overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

The Karakoram Highway

Written by Alex Towns. Uploaded 18 February 2006.

Pakistan, Country 14, Diary entry 11th Dec - 18th Dec 2005, Total distance in Pakistan: 5231 KM

The view from our guesthouse in Gulmit Looking up the valley after crossing the 'wooden' bridge! Mountain ranges surrounding Gulmit

After our meeting with the tourist office in Islamabad and being assured the infamous Karakoram Highway (KKH) snaking north into the mountains and linking Pakistan with China, was at least open as far as the Hunza valley (after that it was anyone’s guess) we decided to go the scenic route and head off towards the hill station at Muree. With an early start scheduled we even surprised ourselves when we hit the road no more than 15mins late – a first for us whilst in Pakistan! The drive up into the hills soon left the relatively decent roads around town and turned in to a smaller single lane road that twisted up into the hills. Fortunately the traffic was comparatively light, however there were still frequent trucks needing to be negotiated, but after a long blast on the horn they normally gave way and let us past.

Beep beep - let us past!

We were making good progress, only one missed turning which required a haphazard 3 point turn, whilst traffic both ways squeezed to get past us at the slightest hint of a gap! Nothing like giving way in these parts… negotiating traffic is like dropping a big rock into a river… the water doesn’t simple stop – it just finds a way round! Turning off the ‘A’ road, we were now on the ‘B’ road and crossing over to Abbottabad. As we ascended the pass we got our first view of the mountain ranges that we were heading for – impressive!

Our first views of the mountains

By now we were over 2000m and the air outside was cold with pockets of snow lingering in the shadows. Rounding one bend, stretched right in front of us was a long patch of ice. Needing to brake, Tinfish slid a bit and wiggled across the ice – quite exciting with a near vertical drop to one side! A quick radio call to Martin gave him a heads up as he followed us more cautiously around the corner. Progress now turned to a slower pace as the road got narrower and the ice more frequent. A number of times we engaged low ratio to give Tinfish extra traction just to make sure.

Wondering if perhaps we would have saved more time if we’d taken the alternative route, we came across a row of stationary traffic headed by a bus and a tractor. The road in front was thick snow and ice for some 200ft and the passengers from the bus had gathered outside to discuss the obstacle. They’d decided to turn round and just as we were wondering whether we might do the same, a local in some small jeep cruised on past the row of cars, across the stretch of ice and onwards on his journey without even batting an eyelid! Well two top of the range 4x4’s couldn’t be outdone so easily, so into low ratio and with all the diff’s locked just to be safe we carefully crossed the ice patch… no problemo!

We eventually arrived in Abbottabad after giving the brakes a thorough workout on the way down the mountain. Our first priority was to pick up some roti for lunch, then on to the junction with the KKH. From here we started to see the first signs of evidence after the terrible earthquake which hit the region a few months before our visit, a few damaged buildings along with helicopters busily taking off and landing with supplies slung in cargo nets beneath. If you have not already done so please read how CARE responds to the earthquake disaster and our own Thoughts from Northern Pakistan when we visited.

Leaving Gilgit - nice view! Trucks continually plod up and down the KKH The cars take a breather to admire the views

We got to the T-junction and hung a right to finally head north along the KKH – fantastic. The traffic was noticeably busier with many of the local colourful trucks ferrying relief supplies up the valley. As we progressed north the number of tents and shelters increased at a startling rate. We were soon in the midst of countryside and villages devastated by the earthquake and everywhere you looked there were vivid reminders of the tragic circumstances now faced by these mountain communities as they try to continue with some form of normal daily existence.

Initially the KKH winds through the foot hills then follows a valley which is a tributary off the mighty River Indus and although the scenery is dramatic, nothing quite prepares you for what lies ahead. Eventually we joined with the main Indus Valley and the torrent of water coursing along not too far below was already brown with sediment. The KKH now follows the Indus, tucked in against the side of the valley for a little distance before reaching a rather old looking iron girder bridge, the road surface of which has been strangely patched by a ‘mini bridge’ going over what I assume was a big hole! Not wishing to linger too long on the bridge we stole a quick glance up stream at the mountain scenery unfolding before us – magnificent!

