The most ridiculous border crossing ever

The most ridiculous border crossing ever

The most ridiculous border crossing ever!

I’m sitting inside Alexine at the border of Pakistan – India while the army and tall man in beautiful uniforms stand in front of us. An ugly voice screams through the speakers while more and more people gather at the crossing.

Again stuck at the border

We are late, too late. Apparently the border closes at 15:30 and it’s 16:16 now. We were here at 15.20 but due to all the police stops before the border we ran a bit late. Oh the story is even more fun. We were here at 14:00 but Yuri forgot the carnet de passage in the hotel in Lahore so we had to go back to the hotel to pick it up, thus we are late. 

But, the Pakistani people are – as always – incredibly nice and helpful and they do their best to make us go through. But the more we are sitting here, the more people arrive, the less the chance that India lets us through. In Pakistan we arranged everything, even got a free extension because our visas were expired. Yep, that’s allowed for two weeks. It’s honestly hard to beat the Pakistani friendliness and helpfulness. 

But all kindness is in vain. India doesn’t let us through. People are coming in to watch the flag ceremony and it looks like we will watch it from the Pakistan side. One more night in Pakistan it is. It’s a bit annoying but I guess that’s it. Again, we made a mistake and we have to pay. Entering Pakistan and exiting. Hopefully it’s not a harbinger for the rest of the trip. Although, this is our last border crossing for a while. We will be travelling through India for a bit more than a month and around half October fly back to the Netherlands while Alexine takes the boat. 

But before that, it’s time to enjoy as much as we can from India. Our idea is to mainly explore the regions of Kashmir and Ladakh. We might say hi to the Dalai Lama, take a dive in the Ganges and see some amazing forts in Radjestan. We will of course visit the Taj Mahal and hopefully see some tigers. That’s a lot for just a month but we’ll try to squeeze everything in and make our last month of travel a memorable one. 

Border issues

The ceremony might be fun, but tension and issues are still everyday present.

erritorial disputes over the Kashmir region sparked two of the three major Indo-Pakistani wars in 1947 and 1965, and a limited war in 1999. Although both countries have maintained a fragile cease-fire since 2003, they regularly exchange fire across the contested border, known as the Line of Control.

Both sides accuse the other of violating the cease-fire and claim to be shooting in response to attacks.

Defending the borders

For now we just wait in the immigration office of Pakistan. We will sleep here tonight, watch the special flag ceremony – today extra special because it’s the defence day of Pakistan, and I might read a book before falling asleep. 

Defence day is celebrated in Pakistan as national day to commemorate the sacrifices made by Pakistani soldiers in defending its borders. The date of 6 September marks the day in 1965 when Indian troops crossed the international border to launch an attack on Pakistani Punjab, in a riposte to Pakistan’s Operation Grand Slam targeting Jammu.

So apparently it’s a very special day. Maybe in the end it isn’t so bad to experience this nationalistic behaviour from the Pakistan site. It’s almost time so we get ourselves to the border. I get some kind of flag thing on my head and we carry the Pakistani flag. A lot of noise, music and many people. Shouting, cheering, waving flags. Such nationalistic behaviour. On the Indian side the people go crazy when they see people waving a flag in front of them. The Pakistani site is a lot more down to earth. A proud nation that doesn’t have to show off too much. I think I’m on the right side.

This whole ceremony is based on hostilities. Two nations that once were one are now fighting since they separated. Some cheerleaders on the Indian side make the whole situation look like a football – or cricket for that matter – match. I read the words “India’s first line of defence”, and that’s the problem. Defence against what? The people that at some point of history was part of the country as much as the inhabitants living there are now? It doesn’t make sense to me. 

Pakistan Zindabad!

Pakistan Zindabad coming from speakers that are so loud I’m sure I won’t be able to hear anything anymore for the coming days. The difference between Pakistan and India might not be so big but here at the border it’s quite clear. Indians are a lot more nationalistic and incredibly loud than Pakistanis are. The stands on the Indian side are also a lot bigger than the Pakistani side. It’s one big show off who’s better, bigger, stronger. Ridiculous in my opinion. I wonder how it looked like if this was the Dutch / German border. The Dutch dressed in orange, singing or horrible anthem, waving our ugly flag. And the Germans in their football jerseys, drinking a beer and maybe – hopefully – listening to some good old Rammstein ‘Deutschland Uber alles’. It would be one big joke. At the border with Belgium it would be fun. We would drink beers together, eat fries and make bad jokes about each other. Or it would all go nuts. To be honest I can’t imagine how it would be and I’m very happy that I can’t. This whole border thing is idiotic, let alone a ceremony about whose feet can rise higher. Because that’s what they are doing. The national volleyball team of both India and Pakistan has been invited, haven’t seen any tall Pakistanis until now. To top it they carry wavers on their heads and are dressed in clothes that are certainly not made for this weather. I wonder if height was one of the things they had to cross off when applying for this job. 

