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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Month: October 2016

Beauty,Devestation and Snowcap swimming

My eyes would open on the morning of Eid -Ul -Azha, to a fever of colour, excitement and celebration, this considered one the holiest days in the Islamic calendar and the second two Eid’s, the first occurring at the end of Ramadan and the second also called the “sacrifice feast” that occurs with the descent of the Hujjaj, the pilgrims performing the Hajj.

To all those around me Eid Mubarak, a blessed Eid.

After breakfast it was out into the streets to ride up to Passu , today would be short in kilometres , long in time but just beautiful and relaxing as I soaked up the beauty that surrounds such a holy day . The men returning from Mosque in crisp, clean, pressed Shalwar Kameez with purity that only this white can project. The woman expressing their inner beauty and peace in the most amazing display of colour, pinks and purples that immediately throw you into a spring garden, that’s lets you feel the rich colour on your skin as you walk, the blues that take your mind to the skies above and then show you the deepest of oceans. This day that marks the beginning of three, excites, celebrates with colour, spiritually renews a people, and is a time of and for remembrance. Thank you for the privilege of including, sharing and teaching me as I ride the roads of your country.

 

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Lake Attabad

 

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This road would let me see the ability of man to attempt the pacifying of nature, I would ride tunnels so long and dark you think no light exists at the end, so the Chinese and Pakistanis have carved out a road that leads to a border high in the mountains, this road that displays unimaginable beauty on both sides, a place made tranquil by the blue of the lake, the greenery of pastures to feed and grow, a place that slows your ride, the rate of your heart, opens your eyes and lungs

 

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In 2010 devastation in the shape of a massive landslide that took a town away, closed a road and built a lake that changed the lives of thousands overnight, so the architect of nature came rolling in and left a mark on the hearts and in the minds of all those who lived and travelled this way. So mother nature built a lake and the people named it Attabad.

 

From here it was on to the T part of a town, being a place so small in structures that I think less that ten buildings exist in the tiny town called Passu, but first it was through long, longer and longest tunnels. Concrete and steel structures built to rival the great wall, with no internal lights and a scooter with not much light generation to boast of, I navigated these structures by stolen light, the white LED light produced by the big GS 1200 ahead of me, so bomber and I hid in the shadows waiting for the sun to set us free.

 

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Life amongst the mountains.

 

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The colour of grey chalk as the rivers runs from high.

 

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Out into the open, the road tarred and smooth leads us to a sharp turn left, onto a track called a road that would take us to a lake named Borith, that was made famous by a man who lived and danced on its banks, now it is a place that lets you enjoy a swim in its waters while your eyes climb to the snow-capped mountains that feel so close you can reach out and scoop a handful of glacier magic. It was time to hide nakedness from the people above, amongst the bushes off came the biking gear again and Raju used my riding jacket to cover the snow whiteness of my torso until the calming waters took over and I was set free to frolic in water gathered below but fed from a place high in the mountains. I swam to the centre and floating on my back, arms spread I surrendered to this place of tranquillity, peace and power, the world I live in back home washed away and all that we prize and strive for was replaced by calm, clarity and a slowed pulse that in this moment looking up at the power of creation the world felt perfect and I wanted for nothing, just to be, to be here amongst the mountains and held in this water, free to breathe, free to see.

 

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Lake Borith

 

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Snow cap swimming.

 

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Bomber shaken, ratteled and rolled after the track ride to the Lake, well done you light and lithe power machine.

 

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Back into the bike gear.

 

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Parting shot of the place of peace.

 

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Picture of proof, incase people doubt the mighty Bomber.

 

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Road to Passu.

 

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Welcome Passu style.

 

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Ice making its way down town.

 

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The road that pases through Passu.

 

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Natures bounty in the gardens of our hotel.

Back on the scooters it was time to get to Passu, arriving at our hotel as the range that surrounds it was taking back the light, the views front, rear and sides that remind you of your insignificance and size in this mighty place. Can you imagine a palace so pure so natural that while you wait for you room keys you pick fresh fruit from the trees that surround your hotel, the skin of the apple no blemish, no discoloration or fade from pesticides just pure unadulterated pureness, our feast was complete, the beauty of our surrounds and the bounty from nature.

