web analytics

The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Category: Pakistan (page 1 of 3)

Not so SOLO but close as dammit

An opportunity has presented its self for a mini adventure one might say. So I am sure You are all asking, what would be the natural choice for a destination after such an amazing ride through Africa. Well yes you would be right and your first guess would be spot on. Pakistan it is.

I was lucky enough to hear about this scooter ride from Islamabad up to the China border and back through my friend Ken in the U ess of A, from the second I heard about it my heart started racing, those sparks of adventure set my mind a blaze with the prospect of a new land , new culture , new food and the open road.. Who would have thought that one can hire a vintage Vespa and ride North crisscrossing a country, speeding along the Karakorum highway only to pop out at the Chinese border.

The hard part was trying to explain to Vic that this ride would not include her, I think the fact that I would not be solo and part of a group of three made it easier to explain, pack up and get ready to ride.

The trip did not start out to smoothly, I left home on Tuesday morning for the world class OR Tambo international at 11h00 got on to the plane settled in for the 8 odd hour flight to Doha. The mighty flying machine was pushed back for departure, only to return to the gate for us to see the pilot being wheeled off the aircraft due to illness and the entire plane being disembarked with the new departure time being set at 05h00 the next morning.

So what does one do in a situation like this, well its really easy, have a good steak with crisp vegetables, some chilled sparkling water and however many glasses of wine you need to let you rest and dream, in my case it would be three glasses of a delicious Riesling. This delay caused me to miss my connecting flight to Islamabad, a 6 hour hang out in Doha and an arrival time in the capital city of Pakistan, at the royal hour of 01h45 on Thursday morning. I have to admit that I felt reasonably human on arrival thanks to being able to freshen up in Doha and raid the duty free moisturiser and cologne counter.

I was collected from the airport by Moin and his friend Sunny and taken to Moin’s grandparents home in a quiet leafy suburb of Islamabad for a very welcome shower and a deep sleep before setting off on the ride North. After a fantastic breakfast of omlettes , chilli and chai, shared with Moin’s family and friends including my riding partners Tom and Brook it was off to meet my ride .

Meet the 1970’s B52 blue bomber , powered by a mighty 150 cc two stoke motor producing a spectacular 5,7 horses ,  cooled by fuel and oil , a four speed box to get you from zero to something , a breaking sytem that has no A or B or S just fade , no mirrors for a rear view or vanity , a kick start to build those calves , indicators that hold orange lenses with no flicker , suspension that has no damp , the engine  sound of a angry wasp and the determination of something possesed .

Meet my ride ………………

 

Bomber and I

Bomber and I

 

Sexy side on the profile of elegance

Sexy side on the profile of elegance

 

Hubs and a prings

Hub and a springs

Until we meet again

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Islamabad to Abbottabad

Almost on our way.

Almost on our way.

It was not an early start and our riding posse left the quiet streets of the suburbs after 11h00, four riders and our trusted two stokes hit the streets of Islamabad, being my first time riding something this old took a bit of getting used to, nothing that the streets of a foreign city would not sort out in no time, between the heat, the traffic and not having a clue where I was I felt right back on my beloved continent and all was well.

 

The posse , Regulators let's ride.

The posse , Regulators let’s ride.

 

The home that introduced me to the kindness of Pakistan.

The home that introduced me to the kindness of Pakistan.

Our first stop being the impressive Faisel mosque that lies at the foothills that surround Islamabad, its cool, glistening white exterior, surrounded by the emerald green of nature provides a place of peace and tranquility offering a city a place of prayer and connection.

 

dscn7546-1

 

Faisel Mosque

Faisel Mosque

 From here we headed out of the city making our way into the mountains and what would come as a surprise is how fast the heat is diluted, replaced by that coolness that comes with riding alpine roads, but before my skin would feel that pine scent, it first would feel the heat, sweat and stickiness of a short break down, luckily fixed in no time by a man that I would become incredibly fond of as I got to know him better.

 

The only vintage with its own roadside assistance.

The only vintage with its own roadside assistance.