A man passes offering drinks, another crisps and another flags. Like we’re going to watch some cricket match. Something the Pakistanis have and the Indians don’t is the immersive flag, the biggest I have ever seen. The Indians have lost the toss and we’re only allowed a stand too big for a simple border. But no flag on their side. 

While the people are waving their flags I’m getting a headache. It’s warm, the music (can you call it music) is too loud (cause one side shouldn’t hear the other side) and the bandana around my head is a bit too tight. Oh even popcorn!! Wow, this border crossing tops all the others. It’s officially the most ridiculous border crossing we’ve ever been. Celebrating your nation is fine, but small things like this offer space for racism, nationalism and hatred. But maybe sports when national teams play do the same. I don’t know. It probably is. I’m also quite the nationalist when it comes to the Dutch teams playing sports 😁 but I don’t think I would ever attend a border crossing like this in The Netherlands. I’m quite happy that our European borders are open – for people inside them and owning a European passport of course. Everyone else is stopped and pushed back to whatever cost.

Ok, it’s 17:15, time to look around and enjoy this weird spectacle a bit. 

The ceremony

So the ceremony starts with who has the longest breath and makes a sound. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh and Pakistan wakes up. A song where they shout “Allah Akbar” as loud as they can. Passionately they join in. And there the tall men come in. I’m sure they’ve rounded up all the tall men of Pakistan for this job. They are incredibly big! With beautiful moustache and pitch black beards which they certainly have dyed. They wear beautiful black costumes with teints of red. On the Indian side the men are a bit less tall but still taller then me, they were beige uniforms and more colourful headdress. In short: the men walk towards each other in a way that I do when I’m angry. Quick, harsh and faced forwards. The only difference is that they throw their legs in the air half way through. Something I don’t normally do. High high up, I’m sure they do yoga. They make some movements with their hands before they go touch their moustache in a way I’m sure that didn’t evolve since the British empire. A man with a sword waves a bit with it, towards India and they towards Pakistan. It’s all one big circus to be honest. Some clowns are making the people shout and sing while the men in uniform dance, tiptoe and walk angrily towards each other. At the end of the ceremony, which is really just walking towards each other, raising their legs, touching the moustache, there is a firm handshake. The gate closes and the ceremony is over.

But on the Pakistan side we get some extra performance in remembrance and honour of the fallen soldiers. This is more my type of ceremony. Many men in red uniform perform synchronised with their guns. It’s fun. The music changed from this horrible speakers to live on the ground and it’s a whole nicer. In India the people walk away from the scene.

After the whole parade there is a photo session and then it’s over. Well not entirely. People ask US for selfies as well. Not just the men in beautiful uniforms but us!! And as we are in a good mood we say YES to all of them. Meaning we can’t move an inch without a selfie is being taken. But the police is there to help out, they push people back, back and back so that the street soon becomes empty and there is nothing left of the crowded noisy ceremonial border crossing. 

We are at the parking of the immigration office. It’s hot and mosquitos appear. It’s dark and it’s quiet. Absolutely quiet. A man if the immigration office comes to us and gives us some cookies (I bet we look as if we’re starving 😉). And there we go, one more night in Pakistan, another night at the border. For the first time we hang up a mosquito net. Not because it wouldn’t have helped us before but because we forgot we had one with us 🤣 We watch a movie and go to sleep. Tomorrow we will cross the border into India! We will stay one night in Amritsar, visit the holy golden temple of the Sikh and then move to the North again where it’s cool, green and a bit more quiet. 

Love, Milene & Yuri. 

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The heart of Pakistan

The heart of Pakistan

We end our beautiful Pakistan trip in the heart of the country. Let’s expLahore the city of culture, spicy food and history.

The way to Fairy Meadows

The way to Fairy Meadows

Probably one of the most touristy spots of Pakistan, normally we would ignore places like this and skip them. However, friends told us it’s definitely worth it so here we are, sitting in a jeep on a steep mountain waiting for people to clear a landslide. It just...

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The heart of Pakistan

The heart of Pakistan

The heart of Pakistan

Lahore is often called ‘the heart of Pakistan’, it’s also named by many ‘the culinary capital of Pakistan’ and of course ‘the cultural capital’. There is also a popular saying ‘jinay Lahore tai wekheya o Jamey nai’, meaning ‘if you haven’t visited Lahore yet, you aren’t really born. Something like ‘pedi Napoli e poi muori’ or ‘see Naples and then die’. Well, whatever saying or name we’re here to Explahore!