 

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Our hotel.

Un packed and looking forward to a hot shower, I stood in my bathroom, shower shoes on and nothing else, I turned on the hot tap, stared out at the snow-capped mountains all around me and said to myself, how awesome this is going to be, the hot water washing over me as I take in the ice and cold of the mountains framed by my window. Back from my snow dream I put my hand out to gauge the temperature, a shriek and a jump backwards, out of the icy water, impossible! the water had got even colder, so half in half out I made the choice, I would shower in the cold water without looking at the snow outside, that made the cold even colder. Washed and transformed by the cold, I felt like I lived beyond the wall so to speak and soon John Snow would  try and ride this white walker down, I am almost sure that my eyes changed to ice blue for a second.

 

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How a 150 compares to a 1200, in size and stature , David and the GS guy.

Rubbed and wrapped back from what felt like stage 0,5 of hypothermia it was time for hot chai to warm this bone marrow. I joined the others in front of the hotel, the magnificent mountains all around, we settled in for talk of this place, our day and experiences of Pakistan. As luck would have it we still had Farheen within our company and luck perused us as she agreed to sing for this band of merry men, mind you it was only her voice she had tonight, no instrument’s to smooth the road for her, I took my position up on a flat deck chair my screen the sky, mountains and moon. I raised my cup to enjoy a last seductive sip of chai, lay back closed my eyes with the picture of the mountains in my mind and let her song take me by both hands and heart to show me this land. Words I could not understand verbally but felt easy on my soul as she drew a story of life in the stars. I felt the emotion of the story as she set the story free in breath, so she sang and I followed her words the chariot to the stars. She kept the cold at bay, she let words soften the ice, her song let me rest amongst the stars, a hammock they made and  in a place so magical I let my mind free, to see, feel and be.

 

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Tucked in while the sky rolls in.

Outside turned cold as dinner was announced, what a treat the wholesomeness of great food and people. We would feast as these mountains hold witness and dinner would take us to America has talent and the great beauty of Italian sophistication. To our surprise after dinner we all move outside to enjoy our chai under the stars and Tom who would put the stars back into the night with his voice that would take us from a speakeasy in the USA to Milano and all that is magnificent in between as he serenaded mountains reaching for the sky. Thank you Tom a spectacular way the end a day full of magic.

I was looking forward to tomorrow for two reasons, firstly I had organised a bucket of hot water for my morning shower and secondly we are riding to the Khunjerab pass sitting at 4934 m to the border that allows entry to China and apparently one of the highest paved roads in the world. With mountains, moon and song I rest my head to dream.

Until we meet again.

 

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Glaciers, life, death and no taxes

A moon almost full, clouds dance gently in its light obscuring its gaze. Mountain ranges in all directions, some blown bare, jagged tops reach for the sky, capped white. Snow, ice, cloud and black rock contrast the deep green of the river valley with its soft leaves attached seemingly tenderly to branches moving with the melody of the wind.

Landslides forever changing this world, sometimes daily, but never without consequence. Glaciers high up that hold both life and death in their ice. The sun warms a layer, it starts with a drip on its way to a torrent, that sets free a stampede that is harnessed by all to give and get life. Pipes plugged into waterfalls to channel away from natures path, they run to households, feed livestock, water the ground to produce and even wash the cars that happen by, all touched and tended by this glacier water from on high, channeled down by ancient routes carved out by man or nature with such force, yet it bringing its life force to all of this land.

This water ash grey with memory of the ages, it runs like the horses of the Camargue free with beauty, power and grace, never tamed, never tired this melted glacier gallops.

Until we meet again.

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To the highground Bomber

Wiping the sleep from my eyes, sleeping shorts, T- shirt and nicked hotel slippers I make my way out into the clear morning in search of that hot water to wash the night’s sleep and dreams from body and mind, into the kitchen I wonder to find the owner who has promised me a hot shower before we leave, and to his word hot and long that shower ran before I layered up ready for the ride that would take Bomber and I to 4934 m, the top of the Khunjerab pass and the border with China.

 

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Would loved to have camped here.

First the routine of finding and ordering the morning Chai, then into the orchards to pick a couple of those golden and deliciousness fresh from natures cupboard. The sun up, me layered up and the GMT (almost typed G and T what a Freudyy that would have been) clock striking 07h30 we rode for Sost our next town and breakfast stop.