Back on the road within minutes and off again. it was on the road up to Murree that I would come across my first real life experience with Pakistani truck art, a form of decoration that can make your eyes spin in and out of their sockets, so intricate with a beauty so appreciated up close and personal. I am told that prosperity and thanks live in the state, condition and intricacy displayed on these vehicles, gauging by some of what I have seen, wealth and thanks ride the roads of Pakistan. So famous is this art form that more than a couple of London busses sport this mantle of prosperity and I am seriously considering send my Vespa chassis to Lahore and letting Moin pimp my ride.

 

Totally cool.

Totally cool.

 

Clean and pristine people carrier.

Clean and pristine people carrier.

 

Imagine a scooter with this detail.

Imagine a scooter with this detail.

Murree we whizzed past , a town that allowed the British to escape the heat of the city to their hill station, a home to the air force since that time and now a vacation station to locals that appreciate a 20-degree difference in the summer heat. Up to Nathia Gali for a pit stop that sits high upon pine slopes, off the scooters to enjoy a cup of Kashmiri or pink tea, even as a coffee addict this hit the spot, refreshed we rode for our first night stop, the town of Abbottabad.

 

Tea for two thanks , spot that machine behind us , esspresso and all.

Tea for two thanks , spot that machine behind us , esspresso and all.

 

Nathia Gali

Nathia Gali

 

On the UP and UP.

On the UP and UP.

 

Looking back.

Looking back.

Abbottabad a town with a dual carriage way that seems to hold eight lanes, did this ride into town give me those Nam flashbacks to some of those African cities I entered at peak hour. Abbottabad famous for its production of scholars groomed from its universities and a source of Pakistan’s military pride, but fame that trumps them all is the Chapli kebab served with fresh hot naan, unique and totally scrumptious. The word chapli means flip flop, and by the shape of this kebab an apt interpretation of what is not a kebab as we know it.

 

The birth of a Chapli.

The birth of a Chapli.

 

Team Karakoram

Team Karakoram

 

The master of Naan

The master of Naan

A close encounter with deliciousness

A close encounter with deliciousness

 

Moin doing the honors

Moin doing the honors

With only a 145 kilometers covered, it was off to bed with a belly full of flip flop, that familiar smell of a well soaped body from a tiny bar found on the basin. The pillow swallowed my weary head but could not cover the smile that consumed my face.

Until we meet again

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Spectacular scenery

The scenery is spectacular, internet access less so.  You might not hear from me for a few days.

whatsapp-image-2016-09-14-at-3-15-57-pm whatsapp-image-2016-09-14-at-3-15-55-pm whatsapp-image-2016-09-14-at-3-15-59-pm whatsapp-image-2016-09-14-at-3-16-09-pm whatsapp-image-2016-09-14-at-3-16-11-pm whatsapp-image-2016-09-14-at-5-13-23-pm whatsapp-image-2016-09-15-at-7-14-39-am-1 whatsapp-image-2016-09-15-at-7-14-39-am whatsapp-image-2016-09-15-at-7-14-47-am whatsapp-image-2016-09-15-at-7-18-18-am

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Riding for Naran

After a great night out and well rested we hit the road , luckily for us the traffic was light due to the fact that we left really early by Pakistan standards  as things only kick off  around ten or eleven so being on the road by 08h30 gave us both lanes in places  and and a really easy ride up to Manshera , that was to be our breakfast stop .

 

Street breakfast in Manshera

Street breakfast in Manshera

Our breakfast was served up , comprising of paratha , made fresh before our eyes , a delicious omelette full of chilli and Chanay a chickpea curry that you mop up with your paratha and is even tastier eaten with right hand . The locals , gracious as usual full of questions and kindness , so we spent a wonderfull hour in the company of good food and people .

 

Hard at work preparing our our breakfast

Hard at work preparing our our breakfast

 

Our roadside diner

Our roadside diner

 

dscn7584

 

 

Further into the mountains we rode , I just loved theses roadside restaurants , where the cold mountain water keeps your drinks cold and while enjoying lunch or a soft drink you can cool your body by sitting with your feet in the water . I remenber years ago when a hotel in Johannesburg used this as a  draw card , come to our rooftop bar , sip on cocktails while you dangle your feet in the water . I wonder if Pakistan inspired them , I know where I would rather be , mountain dew straight up , out of the bottle , chilled to perfection by a bit of glacier water , washed down with a view to dizzy you .

