Human Power Round The World - Update - Bike Magic

Bike Magic - Mountain Bike News, Videos and Reviews. Keep up with the latest Biking Gear, Events and Trail Guides at BikeMagic.



Human Power Round The World – Update

Dear All – hot off the keyboard – enjoy – and lots of

love – Pakistan is great!! Give us a beer –


Rich and Andy.

Human Power Round The World – Update from Dera Ghazi
Khan – 18th January 18, 2000

Quetta nestles in the cup of a range of surrounding
mountains at an altitude of 1700m, and is the Capital
of the Province of Baluchistan. For us it provided the
pefect retreat and recuperation opportunity following
our desert stretch. However, although it is the
largest city in Baluchistan, it still comes with the
rough edges that typify the Westernmost province of
Pakistan. Whilst we were in the city one of the
provinces chief judges was shot dead from point blank
range as he drove from his residence to the
Courthouse. In response to this we witnessed the
following day a cavalcade of some 35 armed Anti
Terrorist vehicles, each with approximately half a
dozen machine gun toting soldiers, roll into town in a
symbolic gesture of control – but it is sure that the
assassins will be by now far away into the vast

For us, the end of Ramadan should have proved
a joyous occasion – a chance to start eating regularly
again and to see Pakistani life resume normality. We
hadn’t however accounted for the festival of Eid ul
Fitur – the feasting at the end of Ramadan which also
sees the closing of all shops and businesses for at
least 2 days or quite possibly more. Quetta’s most
luxurious hotel however, the Serena, gladly remained
open and we were only to happy to take advantage of a
glorious spread of food on offer – especially the
buffet breakfast – including cheese and mushroom
omlettes, crispy warm croissants, strong coffee, and
the piece de resistance as far as I was concerned waswas
brown toast with butter and marmalade! We also
encountered another long distance cycling friend here
in the oasis of civilisation – one Nigel George from
Australia – who was en route to Europe having cycled
most of the way from Singapore. He provided us with
many useful tips about the route ahead and we provided
him with some suggestions for Europe and the UK – good
luck Nigel – send our regards to Blighty when you get

For the first time since our expedition began we
failed to set off as scheduled from Quetta. On rising
on the morning of 11th January, we discover that
Quetta has broken a drought of nearly one year. The
locals are almost dancing in the street. But for us,
the mud and oily grime on the floor, and the sight of
overflowing drains and huge floats of rubbish drifting
down the street is not compelling to our departure.
Combined with our tiredness and a few outstanding
jobs, we settle on tomorrow being a much better day to
leave! In the event it actually gets colder the next
day and there is snow falling. The weather patterns in
this part of the world certainly take some getting
used to! Determined and spurred on by some encouraging
messages over the Internet we set forth – towards the
Punjab which seems close after having crossed the
desert but we are actually faced with another huge
wild expanse – the Ziarat and Suleyman Ranges of

Once outside of Quetta the weather soon improves and
whilst it is cold the snow ceases, and we pedal
eagerly along – keen to make progress again after our
long rest. We have chosen the adventurous but slightl
shorter route from Quetta to the Punjab and we make
for the hill station of Ziarat.

We reach Kach for that
evening, which is at an elevation of 2000m, and we
feel a bitter cold wind. There is no obvious place to
sleep, but we are welcomed by the very keen Abdul
Nassr at his hotel. The term ‘Small Hotel’ by now is
being used to describe anywhere that will accept
travellers to sleep on their floor. This particular
hotel has an attractive swamp of mud surrounding the
entrance, plastic sheets for windows, and a slightly
raised up dried mud step for a general purpose eating
and sleeping area.

We however, are invited to stay at
the house of Ali the sub-engineer for the road
improvement project, and we are treated to a wood
burning stove, a proper bed, and a tin full of warm
water to wash ourselves with. Dinner is also provided
for us. Curried tongue from an unspecified animal
challenges my sense of texture as I eat it. The
feeling of the slightly rough surface of another
animals tongue inside my own mouth is not one that I
am used to, but it tastes so good – I don’t look to
closely at the bristly surface as I put it into my
mouth – I just stuff it in and chew!

Outside the
temperature plummets to minus thirteen and the snow
whistles around the outside of the house – how glad we
are to have been offered a place to stay. The next day
finds the temperature not much higher and even
removing a glove to take a picture for just a couple
of minutes freezes my hand, and putting my glove back
putting my glove back
on is not enough to revive it.

We leave Ali and Abdul
in Nassr and we start our ascent to Ziarat. I promise
myself that I must make sure I send something back to
these people who have shown generosity above and
beyond the call of duty. The air is so cold as we set
off that I must swing my arms around to force the
blood down into my fingers. Our gloves are very good
and help for mobility and being able to open bags but
the increased surface area of each finger allows the
cold to penetrate easily and one by one our fingers
lose feeling.

