The road from Astore to Skardu.
The night ambled into dawn as we slept on an unsure footing then the sounds, smells and light chiselled their way into my eyelids, the smells of three men in a confined space opened my nostrils that in turn popped my eyelids open, around me Moin and Atzaz still surrounded by the fluff of candy floss sleep, still heavy and deep, the only movement their breathing shown in the sheets.
Up and out I go to wake the crew, slumber holds them all in her fierce grip and she does not want to let go, my words, my elevated volume seems to fall on the deaf, force it will have to be, one by one shake and stir, shake and stir the come to life and slumber is driven away by pulling off blankets and the threat of ice water, easily acquired at this altitude.
Back to the room to get my mates up, Atzaz and Moin both could be of Vampire decent as first light seems too shrivel them up in small origami sleeping shapes, head and bodies under wraps to offer complete cover.
After 30 minute’s, persistence and prodding finally won and team KK hit the road, stopped for fuel and then we started our way to the entrance to the national park and the Deosai plains. The ride this morning one of the most beautiful I have ever experienced and we were still a way off the plains. The greenery, the rock, the river formed the trinity of beauty , independently magnificent when combined to form this land known as Pakistan, the strength of nature shows you something that is not just visually spectacular but something so much more, it is as if she allows you to plug in to her , you don’t just see you feel , you breath her in, she fills you from within with the power of this place, the mountain air a catalyst that opens your eyes even more clearly you see , the beauty amplified, never has the statement, words can’t describe this place ever been truer. I rode slow, one hand on handle bar as my head and body swung from side to side taking it all in.
I eventually caught up with the guys at the breakfast stop upon a mountain high, eggs paratha and chai born out of a kitchen so basic that one could mistake it for a room with a hanging pan and a gas burner stored for use at a later stage. Surrounded by men of the mountains and our hard working hosts we fed and fuelled ourselves for the ride ahead.
The road snaked its way in and around with many river crossings, some that would merely give bomber a momentary twinkle before the dust became mud that gave bomber that rugged look, one river crossing would leave bomber submerged and me lying alongside which gave both us and the locals a level of entertainment to surpass any circus act, even that one from Moscow with bears, babes and trapeze would not surpass the performance of this unusual suspect attempting the crossing. Gudu would have to bring his engineering acumen and expertise to the now limp troop, screwdriver, blow and tap would revive our scoots and set us on our way to the plains. Thank you master of the Vespa universe your touch resurrectory, your wisdom deep and old puts us back on the road. Wet not weary we straddle those mild in power machines and head out. The question on all our minds, would we get across to the other side, with stories told, fever built and all said it was time to try.
Our first stop after that was the military post that would be our last for a while, these men known as the frontier guard held a nations pride on their apparel, the insignia one of power, agility strength all wrapped up in the ferocity of this cat displayed all about. After a chat and passport verification it was into the plains we rode, wild and free.
The distance between Astore and Skardu only amounts to 135 Km, yet ten hours it would take to get across, the road one suited to transport of a more robust nature, the rock packed and cracked ribbon not one easily navigated by a blue Bomber. It would be hour after hour of open space, beauty, bike and body. Brutality and bounce, my organs tried to take back their rightful place and position in my body, while they tried to maintain their integrity my jaw tried to keep my teeth from clashing and my fillings intact, Bomber on the other hand made noises and sounds from the deepest recesses of scooter hell, the place that even those covered in grease and motor oil fear to tread , still we bucked , I had positioned myself as far back on Bomber as possible to lighten the front to try and let the non-existent shock absorb some of the impact , this helped like a third nostril in the heat of the Sahara just so damn uncomfortable it was , but my God the scenery made you want to be here, road conditions could not douse our flame, suck it all in, this air pure, powerful and liberating.
We stopped for biscuits and chai in a place permanent yet with no structure, tents and tables set out in the middle of somewhere, even a hotel room one could hire for the night, out here in place that has no defence, the elements rule and the wind the constant that only differs in speed and strength. We look out across nothingness hoping to spot a roving rouge bear on its way to do some fishing, no luck so we saddle up and head for town, our next stop would be to celebrate the successful crossing of the Deosai Plains, so we danced and danced to celebrate a moment not etched anywhere else but in our hearts, our only witness the wind.
Not quite home yet we took the mountain road to Skardu, it would still be a couple of hours before traffic and luxury would be imposed upon us. Town arrived our hotel boasting amazing views, our dinner that night would be in a place fit for a royal with plates that took our hunger away and left us not wanting, full of the glow that comes from a day of hard riding followed by a great meal full of laughter, nothing more to be said, bed time.
Until we meet again