Dave: Up the KKH
I’ve seen worse roads before, but only ever on TV, during the news, when they are showing footage of a town that’s just been hit by a devastating earthquake. Built in the 60′s and 70′s, the Karakoram Highway (KKH) runs basically from Islamabad in Pakisan, right up to Kashgar in China, following the old Silk Route. There are various claims that it is the ‘highest paved road’ in the world, but I’m not sure that given the potholes, mud and dirt, whether it actually qualifies as ‘paved’!
Driving up yesterday from Lahore, the KKH started off well as a smooth, wide, two lane road and we comfortably made it up to Abbottabad yesterday evening. Our plan for today was to aim for Gilgit, which was about 450km from where we set off, but after 6 hours and only travelling 146km, we decided to call it a day in Pattan.
What the KKH lacks in any sort of driveable road surface though, it totally makes up for with stunning scenery. For most of the way the road is cut in to the side of steep mountains, which fall away hundreds of meters down to the Indus river below. It’s a little disconcerting looking out the drivers window, but it makes for some pretty impressive views!
The people so far have been a mixed bunch. In the south eastern region of Pakistan (in Balochistan), despite having a reputation for being a bit lawless, the people were almost all really friendly. We would regularly get a wave as we passed people on the road, and whenever we stopped people were interested in chatting and finding out about what we were up to. As we moved further north towards Quetta and Lahore, we’ve found the welcome slightly less warm. I guess this is largely partly due to the fact that we become less of a novelty in the larger cities. Up on the KKH now we are again getting the occasional wave, and people in services stations and so on are keen for a chat.
Although we are still only at about 1000m, the weather is a lot cooler and it’s nice to be able to drive with the windows open – whenever we aren’t stuck behind a sticking bus or truck!