As we pedal harder though the blood
warms and we find our fingers come back to life – this
is a relief as we find precious little sign of life on
this hillside – we are alone with the road, and the
cold, and the snow and ice. The road becomes very
steep and we rise quickly, before dropping again which
propels us forwards in distance towards Ziarat but is
a little frustrating, as we have to climb again before
we will arrive at Ziarat. My watch reads about 2500m
as we reach a dramatic cutting in the rock face and we
squeeze through a gorge and into the summer retreat.
At this time of year though there is an air of
desertion – the air temperature is about minus 5 and
the locals think we must have lost our marbles coming
up here out of choice.

We pile into the Shalimar hotel
and marvel at the sparkling icicles that dangle from
every gutter in town. This night is seriously cold,
and there is ice on the inside of the windows well
before we go to bed. We shiver even with our sleeping
bags, silk liners and three blankets, and it is not
the greatest night’s sleep we have ever had.

Our reward comes to us in the morning with the
crispest air and brightest blue skies, and the crunch
of snow beneath our tyres. In turn as we climb the
snow gives way to black ice, and my bike gives way
beneath me as I slide uncontrollably. I hit the ground
with a painful thud. Andrew laughs and gets a snap for
the album, but it is truly wonderful scenery, and we
are looking forward to our descent on the other side
of this climb. We hit 2800m and find an unmanned
checkpost with flags fluttering in the wind and a sign
– ‘Welcome in our place – Sanjawi’ – the next town
beneath us – 40km away and many metres of descent.

snow and ice are still very much with us as we descend
and I use a speedway style as we roll downwards – my
foot down to steady myself as my front wheel slips
sideward. We cruise down the hill on top of the snow
quite happily but as the temperature rises we find the
snow turns to slush and then to mud. The few splatters
turn into a torrent and we are soon covered. The
offroad riding along this rough trail is fantastic
though and we ride faster and faster hopping rocks and
potholes, and whooping as we pass one another.

locals stand at the roadside watching, slightly
confused at two dirty mudsplattered westerners, but
often they raise a hand and give a ‘Asalam Meilikum’
(Peace be upon you). When we finally reach a stop it
is really quite warm and we find that all the mud has
now caked hard all over our clothes and our panniers –
filthy. We ride onwards after an obligatory cup of
‘Kawa Chai’ – (Black tea loaded with sugar). We now
realise that we still have many kilometres to go and
the road surface is by now seriously bad and we start
to find the jarring of the potholes painful. Worrying
too is the frequent jolt that we feel as our rims
contact directly with the rocks beneath as the air in
the tyres proves insufficient to cushion the weight of
us and our load.

Somehow we do not get a puncture, and
somehow our racks despite making awful rattling noises
manage to stay in one piece. In one stretch the road
opens out into a dusty but hard packed surface and
Andrew and I ride side by side swooping around
undulations in the road and cruising steadily downhill
at around 40kmh – just us and the dust. We roll down
into Sanjawi – ravenously hungry and with sore wrists
– but chattering on still about what superb trail
riding this has been. Loralai comes soon afterwards
and we are back in a bustling hubbub, people shouting
at us from everywhere ‘Hello Mister’, ‘What is your
Country Name?’ and raising their fingers to the air as
if to gesture ‘What are you doing here?’. Tired from
the hard day we make directly for the Hotel Al Habib
and sanctuary from the noise and mayhem.

Andrew has yet another bout of diahorrea in the night
and feels rough in the morning, but with the promise
of just 80km we encourage him on to the road. With
just 1.6km on the clock though we are brought to a
halt as Andrew’s rack snaps in exactly the same place
that mine had done about 3000 miles before in Turkey.

Fortunately we have kept the repair parts from the
last fix and we quickly attach these and we are
underway. Just 10 km more down the road and I cycle
straight past a most strange sight – my brain
obviously not ready to accept what it is seeing – a
Japanese man walking and towing a trolley!! He has
walked all the way from Singapore – and is en-route
for Europe and then Africa. We do not feel worthy – he
is seriously ‘Hard Core’ – we get his address and I
hope to write to him to find out about his adventure.