What is her story?

I’m sitting in front of a mosque. Waiting for Yuri to explore the mosque and tell me how it looks like. I’m not allowed to go in. I’m a woman with uncovered hair. After three months of covering my hair in Iran I’m a bit done with doing things I don’t want or feel like. It too hot to fully cover myself, thus I’m okay with sitting outside and wonder about the splendour of the mosque. Next to me is a woman, fully – and I mean fully, covered in black. I cannot even see her eyes as a black veal is covering her face. Her little child plays with her veal while she’s begging for money. I wonder what her story is.

Where is she from? Why is she begging? And is shame the reason she is fully covered? She asks me for some money. Points at her little boy. I tell her I don’t have any on me. She’s asking for food. That too I don’t have. A man comes and tells her to leave me. I’m saying it’s alright. She’s not bothering me, she’s just doing what she has to for her child. I see some people ignoring her, or looking at her with disgust. That moment I feel shame. It’s all down to luck that I’m sitting here with my hair free in the wind and a mobile phone in my hand in a country far away from my own and she’s sitting here on the ground asking for a penny. She’s not less than me, I’m not better than here. We’re just born in different countries, societies, circumstances. So I never ignore, I never look down upon, I never despise, because it could’ve been me. And the children grow up, they didn’t choose this life and I don’t want them to feel less than others by ignoring kids.

Let’s expLahore

Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab, is Pakistan’s 2nd largest city after Karachi, and is the 26th largest city in the world. Little is known of the history of the settlement prior to the Muslim period. Hindu legend attributes the founding of Lahore to Lava, or Lōh, son of Rāma, for whom it is said to have been named Lōhāwar.

Inequality in front of the mosque

I see so much inequality just in front of this mosque. Women wearing headscarf’s and long sleeves whereas men wear whatever they want. People begging for some money, other ignoring them. Me, a foreigner, sitting here with a passport that allows me to travel as far as Pakistan. The men comes back to me telling me I should sit in his shop. I’m telling him it’s okay. I’m okay here. He has a shop next to the mosque, one of our photos of different places. From the mosque next to the shop to faraway dream destinations as Venice. 

Ah Venice, our starting point of the Silk Road. A beautiful city that filled our hearts with joy. It is where famous Silk Road merchant Marco Polo lived and where silk went from just a material to a priceless piece of clothing. Only kings and queens could buy the finest silk from Venice. What would the silk worm think of that? That it made such material that Kings and Queens were paying huge amounts of gold for it. 

And suddenly in between my musings and the sound of rickshaws I hear the music of the Hobbit. The road to the Lonely Mountain being an inspiration for all my travels. The long journey, the adventure into lands unknown, the path faraway from home. It’s the one and only travel story that caught a hold on me. Reading the books so many times it’s what installed the idea of many of my travel adventures. But while in the Hobbit it’s orcs they battle, I battle the insane heat of Lahore. It’s so hot that even my fingers are sweating. And I don’t even sweat when I play a volleyball match.

Yuri takes his time inside so I bet it’s beautiful. It’s a pity they don’t let people enter who believe differently. I don’t believe in disrespecting one’s culture of religion by being and keeping to themselves. It’s not my religion or culture to wear a headscarf, but I do respect anyone who choses to wear it. I respect Muslims as much as I respect their mosques and the Koran. But wearing a headscarf is not my choice, and it’s not my idea of respecting. Yuri comes out, finally. Time to explore more of Lahore. I say goodbye to the woman and her kid and we wander off. 

Our first interaction with Sikhism

“Hello, where are you from?” We can hardly walk a couple of metres or people are talking to us. We try to great everyone and be kind enough to have a little chat, but we decide to turn into a tiny alley so we are able to actually make it to our other highlight of the day. 

Donkeys, rickshaws and motorcycle dominate the road, while people are selling their goods on the side of the street. The sky is almost invisible due to the amount of electricity cables. And while the electricity cables make up the skies view, rubbish and waste does it on the ground. The smell is indescribably bad. While we close our noses a hairdresser is cutting the hair of a man on the street. Beggars come and go asking for money or food and men are sitting in the shade chatting. It’s Sunday and shops are closed, it’s actually quiet in the city. Which to us is unexpected. 

Luckily the Sikh temple and Lahore fort are open. The Sikh temple only to us, foreigners, god – or guru’s – knows why. 

We found out while walking through the temple that we actually know nothing about the Sikh faith. Do you? Probably not, so I’ll write down what I’ve learned today. 