 

 keeping your drinks and feet cool.

keeping your drinks and feet cool.

 

No five stars required , simple and spectacular.

No five stars required , simple and spectacular.

 

who said your office cant be close to nature.

Who said your office can’t be close to nature.

 

I found the riding relaxed , taking in this beautiful scenery , enjoying the twisty road and cool air , still higher we rode towards the tourist capital in the mountains known as Naran . A place that has become so popular with local tourism that those in the know have had to seek out new destinations to relax and recharge , for us it would be empty and enchanting.

 

A river ran through it .

A river ran through it .

 

The hot summer of the South brings people , livestock to the mountains for grazing and reprieve from the heat.

The hot summer of the South brings people , livestock to the mountains for grazing and reprieve from the heat.

 

I came across this tented town set up along the Kunhar river , alive with activity , sports on the go , animals being tended to and a  seemingly idillic relaxed life  that beckoned me to join these nomads from the south , abandon wifi , my riding gear, grow a hipster beard and spend my days wondering  in the mountains and nights sleeping under the stars . My daydream interupted by the excitment and cheering as the ball hit the bat and flew high and far  into the blue sky , the batsmen launch to opposite ends . If only I had eye ball coordination , I would have joined this game close to the clouds . Back to reality , I kicked the starter and that two stroke motor buzzed back to life , clutch in , first engauged , feet up and we left the games behind .

 

High altitude cricket anyone ?

High altitude cricket anyone ?

We follow  the Kunhar river  to Naran which is really beautiful but I am looking forward to riding next to the mighty Indus river that  finds its source high in the glacier of Boltoro , the largest of its kind outside the poles.  I love the sounds of the rushing water coming off the peaks , the water cloudy in colour , full of what it has collected on the way down , ice , ice cold to the touch , leaving you invigorated once it has cooled your skin.

 

The world has beach volleyball Pakistan has thin nountain air breathtaking views volleyball.

The world has beach volleyball Pakistan has thin nountain air breathtaking views and volleyball.

 

Truck and scooter art.

Truck and scooter art .

 

All dressed up and waiting for somewhere to go .

All dressed up and waiting for somewhere to go .

 

So much to see in this land , that you could spend a day riding 20 km , today though we had to cover around a 150 km before dark so my daydreaming and stops to  take photographs had to be brought into check , this I could not resist though ,  both holding the blue of the sky in their paintwork , the scooter plain without Jane and the truck a Peacock in mating season  , just look at those lashes and seductive eyes , if this truck was behind me and if I had mirrors , hypnotised  I would be, looking back into her eyes .

 

Luckily alcohol is banned here , a long lunch with wine could have severe consequences .

Luckily alcohol is banned here , a long lunch with wine could have severe consequences .

 

We arrived to a hive of activity as the Mosque was empting after Friday prayers , the road as difficult to navigate as peak hour traffic in Abbottabad  , a sharp right turn out of the busyness up a tree lined road toward the mountains and our hotel for the night , a calm and peacfull place .

 

In the mountains of Naran.

In the mountains of Naran.

 

After a shower that started off with  a promise of warmth and pressure to wash the days ride away , ending up in the use of  a bucket and a very awakening wash that gave my skin those rewarding goose bumps  , Myself Moin and Atzaz  set off for a walk in the montains  , a time to enjoy the views both up and down , the fresh clean air and the chill in the air taken out by the warmth of the people we spoke to .

 

Looking up the valley.

Looking up the valley.

 

Looking down the valley.

Looking down the valley.

 

Kids and toys , trucks and cars woven from wire.

Kids and toys , trucks and cars woven from wire.

 

Moin and Atzaz giving me a selfie tutorial.

Moin and Atzaz giving me a selfie tutorial.

