Not far from Samarkand, a young girl suddenly crosses the road in front of us: one thing is a running dog another a child! At 110 km/h I have to hard brake which causes my front wheel to skid and me to fall on the road. Luckily, everything turns out well, the kid doesn’t get hurt and the protection pads of my riding suit (called dummy by one of the group) do their job. I have to throw away my fabric gloves, the Yamaha earns new dents, but we appreciate how all the rest withstood the fall. The only true problem is the rod of the front suspensions, which we are able to solve with the help of a citizen of Tashkent.
After the incident, we replace the fabric gloves with leather ones.
From Uzbekistan we plan to go to Tajikistan following the Pamir Highway but, due to an insurrection, military patrols forbid us to pass, making us backtrack with disappointment. We change direction and head towards Kirgizstan, since the border with Tajikistan is closed and the next is 600 km away. Here we start climbing the mountains and instead of sleeping in barns or under the stars, we chose the tent.
To reach the first camp, we travel on a 60 km long unpaved road, westward from the Biszkek-Narin road. The first part crosses a picturesque valley surrounded by high peaks. The last 20 km are more demanding with narrow and steep roads, curves and rocks but offers a breathtaking landscape. The off-road experience is growing. When we reach our destination, the Song Koll lake, we are at an elevation of 3055 meters from sea level and the temperature is much lower. We have a little heater in the tent, but it doesn’t work! In the morning we realize it’s no joke and we don other clothes under the riding suit.
We leave Kirgizstan while in the valley of Rash Rabat, where we meet a group of 10 people with whom we will travel across China to Pakistan. We don’t see a lot of China. The province we cross, Xinjang, is really a through road for Pakistan. The true China, as many of us imagine, is the eastern part of the country, or so our Finn friend says. At the border we are searched, all our PCs and HDs are checked, all our knives are confiscated, and we face a bureaucratic battle. We wait for the necessary documents sleeping in the parking lot. The organization we rely on is unprofessional. Our spirits are low.
After five days all the components of the international team are in a very bad mood, but however, we arrive at the border between China and Pakistan. The Border Patrol comes towards us with a happy “Welcome to Pakistan!”. After what we experienced in China, the warm welcome lifts our spirits. The Khunjerab pass is at an elevation of 4693 meters and is the highest paved border point in the world; it was made on the Karakorum Highway in twenty years, claiming the lives of more than 1000 workers. It seems made for us bike riders. We travel along the Chinese part with no problem. On the peak we pass under a stone archway, we are thrilled, we have reached the symbolic place of the trip. But the best part comes on the Pakistani side. After the pass, we say goodbye to the paved road. The KKH (Karakorum Highway) is undergoing makeover and this offers us a further challenge. A few hundredth meters and we find the first detour; we are now flanking a mountain along a big stream. We are disoriented because we never forded a river before, and along this leg we have to do it more than once. Every time we wade across, some of us pull out photo and video cameras to capture those crossing, waiting for someone to fall. Fortunately, nobody takes a bath! These trails with gravel, mud, rocks, sometimes paved, framed by the spectacular KKH, turned out to be a lot of fun.