Following the River Indus there are still green patches Part of the valley is always shrouded by shadow A little village eeks out a living whilst clung to the valley sides

Being somewhat behind schedule after our exploits across the icy pass we were wary that it was starting to get dusk and we were still a little way from our first planned bed for the night, camping in the car park of the PTDC hotel in Besham. There isn’t much option to just nip off the KKH as there is nowhere to go, steep cliffs to one side and a vertical drop to the river the other, so we continued with light fading fast. Fortunately they at least have the sense here to drive with their headlights on at night, so slowly and carefully we drove the last hour or so to Besham.

Parking up in the car park, we could only just find space between the many Red Cross vehicles some from as far a field as Switzerland! Having introduced ourselves to the hotel manager, he quickly agreed that it was fine for us to camp outside and with dinner soon to be served we sat down with a chi as the lounge started to fill up with workers from the Red Cross. The room was soon completely full and a queue of hungry people helped themselves to the chicken curry buffet that had been laid out. Of course we weren’t far behind and after a good feed topped off with green chi we got talking to some of the Red Cross guys.

One nurse was over from New Zealand and had just started a 6 month tour of the region. We chatted about why we were in the area and listened to what her daily activities entailed… many hours of driving and hiking to get to remote villages to then provide medical aid. She definitely had a decent pair of hiking boots on that appeared to be getting a good work out. We sympathised with how these dedicated people coped with spending long periods of time isolated in such remote regions and with the hotel itself showing its own scars from the earthquake (there was no back wall left!!), facilities available were basic at best.

The PTDC hotel bears scars from the earthquake

Martin was sure he could feel an occasional tremor from the many aftershocks that are still present just when a colossal shock wave followed instantly by an immense explosive hit the hotel. What on earth was that - they were blasting in the nearby quarry at gone 11pm…! It certainly made us all jump. Apparently it was a nightly occurrence. With a ringing in our ears we climbed up the ladders to the tent and bed, hoping we weren’t in for a repeat performance during the night!

“Did the earth move for you?” Not a topic we’d normally discuss first thing in the morning with Martin, but sure enough there had been a more sizeable tremor during the night that got the cars rocking! Maz however slept comfortably through it! Surprisingly the night hadn’t been as cold as what we’d expected and it was a pleasant morning. We tucked into a greasy breakfast of paratha and omelette with much chi to wash it all down as we had another long days drive ahead of us, hoping to get as far as Gilgit.

The drive along the KKH at this stretch is breathtaking. The road literally hugs the vertical cliff, wiggling its way deeper into the mountains. With no crash barriers between you and the river far below it makes for some pretty exhilarating driving, especially when meeting traffic coming in either direction. We’ve already ascertained previously that the level of driving ability in this region is at best poor, but at least the majority of road users plod along the KKH at a snails pace and we formed a kind of informal relationship with them often exchanging a friendly beep.

Not so however with bus drivers, who must have sold their souls to Satan and were already living on borrowed time. Unfortunately the buses in this region also appear to be turbo charged and they literally flew around the narrow track clinging desperately to the side of the valley with little or no regard for what was in front, behind or to the side! We quickly learnt to give them a very wide berth – or stamp quickly on the brakes when another idiot came skidding around the corner towards us on two wheels and stretched across the entire road!

A frontier town relys heavily on the KKH

The KKH is claimed to be the 8th Wonder of the World, however I’m not so sure whether it’s as much an engineering marvel rather than a testimony to the persistence of man to establish a road where really there shouldn’t be one. There’s no shortage of signs dotted along the highway reminding you of the immense feat and how proud they are of the KKH’s existence. We passed through a number of villages whose lifeblood is the highway and progressively they took on a more frontier look and feel but were hives of activity.