 

first attempt , atleast I got them in .

first attempt , atleast I got them in .

 

 

The games children play , international wire car racing.

The games children play , international wire car racing.

 

Gudu the head and chief engineer of team Karakoram Vespa support and Nasir , man about town.

Gudu the head and chief engineer of team Karakoram Vespa support and Nasir , man about town.

 

Nothing runs without Gudu willing it so.

Nothing runs without Gudu willing it so.

 

Brook and Atzaz at dinner in Naran.

Brook and Atzaz at dinner in Naran.

Darknees  apon us it was time for a delicious dinner of fresh mutton karahi , hot naan , flashing fairy lights and laughter that echoed off the mountains , we ended our day with green tea and more laughter before turning in for the night , for tomorrow Gilgit it is .

 

Morning has broken , time to ride.

It seems that most hotels have the word Valley or Rose in them but usually both.

 

morning light starting the day for all those in Naran.

Morning light starting the day for all those in Naran.

 

Raju firing up the scooters.

Raju firing up the scooters.

 

Up early to ride the road up to Babusar Pass that sits at 4145 meters and the 233 km to Gilgit our next stop .

 

Until we meet again.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

A bridge to far a mountain to high and a valley to Hot

On a Vespa that meets museum criteria, roads that seem to only go up and down never straight or flat, a close to 250 km run is a full day affair, with this in mind we left early and would enjoy breakfast and surprises on the road.

 

dscn7610

Little landslide to start the day.

 

The morning started with the clean still air holding the scent of pine, quickly being replaced by that wasp two stroke sound and the smell of four stroke oil that should be two, that tells you that your ride is ready. Within no time we had passed the remnants of a mini landslide and made our way higher in to the mountains.

 

dscn7613

The road out of Naran .

 

dscn7614

 

As we came over a rise I noticed a lot of activity in the valley below,on closer inspection what had transpired was that a truck both laden with cement and art had crossed the bridge, as they have done before only this time it buckled, bent and broke, leaving the driver shaken but all else lost including our way of getting across.

 

dscn7617

Looking down upon the bridge that was no longer.

 

dscn7620

Hard at work making a road.

 

img_4242

The bridge of sighs.

That been said spending time with all of my fellow stranded travellers was fantastic , many conversations , to many laughs to mention and a fantastic encounter with Ahmad a professor from Islamabad and his riding companion Khan ( Please forgive the spelling if incorrect) When we thought it would be hours before the front end loader would complete the makeshift road , Ahmad and Khan organised a tractor and trailer to get our bikes across, the start of yet another fantastic opportunity for more local interaction.

 

img_4245

Ahmad and Khan the guy who would get me to the otherside.

 

 

img_4251

Still making a road.

 

img_4253

Tractor and trailer to get us across.

 

The most amazing thing about the day and Pakistan in general, it that firstly help is never far away and secondly help is offered long before asked. So Bomber, Ahmad’s bike and the three of us, one two, three on to the trailer we are hoisted for a very rodeo ride across to the other side. Once across I waited for the other guys to get across and then we would ride on.

 

img_4257

Safely across on dry land.

Ahmad would not take a rupee, he settled the account for getting the scooter across and would not hear of any payment of any kind. A guest in my country he said I cannot accept payment and that was that. What I have come to love of this country in a very short space of time is not just the generosity, sincerity and kindness of those you meet but there is a wonderful pride that lives in Pakistanis, a pride that runs deep as the countries beauty and as open as the people’s hearts. This place will amaze any traveller. Ahmad had recently taken delivery of his new Honda, had packed a few bags, some with snacks, some with clothes, he and Khan had jumped on the bike and a road trip was born, and this was something I was going to encounter more and more, fellow rider’s road tripping around their country soaking up the spectacular beauty of this land.

 

dscn7627

Tom making his way across.

 

dscn7629

 

dscn7636

Bomber at lake Lulusar , snow in the background.

 

img_4291

Lake Lulusar.

 

img_4273

It did not take to much to get a smile from my new friends on the mountain top,could it have been the shirt.Iam told in fashion circles this is known as colour blocking.

