Pakistan – Tinu Strebel (issue 22)

On a cold winter’s evening in 2016 I sat with friends at our poker table in Switzerland. The game had been running for a while and we were all on the second beer.
“What? Where do you want to go? PAKISTAN?” My friends looked at me with big eyes while I nod and put my remaining chips on my two cards.
“All in! Yes, Pakistan. We have read that it is a beautiful country.”
“You are aware that in 2011 a Swiss couple was abducted by the Taliban? This is really dangerous!” I really didn’t want to hear such stories and their words made me feel uncertain, especially because Xenia was doing all the route planning.
“Well, it was a while ago, right?” I shrugged, placing my cards visibly on the table.
“Anyway, taking a bike there is just the stupidest idea,” said one of my friends and revealed his cards as well. I saw that I’d been gambling too high and had just lost everything.

It’s 10 months later, and Xenia and I stand with our two motorcycles on the 4,700m Khunjerab Pass. This is the border between China and Pakistan. Next to us is the world’s highest ATM, which denies us any service. The sun has already set and the road to Sost is still long. The many curves and unclear construction sites make the descent from the Pass in the dark quite an adventure, but we make it down in one piece. Not exactly the Pakistani start we wished for.
In the middle of the night we reach the official border post in Sost. The office is dark and empty and we are instructed to wait because the border guards are in evening prayer. After barely ten minutes though, the first official stands beside us and apologizes for the waiting time. All formalities, including the stamping of the Carnet de Passage, are done in 20 minutes and one of the officials even comes with us and shows us the cheapest place to stay in town.
The next morning we are stunned by the view. We are surrounded by huge, striking mountains, their spiky tops illuminated by the sunlight. For breakfast we have sweet milk tea, fried eggs and a kind of omelette bread. This may sound simple, but tastes very good. In any case, it’s far better than we received in China in the week before.
Our first destination is the Hussaini suspension bridge, which crosses Lake Borit upstream of the Hunza river and is also known to be one of the world’s most dangerous bridges.

This is an extract from an article which first appeared in issue 22.