Justly proud of their achievements

Passing through one such village we got a radio call from Martin. Not sure the meaning of the guy indicating right in front of him (and there are many many possibilities!) he made the wrong call as he overtook and found out he actually did mean he was turning right! The chap clipped the side of Martin’s Land Cruiser – no damage to Martin’s but it took the guys headlight off! Regular readers will notice somewhat of a track record forming! The normal heated discussion ensued, before Martin was told by another villager just to drive on… which he did quick sharp!

The mountains forming around us were starting to soar up into the sky, many now with a dusting of snow on top. We had left the green valleys of lush pine trees the day before, so the scenery now surrounding us was simply bare rugged mountain an awesome view against the blue skies. Crossing another bridge as the road switched banks again, we passed a brit who we’d heard about back at the PTDC in Besham. He was walking the length of Pakistan with his horse, in aid of education for children. Made our cars seem very comfortable in comparison!

Tinfish dwarfed by the mountains

For lunch we stopped off at Chilas, which was also a recce as a potential overnight spot on our return journey. Not much going for it really – although it has a fort! We grabbed a round of roti then took the ‘C’ road back down to the KKH... which in places took some extreme negotiation to get round and through the tiny lane before rejoining the ‘highway!’ We stopped for lunch just outside town, which prompted a couple of other cars to spontaneously stop empty all their passengers and gawp as well.

Nanga Parbat we believe

Bellies full the KKH now drives in the shadow of Mt Nanga Parbat and at 8125m it’s the eighth highest in the world and still rising by 7mm every year! With almost seven vertical kilometres from the summit into the adjacent Indus gorge the north face ‘Raikot’ has the sharpest elevation differences found anywhere on earth! Its south ‘Rupal’ face is a sheer 4500m wall, too steep for snow to stick, hence its name, Urdu for ‘Naked Mountain’. For the team it puts Mt Ararat, the expedition’s former highest mountain at a mere 5165m to shame!

A little further on there is a great place to stop with simply amazing views of not only Mt Nanga Parbat, but Mt Rakaposhi (7790m) along with Ultar Peak (7388m) and has the best view of sheer numbers of colossal snow capped mountains anywhere on the KKH. The entire drive along the KKH bears witness to an immense continental collision zone, which in the process trapped and virtually upended a chain of volcanic Islands as the Indian Plate buried its edge under the Asian Plate, lifting it up. The mountain chain comprising the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges was born as a result of this stupendous collision and with the Indian Plate still edging northwards about 5cm per year, is still ongoing today!

The meeting of three immense mountain ranges

The Indus gorge is so steep that parts get hardly any direct sunshine during the day and the long shadows soon set in. Not surprisingly light was beginning to fade as we reached this dramatic joining of the three immense mountain ranges. Taking our time though we still managed to stop and soak up the atmosphere dwarfed on all sides by the rugged scenery unfolding before us and continuing as far as the eye could see. From here on the KKH leaves the River Indus and follows instead the Hunza River towards Gilgit.

The sun doesn't get much higher at this time of year at Gilgit

Rounding one bend we were confronted with a gaggle of locals frantically waving us to slow down. One of the demon bus drivers had almost met his destiny on a patch of ice and his bus had gone completely over the edge arse end first! All that had prevented his and the entire buses early demise was a small rock, which had wedged one of the rear wheels. How the hell it had managed to stop from careering on down the cliff is anyone’s guess – a bit of borrowed time still in hand I suppose! Low ratio and lockers engaged again we inched past – yikees!

A very very lucky escape..!

On arrival at Gilgit we contacted Mr Kazi the District Co-ordination Officer (DCO) a good friend of Mr Khoso the DCO of Sukker who had very kindly looked after us on our travels north from Karachi. Mr Kazi had simply been informed we were coming and to look after us! Not really sure who we were from Adam, Mr Kazi politely asked us if he should be arranging accommodation and whether we had eaten! We obligingly took him up on his kind hospitality. Talking over dinner we were glad that he was originally from Karachi since it had now got darn cold which he wasn’t used to, so had a roaring log fire on the go – a first and last unfortunately.

