27kmph downhill.
Talking of strong wind....I make a good impression on the locals as I literally pass through the villages bottom burping as I go. I'm now a hero in
Pakistan as well as India. My highlight was a child running after me asking my name when at the same moment I ripped one out. The poor guy stopped dead in his tracks with this really strange look on his face.....can't undrstand why? Maybe he was thinking his father can also speak English:)
I happily check into a cheap hotel with edible food:):)

Crystal clear trout infested water on the way to Gilgit.

The next two days are spent pleasantly passing through super friendly Ismali villages. The Ismailis are Muslim but have very liberal beliefs compared to the usual Shia and Sunni muslims. The Ismaili women are very free compared and walk the streets and shout and wave to me as I pass by. It feels good to see them free!
But the whole area is totally peaceful and incredible. The road is now tarmac and I cycle along the most beautiful of rivers to my left, lush farms to my right and high mountains everywhere and for a bonus the kids aren't begging for pens.
My best memories are when two goergeous girls walked out of their home on their way to school and one one them looked at me and said "good morning sir", they both smiled and then carried on their merry little way. Then two small boys were shouting and waving from a nearby field. It just reminded me of me and my bro when we were young:)