Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog

 Lawori La

When I was getting my Dara Adem Khel permit I had a chat with the minister for tribal affairs. He asked where I was going and I told him to Chitral by bicycle.
"I'm sorry sir but it's far too dangerous by cycle as you'll be crossing tribal areas" he told me. In fact he was rather concerened that I was going to try it and told me I would be stopped at the checkposts.
Tribal areas are an often sad part of
Pakistan. As I said earlier they are outside the rule of the Pakistani government.  The area I want to visit is also close to Afganistan and the local peoples are as one with the Afghanis. Basically meaning many of them believe in the principles of the Taliban (hence why soo many ex-Tlibanis are hiding there).
But the road through all tribal areas is supposed to be under
Pakistan law so in theory it should be safe!
Anyway....I talked to a few travellers and they told me that the road to Dir (just before the Lawori pass) is boring, dusty and it's also 43C so I decided it better to take the local bus to Dir and then nip over the pass the next day.

Lowori La 
Looking back down a dull
Lawori La.

I jumped on a flying coach (Toyota Hiace van) for Rp85 but he told me Rp85 for the cycle as well....I told him Rp50 and threw it on top.
Once we set off the guy collected the fares. He wanted 85 rupees and all the other Pakistanis told him no and that it should only be Rp20. It made no difference. The other passengers explained that he is from tribal lands and uneducated.
I stopped to change flying coaches in Timargarha, tribal central.
This time the fare is Rp 40 for me and a whopping Rp100 for the cycle! The guy explains it's heavy, hence the price. I explain it weighs half of me and so I'll pay Rp20! Of course it makes no difference.
Then a local guy intervenes and he can only get the fare down to Rp120. But he tells me Rp100 for all and it turns out he's actually going to pay Rp20 out of his own money!!!
I jump in the back seat of the van, it's ferkin hot in there. I put my elbows on the seat in front of me and sweat drips off my forehead. Then some local guy starts going ape at me outside. I follow his hand gestures and understand that I'm not to lean on the seat in front of me as there is a woman sat in it in full burqa. I can't believe it!
We set off and the road is crap and we bump and jump everywhere. I grab the seat in front to steady myself with one hand. The gorrilla who went ape at me before turned around and went double ape this time and started to climb over the seat to get me. He was pissed off....really pissed off! Turns out he's the womans husband.
Fortunately the other passengers (none of whom spoke English) pulled him back down (much to my pleasure). I'm sweating like a pig, can hardly breath because theres no ventilation, the van is packed and I'm squashed against the window and now I have to worry about an over sized gorrilla....soo much fun! I did wonder whether to ask him if it's ok to take his photo so I can put it on my web site....but I decided maybe best not to do so:)

A heated discussion takes place. I try to follow it the best I can. He seems to be saying that I'm insulting his wife (like trying to crack onto her) and that he's already told me once to show her some respect and I've ignored him and now he's going to teach me a lesson!

Lowori La Hairpin Bends 
50 deforested hairpin bends in friendly Chitral province.

I've crossed a line that I didn't know existed and things could have been dodgy. I remember reading about tribal code and the example they gave was "something as simple as looking at another mans wife can lead to the death of a man"....Mnnnn! Considering he probably has a gun strapped to his side I should consider myself lucky! I'm just thankful that the other passengers weren't of his thinking. He's still pissed off and scowls at me often throughout the journey.

Sooo....we stop for food. The women stay in the hot tin can van while the men go inside the cafe and have a laugh, a chat and a cold drink while sat comfortably under the cooling fans. The women suffer outside quietly. It's hot enough inside, but the women must be suffering in the burqas. Maybe this is what the Taliban gorilla man means about respect for women???????

I check into a hotel in Dir. It feels like a rough town and even the light switches are "pistol" brand! It's not much of a town but I'm planning to cross the pass the next morning. I'm weak having not eaten during the trip to Dir as I've had the trots again and didn't want to risk an accident. I nearly shat myself as it was anyway:)

I eat crappy, cold veggies and chapatis and hit the sack!

I wake early already lacking in energy and go for some breakfast. All they have is dry bread and chai. I take two pieces and set off.
The place has a different feel about it. The locals aren't as friendly as usual. I push on past all the school children on the rough road. I notice there aren't any school these parts an education for a woman is unthinkable.
After 1hr I'm knackered and after 2hrs I see a restaurant. I think of food....but all they have is dry bread and chai. I eat one piece and set off again....huff!

Chitral Valley 
Heading up the Chitral valley

The climb is too hard in my state. I'm thinking I'm just tired but later it turns out I've another amoebic infection so I shouldn't even be cycling.
Toward the top of the pass a truck passes and I grab onto it and get a tow for a while. It's still hard work and my arm aches and I peddle to reduce the pain. It still takes me 6.5hrs to do 35km!

Eventually I reach the top and head down the remarkable 50ish bumpy hairpin bends and into the friendly lands of Chitral district. I feel a little relieved!

Trich Mir
Approaching Chitral and the Trich Mir (7708m)

I stay the night in a town called Drosh and spend U$7.5 on a room as the alternatives are dire. It's the most expensive room I've ever had.
But at least Drosh is friendly. A little too friendly in fact! I'm knackered and everybody wants to talk to me. One guy even tells me he'll do my washing for free for me....he just wants to practice his English:)