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.
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.
Bare on top and lush below.
Home amongst the mountains, en route to Sost.
Spot Bomber low down.
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.
Hotel entrance for breakfast stop.
A sign fo no yakking please.
The rooftop dining room.
They are all aiming for the top.
Entering the National Park.
The last check point before we ride into the cold.
Not the top, far from it.
Went looking for Elves and Hobbits.
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.
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.
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.
Bomber still out of breath, not me though, but would be soon once the dancing began.
Space on high.
Noble and friends.
Not all roads lead to Rome.
Head warm and snug in Pakol.
It was not working luckily, at this altitude it is almost impossible to remember ones pin.
Walking to China.
Warmth amongst men.
As close as I got to China, a reason to go back and cross over to the otherside.
A few more friends on high.
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.
Looking back to the start.
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.
The only one I have ever seen in the fur.
Just a yawn.
Stopping for apples on the way back.
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.
Earth moved by water.
Until we meet again