What seems to be all the trouble here then?

Asking why Gilgit was so surprisingly quiet on the streets and the reason for so many armed police, soldiers and sandbag defences, we were told that they had only recently lifted a curfew after some aggressive sectarian fighting – gulp! Saying our goodnights, we were escorted to a hotel for the night and sat huddled around a small gas fire as we watched our first DVD on the laptop of the trip so far – well ok it was actually a bit of homework ‘Himalaya’ by Michael Palin!

We awoke to a chilly morning, in fact the pipes had frozen so hot water was only available in a bucket! Again the earth had moved for us during the night – this time it registered 6.7 on the Richter scale with the epicentre across the border in Afghanistan. Once again Maz slept through it blissfully unaware! Apparently however a load of hysterical women who were staying checked out straight afterwards in fright saying it wasn’t safe here! We heard later that our friends in Lahore had to leave their houses as a precaution too!!

Enjoying breakfast on the veranda

As the sun slowly warmed the valley, we sat on the veranda with some beautiful views around us - it was actually warmer outside than in the rooms! This called for a hearty mountain breakfast and we all tucked into hot porridge, eggs and toast, with steaming hot coffee and chi. This morning we were simply relaxing after a number of days of hard driving, however it was soon time to pack up and head onwards towards the Hunza valley. Taking local advice we crossed the somewhat rickety suspension bridge – one car at a time to be safe – rather than double back and retrace some 10 km’s. Unfortunately they hadn’t taken into account the size of our cars, as no sooner had we crossed the river there was another bridge taking us back – not a problem in itself, but the tunnel immediately afterwards could only just squeeze a tiny wee mini-van – our cars would have no chance!

Back we went then onwards. The scenery here was different again. We left the steep cliffs to be replaced with more gradual scree slopes down from the massive mountains to the wide Hunza River valley. The whole KKH is a visual feast for the senses as again we were driving amongst massive mountains, which dominate the skyline. Following the bend in the river to head east, the River Hunza now cuts a gorge deep into the rock and once more you are back to hugging the mountain side. It’s difficult to get anywhere as you keep wanting to get out and take photos!

The shadows grow longer The cars pose for their photograph There are still a few trees lower down the KKH

Maybe we shouldn’t have had such a leisurely morning as once again dusk was upon us! Not far to go and we were in Karimabad and hunting down the PTDC hotel which we found without too much difficulty, only to find they were actually shut for the season! Bugger, what to do? Amjad had already told us he had a friend up in Gulmit with a guesthouse who would happily put us up, so we took the executive decision to press on another hour up the valley to Gulmit.

Driving along the KKH in the dark now, we noticed lines of burning candles lighting the mountains, some just along the road others extremely high up the cliffs. Someone had gone to a lot of effort to set those up. Curious we stopped to ask their significance? We were in Aga Khan territory now and today was his birthday. In these parts he is regarded as pretty much a king and they dote on him. From what we later saw he definitely has had an extremely positive impact on the region, the most striking being how educated even the remote villagers are, as free education is provided by the Aga Khan to all children!

Schools out - an open air class room in the Hunza Valley

Arriving in Gulmit we soon tracked down the guesthouse to find nobody home! Trying to come up with a plan C we met some very friendly young villagers who all had perfect English and were very keen to help. We were soon introduced to Samad Khan who after trying unsuccessfully on the phone to track down our contact, offered his guesthouse as an alternative. We gladly obliged and were soon at the guesthouse huddled in the lounge around the one small gas heater in all our hats, gloves, scarf’s and woollies, whilst Samad tidied up two of the 3 rooms for us to stay in.

