Sost to Pasu, Pakistan

Distance: 22 miles
Time on bikes: 1.5 hours

The big day today and the good news is that Stefano is feeling much better and is up for getting back on his bike. After breakfast we all start getting prepared to get on our way. We get a call to say that it’s ok for us to go down to the fuel station to fill some containers with fuel to give us some more comfort for the road ahead – it’s about 500 miles until we can guarantee we can get fuel.

The collection of fuel goes well and we return with two 30 litre containers the hotel has lent to us. We then go about distributing this into each persons 5 litre containers and 1.5 litre mineral water bottles. Strangely, we end up with about 4.5 litres short and after a bit of head scratching can only put this down to the inaccuracy of the 5 litre vegetable oil canisters we’d bought in Kashgar and are using to transport the fuel. We wish we’d just stuck with using the water bottles for transporting fuel as they seal much better and are far more durable, as several of the oil containers have started leaking. Thankfully all ours are fine.

We get on our way and it’s a 25 minute ride down to the bridge. We get there and it’s just a case of getting on with it. Carl quickly removes his luggage and starts getting it over to the other side of the river ready for the bike to follow. Most of the group still seem a little uncomfortable about using the small wooden bridge to transport the bikes across, but it looks like it should hold fine and the guys that are helping us seem very capable at getting stuff across the bridge.

It’s not long before Carl gets his bike in position to get man handled down the steep slope towards the bridge. This goes well and Carl sticks alongside the bike to ensure it’s safe passage to the other side. There’s a bit of concern on a few faces but before we know it the bike is on the other side and is wheeled up and out the way of the guys busy transporting other goods across the bridge.

There’s a sigh of relief that one bike has made it across, but we still have six to go. We take Fabian’s bike across next and this also seems to go across without too much commotion, but is clearly more difficult to get down the hill and over the bridge due to the extra weight and girth. We leave Stefano’s 1150 GS and Donato’s Harley until last. Despite discussing safety ropes and additional tethers until the last minute, we decide to just go with the tried and tested technique of manpower.

The bridge appears to cope ok with the weight of the 1150 GS, but at over 300 kg the Harley really asks the most of the bridge as it bends and warps under the load. It’s the first time the bridge has looked near to its limit, but the bike makes it across and we’re now all safe on the other side. It’s a great feeling to have overcome this obstacle which had been on our minds for the last month or so. It looks like the temporary bridge which is sat waiting for erection will be in place in about a month, but we’re glad to have made it across with the means available to us. We’re especially proud as we’d been told by a few people that it would be impossible for us to make it through.

As we’re packing the bikes a bit of a problem seems to be erupting as it appears a group of guys have arrived from Gilgit to earn some money doing the unloading and loading of trucks on each side of the bridge. The local guys aren’t exactly happy about this and the shouting, pushing and shoving soon erupts into some punching and kicking, but this then escalates into stone throwing and guys wielding iron bars. We’re a bit caught up in the middle of things, and although we’re told we’ll be ok, we’re soon told to put our helmets on as stones start being hurled around.

We see a few guys on the receiving end of stones being thrown or used to punch people, but after a few minutes there’s a bit of a lull and we decide to get out of the place. We get ready to go, but aren’t sure whether we’ll be on the receiving end of a barrage when we try and get past the guys that have retreated up the road. We don’t have much of an option as we’re literally between a rock and a hard place and just have to hope that they’ll keep their conflict between themselves.

We ride for about two minutes before we come across a car which has some guys in that are clearly injured and it’s difficult for us to just ride past without offering assistance. One of the guys is the one that helped us with the bikes and has a gash under his eye from where he was punched with a rock. Another guy has a significant crack to his skull from an impact with a rock or an iron bar. Stefano, Fabian and James do an excellent job of giving the guys what first aid we can while the rest of us try and find out what caused the ruckus. These guys are local, but have effectively just been driven away but the gangs that have arrived from further south.

As we’re getting sorted out, the District Commissioner drives past and we flag him down to explain what has happened and draw to his attention the problems these local guys are facing. Maybe nothing will come of it, but we’re glad we’ve been able to give them some business helping us to get across the bridge during this incredible difficult period for them.

It’s not too long a ride to Pasu where we’re intending to spend the afternoon and evening and arrive there at about 4 pm. We see Donato outside a guesthouse when we pull into town and we soon get unpacked and checked into a room. There’s a bit of comedy as Fabian and Stefano flip a coin to see who gets the better single room, which Stefano wins.

We chat to a guy outside the hotel who tells us he has a campsite and restaurant up the road and invites us to come along for something to eat. He also says there’s a walk to the nearby Pasu Glacier which goes from his cafe, so we decide to kill two birds with one stone by getting something to eat and go for a walk to get some exercise afterwards.

Unfortunately James isn’t feeling at all well, so we go with the rest of the group to the restaurant. After a delicious Hunza Pie and cup of tea we go for the walk. Unfortunately it’s quite late in the day now and although we manage to get near to the foot of the glacier and see the lake, we need to turn around after about 45 minutes as it’s getting dark. We end up having to negotiate our way back in the pitch black, but make it back in time for a really delicious dinner. We’ve been a bit deprived in Sost of any food with flavour and it’s wonderful to be eating a delicious home cooked meal.

One strange thing on the way back is that we keep hearing what sound like stones being thrown, but can’t see any kids around. It also sounds like animals are rustling around in the bushes nearby to where we’re walking. It’s only when we get back to the hotel we realise that it was the sound of stones falling from the mountain above the village.

