The Kaghan Valley and Babusar Pass

Posted by Krista

Ramadan has started! For Pakistanis, this means no eating or drinking during daylight hours. So breakfast has moved to the ungodly hour of 4am, and a ferocious scramble for dinner takes place after the evening call to prayer at 7.30pm.

The Koran states that if you are travelling, you don’t have to take part in this austerity, but it is impossible for Dan and I to eat in public. Hoards of frothy-mouthed onlookers run up to us, deliriously asking us why we aren’t fasting, why we aren’t Muslim and why we don’t respect Islam. So we stock up on a daily ration of a kilogram of pakoras and ten samosas, and find a hiding place to eat them.

Here we are trying to buy fizzy drink and being refused.

As we began climbing up towards Babusar ‘Top’, we were tested by bunches of stone-throwing kids. As we strained and struggled and pushed up the steep inclines, they followed, taunting and hassling us and throwing stones at us. One man even rolled a boulder down the side of the mountain towards us!

But these boys were different, and it’s their faces I want to remember…

…they helped me push my bike up the steepest and roughest section of the deteriorating track.

The last few kilometres to the top were the toughest, with the air getting thinner and thinner and my breath getting weaker and weaker. I felt light-headed and nauseous and had to stop every few steps to rest.

This would’ve been an easier way to have reached the top!

The glory of reaching Babusar Top was not ours to be had. As we stood at the summit of 4173 metres, taking in the magnificent vista, we were approached by four tribesmen. Their eyes were lined black with kohl, they wore long gowns, turbans and long beards, and each had an AK47 slung on their back.

With signs of hostility, they told us that they lived here and asked us who we were and where we were going. Our idea to camp at the summit vanished. We waved a hasty goodbye to these ominous characters and began to descend.

The track worsened to some of the most terrible I have even ridden on, and for much of the time was flooded.

As we descended, we reached the epicentre of the 2005 earthquake that had killed 80,000 people, injured 50,000 and decimated villages completely. We stayed with international volunteer schoolteachers Ruth, Neve, Adrienne and Lauren at the newly-built school at the epicentre of the disaster.

A conversation with a local man gave us a bit of insight into the hostility that we were feeling towards us. He was sick and tired of the bad media that Pakistan had received and said of it, “If you think I am a terrorist, I will become one.”

Finally, when we reached Islamabad, we were exhausted. The monsoon was in full swing and mosquitoes were chewing on any piece of skin that they could find.

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