Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pakistan Pics Finally Up!!

Click on the link on the left hand side to see the photos.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

High altitude cooking, a German-Australian Collaboration, and a farewell to Jemima

Three weeks into Pakistan, and the country I set foot into has turned on its head. The hot humid plains of the south have turned into magnificent snow capped peaks, beautiful valleys filled with fruit trees and terraced fields of wheat and corn. Its apple and apricot season ( just missed the peaches... bugger) and every village you pass has trees laden with fruit! Its totally awesome!

About a week ago I met Tom, the German in Gilgit just as I was leaving the guesthouse, and two hours, a bowl of porridge and a flat tyre (tom's not mine) later, I had a new cycling partner. Having said that, the past week we've been mainly off the bike, trekking in collaboration with a strong German contingent also making their way up the mountains.

We are now in the Hunza valley, definately the most beautiful section of the road so far. This is where the Hindukush, the Karakorum and the Himalaya mountain ranges all intersect toi create lanscape of ridiculously large mountains and amazing scenery. Tom and myself did a two day trek up to Rakaposhi base camp, next to the Minapin glacier, and then joined three other brave adventurous Germans to conquer Rush Peak over the last 5 days, smashing the 5100m peak to bits (more of a hill than a mountain around here) in a journey that saw us cross glaciers, mountain lakes, rain, snow, sunshine and really bloody steep tracks.

After careful consideration, we found our main points of learning to be:

-pasta just doesn't cook right above 4000m.
-porridge does, and still tastes great even when you've had it each morning for 5 days
-walking uphill hurts the same day, walking downhill hurts the next 2 days. alot.
-Germans in general have lots of cool camping gear, Australians don't
-Germans also have many varieties of interesting tea, never before heard of in Australia. Wondervoll!

On a very sad note, unfortunately after three long years of tireless service and countless hours of service to humanity, I left my ipod - Jemima - plugged into the wall in the hostel and after a week of hiking some no good backpacker took it... very un-pakistani.

After a week of bike-saddle free adventuring, the two rubber lined wheels of fate are calling, but not before a day of rest and continuous feeding in Karimabad.

Coming up soon, more cycling, and probably more walking!! stay tuned

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Word on Cricket

Many people don't understand cricket. Many think its a ridiculous sport where about 90% of the total playing population are doing nothing for the vast majority of the game, while a chosen few run up and down the same small stretch of turf for hours on end. If this is what you think, then shame on you.

Cricket is easily the single greatest diplomatic undertaking that Australia has made in recent history. It is the ultimate ice-breaker and friendship maker on the road. You can arrive dirty, dishevelled, smelly and soaking wet with sweat to a tea stall in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, and when the bearded, turbanned, robe wearing Pakistani man behind the counter hears those few special words "I'm from Australia", tea pours from the heavens, smiles appear left and right, and fountains of praise for Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist shower forth!!

However even this is not enough to ease the tension of the next quesion "you are Muslim?", "no" "Why not?"...

In the past week I have cycled from Islamabad to Gilgit, through Indus Kohistan (that translates to Mountain-istan...for good reason). I just clocked up the 1000th kilometer, and things are going pretty well. People continue to be super friendly, and the scenery continues to get better and better. On the road I keep being passed by pick-up trucks full of bearded, turbanned dark skinned men in long robes, who look like they've come straight out of a blockbuster hollywood war movie and simply forgot their guns at the last stop, and inevitably they go past smiling, waving and shouting words of support (I think its be honest I can't really understand what they're saying)

unfortunately, photos aren't working again...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pakistan... So hot right now!

Try this out. Go for a run, 20 minutes should suffice. Then, take your dirty smelly socks, and microwave them for 30 seconds. Once you've completed this step, strap the now warm and moist socks to the sides of your head. Got it? That's the feeling you get riding through the scorching humidity of Pakistan at the moment.

I crossed the border at Wagah the day the olympics began, but the soldiers were busy competing in their own competition - The daily border show-down between India and Pakistan. Over a thousand people gathered on both sides of the border to watch the massive Punjab soldiers stamp up and down the pavement like supercharged roosters (complete with the headgear) to shouts of 'Long Live Pakistan'!! This daily event inevitably ends with a begrudging handshake between the two sides, but with the amount of pomp and aggression that goes into it, i'm surprised all out war does not break out on a daily basis.

From the border it was a flat 30kms to Lahore, where I spent 2 nights and checked out some of the local sights. The guesthouse I stayed in was run by a Sufi guy who hosted local musicians out on the rooftop. The music was pretty cool, with Urdu chanting and amazing drumming and percussion.

I'm pretty keen to get out of the cities and into the hills, so I left Lahore after 2 days for Islamabad, which took 2 days and was a bit like riding along albany highway, except that every 10 minutes or so someone would pull up next to me or pull me over and ask me all about where i'm from and what i'm doing and offer me a cup of tea! The pakistani hospitality is out of this world.

Islamabad is like Pakistan's Canberra. It was built about 50 years ago as the nations capital, and is a fairly tasteless city seperated into square sections each with a little market in the middle. From here things should get more exciting, as I head up along the Karakoram highway into the mountains.

I know the pictures are hardly the national geographic classics you're used to from TTI, but I left my usb cable in the tent and can only put up these two pictures of Lahore traffic I thought were fantastic.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dahl for dinner once again

So the trip has officially started, got to Delhi last night, for what feels like the 600th time this year, and after successfully navigating a 2m long bicycle box through the crowds at delhi airport, realising both airport atm's were broken and I only had 22 singapore dollars to my name and convincing the taxi driver that my bike was NOT in fact a tv, and as such I should be spared the 50 rupees "tv tax" I made it out and to my surprisingly clean and spacious guesthouse in backpackerville.

'FY', (which was the name affectionately given to my bicycle by Lobna) arrived safely. Today I traversed Delhi 4 times arranging all the documents for my Kyrgyzstani visa, and tommorow it should be ready, which means the next day I can hit the road!

So in the interests of not making this blog deadeningly boring, I'll keep it short. Todays greatest moments were catching up with 'aunty' at the Lotus temple, and taking a picture of the pumpkin guy in the Paharganj market, after which he handed me his business card (the most professional looking pumpkin sellers card i've ever seen) and made me promise i'd send it to him - apparently 'side of the road next to the lamp post ' is an address in Delhi...

ok, maybe it wasn't that short. I'll try harder next time.