 

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Bare on top and lush below.

 

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Home amongst the mountains, en route to Sost.

 

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Spot Bomber low down.

 

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On the way the ride takes us through the seemingly tranquil existence of rural mountain life all framed by the majestic landscape sheer in size, cliff and beauty. Arriving in Sost, Moin set out to find us a place to fill our bellies before taking on the KKH to the top, he found a great location on the roof top of the Everest hotel, in name only,no view of it from here, we all settled down to a scrumptious breaking of the fast while taking in the never ending and changing beauty of this land as the sun and cloud paint different pictures for you as you stare into the distance. Between the humour that made our tummies roll with laughter, our eyes run wet with tears of joy, surrounded by the beauty of the North I gave thanks for being part of this band of men and a woman riding these roads being afforded the opportunity for such newness, richness and boldness.

 

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Hotel entrance for breakfast stop.

 

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A sign fo no yakking please.

 

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The rooftop dining room.

 

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More apples.

 

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They are all aiming for the top.

 

 

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Entering the National Park.

 

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The last check point before we ride into the cold.

 

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Not the top, far from it.

 

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Went looking for Elves and Hobbits.

 

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No Elves and Hobbits on the list mind you.

This road to China always under threat from nature, attacked by water, landslides, rock falls and the barriers that are meant to keep you safe, either long gone, bent or smashed by the elements sent fleeing into torrent and washed away, the tar trying to offer smooth passage gouged and ravaged by solid rock as it leaves the mountainside wooed by gravity, gains speed and turns terminal on whatever tries to stop its rage.

 

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Road and river run together.

As we climb so I am robbed of warmth and bomber of air, my hands losing touch, bomber speed, I shiver and try and make myself smaller, bomber now spluttering, wheezing and coughing uncontrollably, just not enough narrowness in the jet to let this scooter breath. I coax the throttle, speak of how close we are to the top, that cutting out now is not an option and even if I get off and walk alongside the top we shall summit together.

With effort we ride on, the light masked in the clouds, the soft gentle snowflakes land ever so gently, with reservation it seems as they touch and dissolve on my rain suit. My fingers now lost to the cold, the rest of me wrapped up but cold manages to find that one place, the kink in my armour, the place the buff has slipped, the cold pierces, enters and takes off to rob me of warmth but stopped in its tracks by those layers as they line up the barrier.

 

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My high friends and I at 4934m.

I look up and out of the mist and morning, the grey structure that defines the line between two lands and two people emerges, shrouded in the Mistry of lands old and conquered.

I park Bomber in the car park ready to walk the last 500 odd meters to the border when we are surrounded by other holiday makers and within no time the cars doors are open the boot popped to expose those speakers and so we begin to dance, true to Pakistani style, so I meet Noble Joseph and his friends, we spend our time dancing, talking and posing at 4934 m. All the while two border posts stare each other down, two glaciers face off on either side one in China, the other in Pakistan.

 

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Bomber still out of breath, not me though, but would be soon once the dancing began.

 

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Space on high.

 

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Noble and friends.

 

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Not all roads lead to Rome.

 

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Head warm and snug in Pakol.

 

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Pakistan post.

 

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It was not working luckily, at this altitude it is almost impossible to remember ones pin.

 

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Walking to China.

 

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Warmth amongst men.

 

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China post.

 

 

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As close as I got to China, a reason to go back and cross over to the otherside.

 

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A few more friends on high.

 

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Not a loo or igloo.

 

We have to make it back to Karimibad, so Farwell said we turn on our tails to make our way down , what a day spent here amongst the cold of nature and the warmth of people. Bomber I am sure is looking forward to breathing easier as we make our way down, just as the cold came to bite on the way up so the lower elevation put the air back into bomber and the warmth back into me, music in my ears and heart we rode for the Hunza View Hotel a mere172 kilometres away but it would be many hours before I would dismount bomber.

 

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Looking back to the start.

 

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Contained beauty.