Martin wasn’t feeling too good, so took himself off to bed leaving Maz to rustle up some grub in the kitchen with dubious cleanliness whilst I attempted a repair on the GPS that she had accidentally managed to break earlier by snapping off one of the connector pins at the back. The GPS to date had been a godsend and such a trip would be impossibly difficult without one, so some delicate soldering was called for. Maz’s brother Damien was due to meet us in Delhi in a few weeks time, so I tried unsuccessfully to raise Garmin support in the UK via the sat phone to arrange a spare part – holding on and on listening to canned music is tedious at the best of occasions, spending a fortune on the sat phone for the privilege wasn’t the best tact.

I-I-I C-c-can't s-s-stop m-m-my t-t-teeth c-c-chattering..!!!

With the outside temperature plummeting it was good to come inside for some hot food, although since nowhere in these parts appear to be capable of handling the cold weather the house was as cold if not colder than outside. They don’t even seem particularly bothered about shutting the front door and few of the windows fit or are closed! Asking if there was any more heat available, a single bar electric heater was produced and the bare wires inserted into the socket on the wall. Using that along with the gas heater we sat wearing everything eating dinner and watching the latest Harry Potter movie on a doggy DVD picked up in Karachi. I think the laptop chucked out more heat than the combined heaters!

Now those that know me, know that I’m not the best when it comes to the cold. However when getting ready for bed consists of getting into fleece PJ’s, a further fleece jumper on top of that, socks, hat, gloves then into a –7C sleeping bag under a sheet, duvet and blanket and you still have a restless nights sleep because of the cold, I think you can take my word for it – it was COLD! Thankfully morning came and I’d managed to cheat any major frostbite, but even a few kicks at the ice in the toilet flush bucket couldn’t break through to the water somewhere below and the windows to the room now had a nice thick layer of ice on the inside!

We finally manage to break the ice on the bucket!

Going outside to warm up, I noticed that Tinfish’s water system hadn’t faired so well. We hadn’t expected such extreme cold and stupidly hadn’t made any allowance with our water tank and pipes. I appeared to get off lightly with only a showerhead cracking and separating from the hose for which we had a spare and the pipe to the shower heater matrix popping off. Martin’s tap had a lovely icicle protruding from it with the bit of plastic from where it had burst through stuck at the tip! A quick check on the thermometer in the car and the minimum recorded temperature was –12C… brrrrrr..!!!

The people here are very friendly

Samad offered to show us around the village but having had no brekkie we were all a bit peckish so asked if we could stop for some bread. First however he wanted to show us the wooden suspension bridge across the River Hunza. On arrival it was obvious that they had rather liberally over used the word wood in the description as it was more like a few cables spanning the valley with the occasional bit of decrepit looking wood wedged in for good measure. Heights I’m not too good with. Tightrope walking on a swinging bridge across a freezing cold river definitely got the heart pumping! Of course the locals trotted across it without even holding on or looking down at their feet..!!?!

What wood..?!?!?

Back towards the village and we met a very friendly lady who wanted her picture taken with Maz. The Muslim philosophies of those that follow the Aga Khan are far more liberal-minded than many other Muslim sects that we’d seen in Pakistan. The ladies are far more noticeable in public and don’t have to cover up. Talking with us, which Samad translated, she said “we are all friends”. Passing through the village, apparently bread was to come later, we entered a carpet weaving house through the double doors angled at 90 degrees to each other in an attempt to stop the draft – at last someone was taking the cold seriously! Inside were about 8 ladies busy weaving carpets and kilims. They even had a small fire, which we huddled around whilst watching them work and talking with them.

The ladies weave carpets for Maz's delight!