 

 

img_4280

Just after our road dancing, refreshed to ride again.

 

Back on the road toward the Babusar pass , but first a stop for breakfast , roadside again and then we pushed on , time was not on our side we had spent about two hours at the  bridge of sighs .As we climbed higher Moin and I came across a four wheel drive parked on the roadside with a one of the guys waving us down , so as one does you stop , the reason was that these guys were taking a break from travel , to do what I would come to realise is a part of Pakistani life. The music was turned up loud and there we were dancing on the side of the road to cool tunes and fresh mountain air, the stretch and dancing done, them back in the car, us on our scooters onward and upward.

 

img_4296

My almost lunch companions, at the checkpoint.

I stopped at a police check point the last before getting to the top, and this to was one for the books, after introductions I was invited to lunch with the check point chaps, I tried to decline but they would not hear of it, so on the mountain side we lay, chatting, laughing and trading stories of what happens high up in these mountains. When Moin and the guys arrived a little later, I was still relaxing waiting for lunch, only to find out that one of the policemen had been sent back to Naran to buy some naan for lunch and it would be over an hour before his return. So sadly I had to apologise and ride on to try and get to Gilgit before dark. Pakistan is one of the few countries I have travelled where the police and army make you feel both really safe and are extremely helpful. The best way to describe them is firm but really friendly.

 

img_4261

An ice,ice cold one anyone, mountain side refridgeration, redbull gives you wings and up hear you need them.

 

img_4297

View down from Babusar Top.

 

dscn7650

The pause before the down slide.

 

dscn7647

 

dscn7648

 

dscn7654

The road that would take us to the kiln.

 

dscn7641

Life on the side of a mountain.

From here it was over the top, a quick stop for passports and photographs then down the other side,the road drops, with homes and life clinging to the mountainside, from the cold we plunged down into the stifling heat of Chilas, so hard to believe that within a couple of kilometres and a hell of a lot of meters we arrived to find ourselves at the fiery kilns door the heat almost unbearable. Water stop then on to try and escape the heat.

 

dscn7671

 

img_4299

 

img_4302

 

img_4307

Hot,hotter,hottest.

 

dscn7665

Roadside siezure and the dust storm looming.Bomber just locked up and stopped. 5 min and three kicks off we rode,siezure done.

 

Just after crossing the Raikot bridge a vicious sand storm came to reclaim the road and all who travelled this path, it was such a stark reminder of when I rode across the Sahara, that hot wind, the sand attacking  your skin and that amazing, foreboding feeling as the sky around you changes into an angry, menacing face screaming at you. Through that thankfully and I found the guys having chai with Ahmad , I was invited to join and after a quick stop we rode hard for home .

 

dscn7668

Tom, Ahmad and Khan.

 

img_4312

A little fun after the sand blasting.Push faster, I hear him say.

 

img_4317

Along the KKH to Gilgit.

Finally, after 11 hours and around 240 km we arrived at our hotel, a welcomed shower to get rid of the grit and the it was out for barbeque chicken at Cha Cha’s. One thing I can tell you is that this guy is no colonel he is a full blown General, he must make the finest bird I have had in eons, never mind finger licking good, if you are not careful you might just lose the tips of your fingers getting that flavour into your mouth, Cha Cha you are a legend. As I write this my taste buds are dancing Pakistani roadside style and I am fantasising about that piping hot, naan plump with crispy, spicy chicken dipped in Cha Cha sauce.

I would ride one thousand miles ………… just to be with you at your barbeque.

 

 

img_4329

Outside Cha Cha’s flame grilled chicken place.

 

img_4331

Cha Cha himself prepping those birds.

 

img_4333

Just the two of us , scooterist meets chicken king.

 

img_4336

Truck art.

 

img_4339

 

img_4342

A lot of work done on this side door.

 

img_4349

 

img_4353

Need I say more?

Off to bed to count chicken wings and dream of this beautiful place and people. Thank you for a day that let me feel sincerity, kindness, warmth and generosity.

Until we meet again.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Older posts

© 2017 The Solo Scooterist

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