In awe and wonderment, and charged with a sense of
‘what are we complaining about?’ we set off again
bumping down the deteriorating road. Andrew rides very
slowly and we revise our end point for the day – we
shall now aim for Mertar and hope to find
accommodation there. On arriving we find just a
collection of mud huts – or ‘small hotels’, depending
on where you come from! We are directed to the Police
station and we enter a ramshackle mud hut with falling
down walls, and a hole in the ground for a toilet. It
does however have a very eager Constable who proudly
struts around with his SMG machine gun – ‘Made In
Pakistan’ he proudly tells us! Tonight we are fed in
the mud hut restaurant and we feel so dirty and so
tired – I get quite depressed and wonder how I am
going to tolerate several more days like this. The hut
is full of smoke and we sit in the twilight watchin
the locals smoke themselves into oblivion with huge
puffs on cigarettes with the tobacco removed and pure
Marijuana replaced in its place.

We wonder just how
many years distant is this place from the 21st century
in London. Our food is cooked over a wood burning
stove and our tea is prepared by putting the teapot
into the fire to bring the mixture of black tea leaves
and sugar to the boil. The food tonight is worth the
wait as it is not dosed up with curry powder – much to
my amazement. On the way back to the Police Station we
walk nervously through the streets of this mud hut
town – this is prime bandit country still – and we head
directly back down the dark alleyways. We are strictly
reprimanded by the Police Constable who has been very
worried for us – but is glad to be able to see us off
to bed. The night is once again freezing and we both
have our bags drawn in as tight as they will go – just
nostrils protruding.

We eat Cerelac – Nestle baby food – in the morning
and set off towards Rakni our next stop. We pass
through several ramshackle villages and we stop in one
for lunch – our staple lunch of tuna and chappattis.
As I wander around I notice three civilian individuals
carrying automatic weapons. The most noticeable has
decorated and festooned his treasure with beads and
coloured tassels – just like one of the gaudy lorries
that we see regularly along the road.

We wonder
exactly how these devices of war come into use around
these parts – and part of us is intrigued, the other
part petrified and horrified. We manage to sneek a
picture of one of the culprits – who proudly poses for
us – but we quickly depart afterwards – not wanting to
become too familiar! With much bumping and a gentle
descent we scale a couple of small ranges and make our
final descent into Rakni. The view in the background
is magnificent; the vast expanse of the Suleyman Range
of hills stretching as far as the eye can see North
and South. They are the last obstacle between us and
the great flatness of the Pakistani and Indian
floodplains. As we settle down in the comfortable
surroundings of the Irrigation Department Resthouse we
know that tomorrow will be a spectacular day.

Shortly after Rakni we cross the border into Punjab –
(Panch Ab – meaning 5 rivers), and we begin our climb
up to Fort Munro another British Hill Station. The
road twists and snakes and we can see cars and lorries
almost immediately above us on the next switchback
section of the road. We climb from 1100m above sea
level to 1700m in just 18km and we are pooped by the
time we reach the top – but we know what lays ahead.

The flood plains are at just a couple of hundred
metres altitude and so we are ready for an
exhilarating ride down. We are not disappointed – the
road is etched into the side of almost sheer cliffs in
places and we ride beneath rock ledges and out onto
precarious rock platforms, with just a few white
blocks of stone between us and sheer drops into
nothing. We swoop and dive, and plunge down the side
of the mountain – through a truly memorable landscape.

This is exciting not only for the ride though – it is
also the expectation of what lies ahead – we are
leaving behind Baluchistan and we are entering the
real ‘Indian Subcontinent’ – the fertile river beds
and irrigated plains that are home to the highest
population densities in the world. We feel the
temperature rise as we fall, and we take a break part
way down in a small village. As we sip on our tea,
Andrew begins to look sick. This time it is not
illness, but he is watching the local dentist who in
plain view of about 20 locals is administering a local
anaesthetic. He throws the needle away on the floor
just as he would any other piece of litter – it joins
the general mess on the floor. There is a pause in the
proceedings and the dentist wanders away, shortly to
return with a pair of S.. you guessed it Spliers – and
we watch, cringing as he tugs and yanks and then the
tooth comes flying out and lands in front of the
hapless patient. The patient clasps the side of his
face in agony and spits out a huge mouthful of blood –
we decide not to take a photo – but we live with a
vivid picture nevertheless!

Our roll down continues
and we notice a small improvement in the road surface
and the reappearance of kilometre markers, and we
count down towards our end point – the town of Dera
Ghazi Khan. We notice as we ride the gradual number of
people around us is rising, and just before DG Khan we
cross a wall of trees and enter a green and watered
land – this is the irrigation extending from the Indus

We are here – this is the Indian Subcontinent
that I remember so vividly from my last bike ride –
this is the chaos and the excitement and the colour
and the dirt and the smell. The noise and dust are
choking as we crawl into the city, Andrew’s head
throbs with every toot of a horn – but we soon lock
ourselves away to rest – in Hotel DGKahn – where we
can wash and feed – and relax until tomorrow.


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.