The scenery to amazing to rush and this time too precious to spoil with speed, stopping for roadside apples and pictures with a captured snow leopard,one of only forty in the world saved from drowning while crossing a river with her mother three and a half years ago, alive in body yet her eyes seemed to hold no life as captivity dulls her spirit, for in her beauty lives the desire, instinct and purpose to run wild high in the snow of these mountains, we let the day unfold while I wished there was another way for that amazing animal.

 

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The only one I have ever seen in the fur.

 

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Just a yawn.

 

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Stopping for apples on the way back.

 

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It felt really strange riding back on the same road but it also offered a little comfort in the fact that this road led us back to the known.

 

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Earth moved by water.

Until we meet again

 

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Wedding bells,coasters & slides.

Cars dressed in flowers as young couples celebrate their union , entourage in tow so they fill the streets with colour , the lack of scent but not colour from the flowers stuck to the metal, for plastic can only mimic nature from a distance, the dressed up cars range from the quintessential 800cc Mehran to the more affluent Lx four wheel drive , they all have one thing in common , that love is alive , new, fresh and wrapped up in the faraday cage , safe for now from any lightning bolts. So special is this day that the usual Pakistani road rules are doused by the potion called love , no hooting , no pushing in, just adoration and smiles.The policemen salutes, takes control of the traffic just for a moment as other road users obey his commands , love passes, so does that moment of calm and as if nothing happened all returns to the lore , the road lore that lets Pakistan get from place to place.

Just a little way outside of Hunza we come across a very recent landslide that has held traffic  ransom since the early hours , dawn broke so did what held the earth intact , rock heaved , earth lost her grip and hell broke loose, it rushed down the mountainside and in just the blink of an eye, life in that part of the world stopped, the road no longer passable. It was time to call in the big guns and so the machines that man-made came to take back from nature, to restore passage and as we arrived nature gave us a reprieve, she sent no more down the mountain, let us celebrate a small victory as the road opened just as our wasps arrived on the scene. She looked down upon us the ever interfering troop of humans , she understands our desire for progress, our need to tame and take, we have yet to understand , respect and appreciate her as she keeps giving and we keep taking , one day , one day it might just buckle and break like that bridge that served for so long , that last load just too much.

With the back log this would be our first taste of traffic as the aggressor as all those who had been blocked and locked down, now tried to make time, those small wasps with no rear view in a constant state of fight and flight, so we rode looking so forward to the calm of gravel and dust

 

Breakfast with old Pals

Breakfast with old Pals

We make our way down the KKH towards the ever famous Gilgit , just to pass through on our way to Astore , we stop for breakfast at our now local spot and it is smiles and hugs all around as plate after plate of food finds  our table on a non stop conveyer belt with chai to wash it all down , it is here that another road warrior joins our band of scooterists , Adeel has ridden nonstop for 16 hours from Lahore  , he joins as easily as if he is my long lost brother , we are bound by that invisible silver  that runs strong in our blood , one man , one road , one bike, one people, one world , and just like that we would ride together , laugh together our bond forged and spliced by commonality in our love for the open road,  the shared curiosity for things new, undiscovered and unseen.

 

Trying to pay the bill, the owner was not having it, again.

Trying to pay the bill, the owner was not having it, again.

Argument after argument over trying to pay the bill we take our leave put rubber to tar our last bit before we turn to take the road to Astore.That left turn and bridge crossing could not have come sooner, Bomber and I now so tired of being buzzed by those four wheeled obesities that have been plaguing our day threatning close encounters of the metal on metal kind.

The road alive with all modes of transport, including our scooters and the ever famous taxi van. As I ride I observe this carrier and its lore. The lore simple really, stop as you please, load, drive, pass where you please and always let another passenger on. Interior full, luckily we have thought of everything, a heavy hard chrome bumper hangs off the back, not for protection mind you, more as a platform to load a few more, standing room allows one to enjoy the wind in your hair, the sun on you face, no stuffy interior for them, taking a call easy, just squat down hide yourself from the wind and have your chat at over 80 km per hour while holding on with one hand, those passenger’s rooftop are not so lucky, they hang on to the rack with both hands and all their might as the 16 to something seater rocks those roads, putting poeple and place together, uniting friends and family. The carrier veers off the road stops in a cloud of dust for another passanger wants to get on.

 

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Finally duts and quiet, the road alone we ride.