There’s a bit of trepidation as we go to bed as tomorrow we have our next hurdle to cross – the bikes will have to go on small boats to cross the Attabad Lake, which was formed in January when the side of a mountain broke away to create a massive landslide, blocking a valley and creating a lake covering 22 km of the Karakoram Highway and being 150 m deep at the foot of the dam.

Jour 139 – Samedi 4 Septembre 2010. De Sost a Pasu, Pakistan

Distance: 35 km – Temps a moto: 1.5 hours

C’est une grosse journée pour nous, et nous sommes contents de voir que Stefano est bien mieux ce matin. Après un bon petit déjeuner, Carl, Fabian et James vont au village avec le proprietaire de l’hôtel pour chercher de l’essence. Ils prennent 60 litres d’essence que nous partageons dans nos jericans, ce qui nous donns un peu plus de 6 litres en plus chacun, ce qui devrai nous suffire.

Nous prenons ensuite la direction du pont, Carl est a l’aise et il est presuade qu’il n’y aura aucun problemes, mais la plupart du groupe est très nerveux. Nous enlevons tous nos baggages des motos, et Carl propose de passer sa moto en premier.

La descente de la route vers le pont est un peu raide, mais les gens qui s’en occupent la desscendent sans problème, et le passage du pont est fait en peu de temps.  Les autres petites motos passent aussi facilement, puis c’est le tour des 3 grosses motos qui font plus de 250kg. Celle de Fabian et de Stefano passent sans problème. La Harley de Donato fait bouger le pont sous son poids, mais elle passe aussi en une piece ! Quel soulagement ! Nous sommes tous du bon cote, et tout s’est très bien passe. Nous remercions et payons les gars qui nous ont aide, mais alors que nous remettons nos baggages sur les motos il semble y avoir une dispute dans le groupe de locaux. C’est apparement des gens qui viennent d’un autre village qui essayent de prendre le travail des locaux pour faire passer les livraisons sur la rivière. Ca n’est pas trop impressionnant au départ, mais nous nous inquietons un peu quand les gens commencent a se battre serieusement et a prendre des caillous et barres de metal pour se battre. Tout est entre eux, et quelques gens viennent essayer de nous rassurer que nous ne sommes pas dasn une position risquee, mais nous emballons nos affaires au plus vite et quand l’un d’eux nous dit de mettre nos casques et nous mettre a l’abris nous sommes bien plus inquiets.

Heureusement la bataille s’elogne de nous et se calme rapidement, mais nous sommes bien contents de repartir au plus vite. Un peu plus loin nous depassons une voiture dans laquelle sont deux des personnes qui ont etees blaissees dans la dispute, nous leur faisons signe de s’arrêter car nous avons de quoi leur donner les premiers secours. Il s’avere que se sont deux des personns qui nous ont aide a traverser le pont, l’un d’eux a une blessure a l’œil et l’autre a la tète. Stefano, Fabian et James s’en occupent et font ce qu’ils peuvent pour les aider, mais leur disent bien d’aller voir un docteur des que possible.

Nous reprenons la route et arrivons a Pasu vers 4 heures, et nous y retrouvons Donato et Roberta qui avaient pris de l’avance et nous ont reserve des chambre dans un petit hôtel sympa. Le seul truc c’est qu’il n’y a pas assez de place pour nous tous dans les chambres ‘agreables’ et l’un des deux qui dorment en chambres simples decident qui l’aura en jouant a pile ou face et Fabian se retrouve dans une chambre plus rustique qui sent un peu la chevre.

Carl discute avec un homme dans la rue qui a un petit restaurant sur le sentier qui mene au pieds d’un glacier. Comme James ne se sent pas bien il reste a l’hôtel avec Emily et nous partons tous vers le restaurant. Nous y mangons une tourte ‘Honza’ qui est un delice : un peit comme un chausson aux legumes et au curry. Après ca, avec Carl nous décidons d’essayer d’aller au glacier avant la nuit, le sentier n’est pas facile : il est plein de gros rochers et nous n’avancons pas très vite, et comme la nuit tombe nous faisons demi tour avant d’y arriver. Norte retours vers l’hôtel est un peu trop sombre au départ, puis completement dans la nuit, mais nous prenons notre temps comme la nuit est claire ca n’est pas un problème.

Quand nous marchons sur la route principale vers l’hôtel nous entendons des petits bruits dans les buissons autours de nous, nous pensons que se sont de petits animeaux, mais Roberta nous dit plus tard que ce sont de petits cailloux qui tombent de lafalaise au dessus de la route.

Une fois de retours a l’hôtel nous passons un moment a discuter avec James et Emily, heureusement james se sent déjà mieux, puis nous allons manger. Le proprietaire de l’hôtel nous a prepare un très bon petit repas de riz et legumes avec des épices.

Nous sommes un peu inquiets pour le lendemain : nous arrivons a début du Lac Attabad, qui a été forme en Janvier après un enorme glissement de terrain. Il a bloque la rivière Honza, submerge les villages et routes de la vallée pour créer un lac de 22 km de long et d’une profondeur de 150 metres au niveua du barrage naturel.

Nous savons que d’autre personnes l’ont traverse et que ca ne devrait pas être un problème, mais nous sommes tout de même un peu inquiets, depuis que nous sommes arrives au Pakistan nous n’avons vu que des routes en reparation, des zones isolees par la force de la nature et nous nous sentons bien petits dans ces grandes montagnes !