Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog

Back Down the KKH

I woke early tired in a cold and miserable if this place could be any different?
I packed my things looking forward to the luxury of heading downhill for the next few days. But it ain't exactly inviting outside! The snow seems lower than ever, it's cold and it's cloudy and if it started to rain it would be just like England:)
Sost is a strange place. It's here simply for doing what little business there is to be had with China. It's full of shacks, shacks serving dodgy food, shacks giving dirty shelter to the dirty Chinese and shacks selling the same Chinese crap as in every other shack! It really isn't a good place with no women or children on the streets. I can only assume this is because it's a business town and no families really live here....I mean who'd want to? The best structures in town are the hotels catering to the jeep safari Silk Road package tourists of whom there aren't any!

Pakistanis wrapped up in their blankets in early morning Sost.

I headed off south after a good breakfast (you see there is something good in Sost!) through the emerging shivering locals wrapped in their blankets. That's another oddity about Sost. If one was to sit at the side of the road for half an hour you'd notice the same people constantly walking up and down the street and doing nothing else. It's like watching bored elefants in the zoo paceing backwards and forwards tortured by their enviroment....for me this is Sost....

A few Km from Sost.

Anyway....despite the generally crap weather I ehaded off the 40km to Passu. Within a Km I began to feel slightly sad. It suddenly dawned on me that this would be the last time I'd be passing through this section of the highway. It just never crossed my mind before. After 20mins I stopped at the same viewpoint I stopped at on the way up the KKH. It was the same view as before but this time it looked better. I suppose I was making sure that I took the whole of the scene in, not just my usual three second been there and seen it all before glance. I stood there staring and turning on the spot trying to ram it all into my little brain.
My feelings were the same most of the way down the KKH and I stopped continously, staring while sitting on a rock for ten or so minutes.
On the second day down the KKH I was heading towards Karimabad. On the way up from Karimabad I was sick and weak and stared at the tarmac all day hoping that a hotel would appear soon and so I missed most of the scenery.

About 10km north of Karimabad.

Again I was bowled over by the scale and power of it all. I still struggled to appreciate that I was actually cycling through such such massive mountains, scenery that I'd already passed through four times before this occasion without taking mental notes.... I think one should note that I may be mental:)
I eventually reached Karimabad with the aim of doing a few side trips but the weather was poor and the view obscured so I kicked that idea in the head and set off for Minapin 35Km away.
I made such a small day for two reasons....first it's local elections and I wanted to avaoid being in a volatile Gilgit where sectarian violence often flares up and where tourists were evacuated a few months previous as local Soonis and Shias killed each other over religion!?!?!?
Secondly I want to avoid the thieving, grabbing and generally annoying one-pen kids south of Minapin as I might also join in the violence.
I was taken aback on the raods to see them patroled by many army and police driving around with huuuge FO machine guns strapped to the drivers cab. I expected tight security but not this!

Coasting over the mountains ranges at 5400m in a Fokker from Gilgit to Islamabad.
The flight has to be one of the most sceninc in th world?

The next day I pushed onto Gilgit but not without losing my temper a few times with the kids. I wish I could fully understand the reasoning behind it all because it really doeas take away a lot of the enjoyment of the KKH!
Arrived in Gilgit to find it crawling with army on the streets and even sharp shooters on the roof tops!
It turns out that there had been four bombs in mosques throughout Pakistan in the previous week and this coupled with Gilgits elections and history meant the army stayed around to keep a check on things.
I decided to fly to Islamabad from Gilgit simply because I could afford it and it also cut out a 16hr overnight bus journey of which I'd already done three times previously.
I got myself a window seat in the old and tatty Fokker propeller plane and got ready for the flight. I'd been told it was an awesome flight but I wasn't prepared for what was ahead.
The flight takes 1hr and the plane trundles along slowly at 5400m through a mountain wasteland of 5,6,7000m mounatins and there's even an 8000m mountain thrown in for good measure. Within 2 minutes of taking off my mouth fell open and a gawped out the window until a few minutes before landing in Islamabad. I reckon short of chartering a plane to fly around the mountains this is the best option for the poor man?