Sikhism is the world’s fifth-largest religion with more than 25 million Sikhs worldwide. The Sikh Gurus, known as spiritual guides or teachers, established the religion. Guru Nanak was the first Guru and was born in the 15th century in the Punjab region of India. Sikhs believe in the oneness of all beings and the equality of everyone. 

The Sikh faith is a monotheistic religion, meaning Sikhs worship one God. Guru Nanak taught that one must honor God by honoring others and the Earth, God’s creation. Nine more Gurus succeeded Guru Nanak, and continued to spread his teachings across the world. Guru Gobind Singh was the last Guru; he named the Sikh sacred text, the Guru Granth Sahib, to be the eternal Guru that would guide the Sikhs going forward. 

The verses of the Guru Granth Sahib are written in poetic verse, and are intended to be sung. Singing is a crucial component of Sikhism; Guru Nanak himself was known to sing his teachings as he travelled across South Asia on foot. The hymns of the Gurus are known as Gurbani, the Guru’s word. 

Sikhs see the temporary distractions of the material world as an illusion, or Māyā. The five qualities of ego, anger, greed, attachment and lust are known as the Five Thieves that rob a person of their ability to realize their oneness with God and creation. Sikhs work to counteract the temptations of these qualities through the Sikh values of service, equality, and seeking justice for all.

Sikhs believe that one’s form on Earth is only a temporary vessel for the eternal soul. Thus, the death of the physical body is a natural part of the life cycle, while the soul remains. Sikhs believe in reincarnation, meaning death is not an end, but merely the progression of the soul on its journey toward God. 

While the guide was explaining about Sikhism I got very interested. How did I know so little about this faith that believes in equality? 

That equality was immediately clear at the gate where both me and Yuri were asked to cover our heads. EQUALITY!! Nonetheless, the equality does also stop at the door of the Sikh temple though as we are allowed to enter the temple but the locals are not. To my question why not I don’t get an answer. Or at least not a satisfying one. I guess equality for the Sikh also has its boundaries. 

We get a quick show around. It’s our first Sikh temple and definitely not the last, nor the most beautiful. When we get out little kids run towards us, asking for money. They shoot a bullet through my heart. So small, so innocent, so painful. People ignore them, shush them away, push them even. My heart in thousand pieces. And there’s nothing I can do. No money I have will get them off the street. They need education, structural help, their parents a proper job. And at this moment I’m not able to offer that. So I’m just standing here, talking with them and joking a bit. Never forget, how annoying they might be, they are just kids, born in a difficult situation, in a life they couldn’t choose. 

Visiting Lahore Fort

We moved to the Lahore fort. A beautiful huge fort in the centre of the city. It’s a walk through time as almost none of the buildings is built in the same time as the other. It’s not really well preserved. We saw lots of damages. But there wasn’t much waste and there were a lot of explanatory plates. Unfortunately they contain so much words that I couldn’t read them all in the heat. But a picture is quickly made and reading I’ll do when I find a nice spot in the shade. We walked around a bit, got to see the elephant stairs (stairs which are made so that elephants could walk up), took some selfies with locals (on their request, we don’t just go around taking selfies 😉). 

The Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore are two masterpieces from the time of the brilliant Mughal civilization, which reached its height during the reign of the Emperor Shah Jahan. The fort contains marble palaces and mosques decorated with mosaics and gilt. It is also a UNESCO site.

It’s been a busy day so we head back to the hotel. Here we do some work, Yuri watches the grand prix and later on we watch the cricket match between Pakistan and India with a delicious Papa Johns pizza. Pakistan wins and while Lahore parties, apparently just below our hotel, we call it a night cause tomorrow morning we have to go to Islamabad and back again to pick up our passports and Indian visa. Yeah people, after almost six weeks of exploring probably the most surprising country on our Silk Road trip, it’s time to cross yet another border. It’s going to be country no. 27 on this trip: India. And with that we also leave a piece of our heart behind. 

Love, Milene & Yuri

Check our latest blogs

The heart of Pakistan

The heart of Pakistan

We end our beautiful Pakistan trip in the heart of the country. Let’s expLahore the city of culture, spicy food and history.

The way to Fairy Meadows

The way to Fairy Meadows

Probably one of the most touristy spots of Pakistan, normally we would ignore places like this and skip them. However, friends told us it’s definitely worth it so here we are, sitting in a jeep on a steep mountain waiting for people to clear a landslide. It just...

