Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog


After a good week of pigging out and relaxing in the Madina GH in Gilgit I leave for Minapin 85km north.
I'm back on the KKH and from here onwards I'm in tourist terratory. The strecth from Gilgit to the Kunjerab Pass bordering with China is very popular with cyclists.
At last I feel energised, healthy and even dare I sat it....FAT....but I still wouldn't have the confidence to cycle past a KFC for fear of abduction!
The valley is wide and it captures the suns rays and makes the going as hot as hell but it feels good to be reaching my goal.
For the first 20km the children are great and shout friendly greetings as I pass but the last 20km to Minapin passes through begging and stealing Shia villages. The children literally attack passing cyclists, begging, grabbing and yes...stealing! I had one pen slightly sticking out of my bag which I used for taking notes and it got swiped as I was cycling through a village. Other cyclists have had bags opened as they pass and stones thrown as well. Most cyclists have problems around here and arrive pissed off and angry in Minapin.
Minapin is 4km off the KKH 30km before Karimabad. It has only one guesthouse and is in a conservative Shia village. Indeed it seems to be the watershed between the Ismaili villages northwards.
Signs are on the rocks asking visitors not to photograph local women in the village. I want to write one saying "please don't teach your children to beg for one pen" as they all do. The village doesn't have a welcoming feel. Fortunatley the guesthouse makes up for the villages shortcomings.
As in most villages in northern Pakistan you marry your cousin as this keeps the land (often your only form of wealth) in the family. The problem is in-breeding is becoming a problem and eye defects are common along the KKH and in Karimabad there seems to be an abnormally high ratio of physical deformaties.

Suspension bridge just outside Gilgit. The bridge moves uncomfortably around
a little too much for my liking and one would be sea sick if you
stayed on there long enough.

Anyway....every time I travel I'm always looking for new travel ideas, always wanting to push my limits tyring to introduce myself to a better and more adventerous way of traveling as it gets rather boring just doing the same crap day in and day out.
Four years ago on my last travel I was scouting for good MTB routes and Rakapohsi seemed to be easily doable and here I am now having cycled this route many times over in my head in the previous years.

The green track upto the base camp.

I left the comfortable orchard situated Diran guesthouse leaving a rather excited and giddy manager behind as he learned that I was going to attempt it by bicycle. He's actually the only local I've met who seems to understand what the white man wants and the stupid things he'll do to get a kick. Everyone else just says it's impossible and don't even try it. He was actually excited because I'm the first person (according to him) to even attempt it....
I headed along the path alongside the water channel with a rucksack on my back and tent and sleeping bag strapped to my bike. I probably had a load of 30/35kg includung my bike.

9.5 hours of pushing and carrying leaves one rather tired!

After a few kms the track turned left and began to seriously climb. In fact this is the hardest part of the climb and involves mostly shouldering the bike for 3km up far too steep switchbacks.
Local women as always carrying huge loads of timber or cattle fodder pass me by as I climb and as per usual we stare at each other in amazement.
Eventualy, after 2 litres of water and far more litreage in sweat loss I reach the top of the switch backs to an open forested area. Under normal conditions the path would be quite ridable but my legs are shot with very little energy from all the carrying, so I simply push on keeping an eye out for any locals so I can then jump on my bike and ride for 50m to make it appear as if I've ridden all the way up!

Standing on the huge lateral morrain at the base camp. The impressive glaciers of Diran and Rakoposhi (7788m) mixing to form jagged spires.

I cycle through a few sparsely populated villages and everyone stops to see me pass. Luckily the villages are situated on the only flatish section of the whole climb and I can actually ride for approximately 1km (which is the only cycling possible in all the climb!).
Halfway up I stop at a campsite which until a few days ago was occupied and food was possible but not anymore, so I make some pasta.
As I stuff my face I luck up at my destination and guess an easy 3hrs, maximun 3.5hrs.
After 3hrs I'm still way off. Looking up everything looks so close but looking down has the opposite effect. I finally make it to the lateral morrain just before the basecamp some 6hrs later. The views from the morrain are some of the best in Pakistan and blows away all but the hardest of mountain climbers.

Sunset over the mountains looking back down over Minapin.

A row of mountains afronts. Diran(7773m) and Rakaposhi (7788m) glare down over the migthy crescent shaped glacier. The glacier immediately below the peaks is smooth and quite easily crossable but as they merge the glacier is formed into steep spires of ice that aren't so people friendy (maybe they're sShia;)
I hastily knock off a few sunset photos before turing my attention to what lays ahead.
I still have to negotiate a very dodgy path at the best of times but it looks almost impossible with a bike on my back. It's only about 75m long but the path is a mere 15cm wide, rather loose with a nasty drop to my left and involves some climbing and to make things worse there's hardly any daylight left. At least the views are good!
I set off. The path gives litle problem but I keep getting my saddle caught in the overhanging trees and it's takes a while to untangle it besause if I spin around the weight of the bike will send me flying down the hillside (or at least it feels like that).

Posing on the Rakaposhi base camp with Rakaposhi (7788m)
over my left shoulder.

With hardly any daylight left I reach camp and set up my tent and sleep cosily for once.
In the morning I walk around the 1km long meadow that forms the basecamp and take a few pickies but the sun is far too bright as it reflects off the glacier.
After an hour I set off back for the guesthouse.
It's seems easy this time crossing the path in the daylight and the bike away from the trees on my right shoulder and I pass with ease and stop at a big tree on the other side.
I want to time myself on the way down but my stop watch isn't working so I decide to wait until it's 9.45am.
It feels like on the starting line of a MTB race and I pace around with butterflies in my stomach for four minutes. The adrenaline is pumping and I feel good....

Can't really complain about the views on this camp site.
Rakaposhi basecamp
. Diran (7773m) to the left of the range.

Eventually it's time and I bomb off, well maybe not quite. The first section is an impossible steep scree slope and I can't stop so I just jump off. This happens several times before I decide to run down the hill with the bike. Still it's too steep and I keep having to let the bike go and we both do our best to fall gracefully.
Soon all is ridable and I nip along the single track (all of which I cleaned of stones the day before) with impressive drops to my right, often sitting on my rear rack to give traction to my rear wheel on the steep winding slopes.
I love it but I have to keep a check on my speed as I'm carrying too much weight and a big hit will no doubt damage my wheels and there's no one around if I damage myself.
I clear the wooded slopes and hit the villages. This time I literally fly through them, the locals (all 5 of them:) watching and shouting as I pass by. They better had be impressed!
I then have to slow for a rocky 1km section. I skim through and pass a hot Japanese chick on her way upto basecamp by herself. I can see she's trying to get my attention ( I later found out she wants some trail imformation) but the stop watch is ticking and today I'm more interested in riding this bike!
After 58 minutes, four years of dreaming is over and I'm at the bottom at the river. I look back up the climb and wish that I'd got no weight on the bike to allow for a speedier descent.
9.5hrs of effort to get up there for such a short time on the way down....well worth it....