Next stop on the walk around the village was chi (not quite bread) at one of his friend’s house. It was really interesting to see inside a traditional one-room house. You enter through the same type of double doors then there is an entrance ‘pit’ lower than the rest of the room where you must leave your shoes. You can then move on to the carpeted area surrounding a small wood fired stove, which is below an open hole in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. They sleep in the alcoves on carpets and blankets to either side. Thankfully the stove was on and soon chi was being boiled up accompanied by

Next stop on the walk around the village was chi (not quite bread) at one of his friend’s house. It was really interesting to see inside a traditional one-room house. You enter through the same type of double doors then there is an entrance ‘pit’ lower than the rest of the room where you must leave your shoes. You can then move on to the carpeted area surrounding a small wood fired stove, which is below an open hole in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. They sleep in the alcoves on carpets and blankets to either side. Thankfully the stove was on and soon chi was being boiled up accompanied by a few rather strange tasting biscuits.

Being made to feel very welcome

It was quite cosy in the house and I believe the gloves and even the hat eventually came off! The children Nasima, Ayesha and Azher were very keen to practice their English and soon Maz was being the teacher and listening to them read through their text books which are all in English. At this stage an aunt popped in to visit and my eyes immediately fell on the round loaf of bread she was carrying. Samad struck up the negotiations and soon we were the proud owners of a rather weighty loaf of bread, although I’m not sure she had originally intended to sell it, I think it was actually meant for their dinner!

As we wandered back to the guesthouse, we tore into the loaf and quite dense it was too! Not your average light and fluffy loaf of bread it took quite a bit of chewing. Fortunately back in the car we had a packet of soup, so with that heated up we could dip the bread in to soften it up and save our jaws! Finally full after our breakfast/lunch Maz & I decided to drive over to the glacier just a little further along the valley. Tinfish started, but didn’t sound happy. I guess at these temperatures the diesel becomes quite syrupy, but fortunately hadn’t frozen. We tried hiking up to the glacier face, but it was further than it looked from the road and once again we found ourselves racing the shadows in the valley as they drew longer, so back down to the guesthouse and another night huddled around the tiny heater watching a DVD.

Poor Tinfish felt the cold too

The next morning it was time to leave Gulmit and head back down the KKH. Although we’d all frozen our @sses off, there was no denying this place is absolutely breathtaking with some amazing scenery. ‘In season’ there would be some fantastic hikes and of course it’d be slightly warmer too. Next stop however was Karimabad and the fairy-tale like castle of Baltit perched high up on the cliff. This Hunza landmark was built about 600 years ago, stilted on its massive legs the wooden bay windows look out over the valley stretched far and wide.

Immense views from the Castle of Baltit

We spent a good few hours exploring the castle and marvelling at the views before returning to the town below. It may have been off-season, however the tourist shops were all still poised, doors open hoping to snag the occasional tourist, which might just pass by. Like lambs to the slaughter we obliged and soon had rugs and carpets being unrolled in front of us on a just look don’t buy basis. Impressed Maz hadn’t bought any the day before at the carpet weaving in Gulmit I saw her waiver for just a moment. True there were some lovely carpets on display, but we agreed Damien couldn’t take too much home with him… oh ok one little carpet that would make a luvly wall hanging could surely be squeezed in his luggage somewhere..!

The castle of Baltit sits proudly in the Hunza valley

Deal done we left the Hunza valley behind and retraced our track back to Gulmit and the hotel we’d stayed at before in order to pick up our towels we’d left there last time. Again we were soon sat in front of our laptop watching a DVD with room service ordered, all that was missing was a beer. After a slightly warmer nights sleep we decided to just push on to Besham and see if we could camp there again. The Red Cross guys were surprised to see us back again so soon as we swapped stories of what we’d been up to over the last few days over green chi.

From here south we decided to go our separate ways back down to Islamabad. Martin wanted to take the more direct route and also stop off at Taxila, whilst Maz and I wanted to cross over into the next valley and head towards Balakot and Muzaffarabad the towns that suffered the full force of the earthquake. We’d meet that evening back at Amjad’s. Following the KKH we turned off towards Balakot with the roads noticeably deteriorating and before long we were driving through complete tented villages set up in the aftermath. On arrival at Balakot it took some time to comprehend the scale of the disaster. Entire areas of the town had been flattened and it brought a tear to your eye when talking to some of the locals as they explained the pile of rubble you were looking at used to be a 3 storey building, that one 6 storey!