 

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Roaqd to Astore.

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Bomber and I taking a moment.

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Into the mountains we begin to climb, Adeel ahead showing me the riding line, as if it was any help, considering my power or lack thereof, the difference in wheel circumference, ability and agility.Bomber under me, my wrist working overtime to optimise those gears and revolutions, we did our very best to ride, ride alongside that damn 125cc full of modern power and comfort.That said we had the road to ourselves, just what I love, bends that whined, cliffs that race your heart, a chariot with a chassis, very few horses and little else we climed, curved and carved our way to Astore. I would often come around a bend and find Adeel enjoying the vistas and views with his James Dean biker look, completed by the Porsche cap he sported and smoke in hand,the relaxed rider only to be buzzed from his state by the sound of Bomber approaching. 

 

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Two bikes and a tractor.

 

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A stone bench to take in the view for those courting death.

 

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Air,water and earth.

 

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Side protector lost to rutt and roll.

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Another friendly check post ahead.

 

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Hypnotised by sun and shadow.

 

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Soft and gentle in the shadow of rock hard.

 

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A place to sit, just sit and look.

My time full of the amazement of this place as I rode, stopped, looked, loved and did fist bumps with myself, man this place is just so intoxicating. I knew the day was running from me, I wished I could have bought back an hour or seven to stop more, swim roasdside, drink chai, dance alone in these mountains with music bursting from my headphones, time to let  water  run over my eyes that lets me see  more clearly, those tears that cleanse and open my heart to this world , only a few kilometres  to go and Astore would appear, put people and reality back in my eyes .Another flight to  dream  set free by this place of beauty.

 

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Valley life.

 

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Day light grazing.

 

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Time for chai , once again invited to tea , unfortunatly not enough light to allow, Astore still a way off.

 

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The one and only.

We checked into the Kamran hotel for the night, the door sported the sign VIP, I was over the moon, wow this was going to be great, the only part of VIP that was VIP was the sign, all else threadbare with an odour that let your nostrils flare like a polo pony amidst the fever of a mountain match with no rules, I reeled back  at sight, sound and smell,but true to Pakistani style we piled in laughed, joked and made the very best of this place we would call home for the night.The staff very accomodating bringing sheets and pillow cases to cover sheets and pillow cases, later that night wrapped up in only humor we would sleep.

 

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Even the flash on the canera reacted.

 

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On closer inspection nothing held up.

 

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Adeel sporting that sports car cap.

 

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The road to Rama.

Then is was into the van to take the road to Rama, a 45 min drive that puts America’s roller coasters to shame. America might engineer fear, fright and perspiration in their theme parks, the road to Rama does it au naturalle , single track , cliffs and sheer drops rendering all saftey equipment useless.

The van and Moin having to use all  gear,grit and grind to summit and to descend , give me bomber with that lack lustre light to ride this road any day over being in that cell on death road, called the van, both up and down equally petrifying.During our decent things got to a point that Atzaz had to get out the van to direct us around a hair of a hairy hairpin, as he was screaming to Moin to come forward, the local behind us was screaming that our front wheels had left the actual road and were rounding the corner on loaned land with no integrity or support, apparantly 11 cars had realised their demise right here , not us though, the loaned land held and we made it around and down. MashAllah.

 

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Still the road to Rama.

 

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The least dangerous part of the road to Rama.

 

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Almost at the top, it got so steep we had to off load a few to get going.

 

 

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Rama a place for Polo.

 

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The accomodation that was meant for us alasssss.

 

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The way down, full moon and mountain.

Home safe in VIP ville, Very insignificant person, dinner and bed for tomorrow we ride for the Doesai plains, apparently the first Vespa’s ever to attempt this crossing that is around 135 km, with all that comes with the unknown it was time to rest, let both body and mind prepare and repair while we slept.

For all you thrill seekers, adrenaline addicted human beings, when you tire of all that other stuff, lock yourself in a 16 seater metal cage as a passenger, drive  the road from Astore to Rama in the twilight so you can see, feel and sweat the small stuff,  when back home   you will find yourself  instructing the inverted roller coaster personal not to clip you in, you will just hold on yourself,then you will know you have re calibrated, your fear levels elevated on the road to Rama.

Until we meet again

 

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