People form an orderly queue waiting for aid

With a vivid impression of the scale of this horror and the enormous challenge faced by the NGO’s (CARE International being extremely active in this area) we continued south towards Muzaffarabad. The roads got worse and worse. In many places landslides had tried to reclaim the track desperately clinging to the mountainside and the magnitude of the logistical issue of clearing these roads to get aid through must have been immense. Muzaffarabad is a big place, but again the scars are everywhere. Within a row of buildings some still stand, whereas there are many gaps partially filled by a pile of rubble, which once used to be a building.

Heartbreaking devastation

Continuing back towards Muree, the roads were simply atrocious. Although mainly cleared now it makes for extremely tiresome driving as there isn’t a single straight section more than about 100ft long! You follow the road winding along the mountainside, left then right then left then right at a snails pace. We met a truck and a bus that hadn’t quite managed to get past each other and they were locked in an embrace with glass covering the road and a heated discussion in progress! Much beeping later they at least paused their discussions to move to the side of the road to let the traffic past and eventually we got back to Muree. From here on back down to Islamabad the roads improve, so before long we were parking up at Amjad’s house exhausted.

Truck carrying supplies negotiates a cleared landslide

No one seemed bothered to get into the kitchen and make sups, so after a long session on the internet catching up we simply fell into bed. The next morning Amjad popped round to say hi before Maz and I left for Lahore with a quick detour along the infamous Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) to stop in on Taxila, which Martin had enjoyed previously. Only finding on arrival the wallet a little depleted of spons as we’d forgotten to top up at an ATM, with much on offer we chose a couple of the more interesting looking temples to explore, missing out the museum for another time and spent the morning ambling around ruins of a different ilk – I believe these were our first of Buddhist origin on the trip thus far!

Remains of a Buddhists stupa at Taxila

Taxila covers an immense area and is a collection of ancient cities and Buddhist sites which until the 3rd century was the cultured capital of an empire stretching across the subcontinent and into Central Asia. We first visited Dharmarajika which is a huge stupa up on a hill, with a collection of smaller stupas dotted around. We then visited Jaulian which had a large collection of votive stupas ornamented with fantastic bas-relief Buddhas, elephants and nymph like figures. It also has a monastery with dozens of odd closet sized meditation cells, very snug!

Beautiful cavings adorne the walls

Enlightened, we stopped off at one of the many fruit stalls that colourfully line the street all vying for you attention, but all selling the same thing – oranges. How to decide which stall had the best oranges? We then drove through rock chipping street, where row upon row of workshops had people slowly chipping away at rocks in some stage of evolution from the original round boulder to a large carved bowl, for what purpose we never did find out. Time to press on and back on to the super highway to Lahore. This stretch of road lays down a marker for all other roads in the country to aspire to. Three brand new lanes (in both directions!) with hardly any traffic at all it makes the drive to Lahore a pleasure.

Breath taking views of the Hunza valley Bridge across the River Indus The road north...

It even had a motorway service station, which we stopped off at to get roti for our cold chicken n veg dish that Maz had rustled up early in the morning for our packed lunch. Here Tinfish was again the centre of attention and many friendly Pakistani’s travelling by bus were very interested in our exploits and keen to know why we were visiting Pakistan. Our quick food stop turned into a rather long conversation about our expedition and with still some ground to cover we were eager to push on for our arranged rendezvous with Martin on the outskirts of Lahore. Once back on the road and a few telephone calls later to fine tune the arrangements we finally arrived, back safely with the ‘Network’ – Lahore branch!

All content copyright © overland-underwater.com - please do not use without permission.

Comment from Scooter & H
simply stunning - though glad we're back here tucked up nice and warm ;0)
18 Feb 2006 @ 21:19:16

Comment from ishaq khan
thats amazing,i have been to china and love to more of these collisions,and pics
05 Oct 2006 @ 16:29:36