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The way to Fairy Meadows

The way to Fairy Meadows

The way to Fairy Meadows

Probably one of the most touristy spots of Pakistan, normally we would ignore places like this and skip them. However, friends told us it’s definitely worth it so here we are, sitting in a jeep on a steep mountain waiting for people to clear a landslide. It just happened, the huge ass rock falling from above on to the road. Luckily no one got injured! So while we wait here I can try to describe the road.

The road

We often believe Alexine can do anything, like I love to believe I can do anything. Alexine in Wonderland being a big inspiration for me. But, some things are impossible. Like, having Alexine drive up this insane road. 

The road is steep. Sand and stones everywhere and grip nowhere. A 4×4 is mandatory here and also a fearless driver. Luckily we have both. Our driver Najib is a young man who does think he can do the impossible. Driving this insane road while calling for example. And I’m in the back jumping from left to right, up and down, barely able to hold on. My whole body in motion as if I find myself in a washing machine. I can’t think about anything because my brain is occupied holding on to my skull. And while my brain is holding on my heart is having a break. Blood is pumped through my body while the car shakes with every stone it hits. The corners are so tight I’m surprised that even this old car can handle it. And it does so with ease. 

We are sitting in an old jeep and it’s handling the steepness of the road as if it is a tarmac highway. I know oldies are performers but this one even impresses me. While the shaking continues I’m thinking of buying one and already renovate it into a overlanding vehicle. Najib turns the volume up, Pakistani music is now blasting through the speakers. No counter on the dashboard works, we’ve been driving 20km/h when no gasoline for a while now. According to the meters that is. I wonder if Najib knows how much gasoline there is left. This road doesn’t look like a road where we’ll find many gasoline stations. Well, for now we don’t have to find anything except for a shovel to get the rock out of the way. 

Ten minutes and we would continue our journey they said. Well, thirty minutes later and we’re still waiting. One big rock after the other are thrown over the side of the road. It was quite the big landslide and now the locals are doing their utmost best to free the road so transportation can continue. It’s not only tourists that go here, it’s locals as well. There are villages up there in the meadows. It always surprises me that humanity is found everywhere. Even in the most hostile places like Antarctica and meadows and valleys difficult to reach. 

Fairy Meadows or Joot

Fairy Meadows, locally known as Joot, is a grassland near one of the base camp sites of the Nanga Parbat, located in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. 

At an altitude of about 3,300 metres above sea level, it serves as the launching point for trekkers summiting on the Rakhiot face of the Nanga Parbat. In 1995, the Government of Pakistan declared Fairy Meadows a National Park.

The dangerous and narrow gravel mountain road to the village is only open to locals, who provide transportation to visitors. In 2013, the World Health Organization declared it the second-deadliest road on the planet.

Two hour jeep ride

I say difficult to reach because the jeep can’t go there. It’s a two hour jeep ride over this quite dangerous yet stunning road. Then, it’s a two to three hour walk to the fairy meadows, and if you really want to visit a nice place you continue one hour to Beyal. A bit less touristy and apparently just as beautiful if not even more beautiful. Sometimes we plan things and sometimes we don’t. This time we have absolutely no idea what we are getting ourselves into. As it’s quite a touristy destination we think it’ll be all fine as many have flatten the path before us. However, I’ve got no idea if the hike is easy, how many altitude meters we’ll be climbing, what to expect from the hike. We are of course not prepared for what’s to come. I forgot my water bottle and Yuri forgot the apples. So we have to hike two hours on some dried apricot and 500ml of water, the both of us. It’s going to be fantastic I’m sure 🤣 I guess when we reach Fairy meadows we’re death tired and just sleep in a hotel there and continue the next day to Beyal. 

Times running as well. We’re still waiting for more rocks to be thrown off the cliff. Then we have at least one more hour of shaky jeep ride and then a two hour climb to the meadows. I’m sure they don’t have beer there but oh my do I crave for a beer. Oh and I’m sure I can write ‘we’ here. A nice cold beer at the end of a tiring trek in the mountains is like a cherry on top of a cake. Here not an ice cold beer but the views will be the cherry. Oh and probably a delicious Pakistani lunch, without too much oil hopefully. 

Let me check on the progress of the rock throwing (should be a local sport) after which we’ll probably drive in colonne to the end of the track. 

Finally, they cleared the road and we continue. And if I thought I was shaking before I was wrong. A couple of times I fly in the air so my head bumps into the roof and I feel the muscles in my arm screaming for a break. But there is no breaking, there is just shaking and squeaking of the car. The road worsens if even possible and my whole body gets shaken, not stirred 😉

After a while we finally reach the end of the road, time for walking.

The hike 

We say goodbye to Hussain (yeah Najib changed into Hussain half way the journey). And here we start the hike. As said before we are very well prepared; no water, no food. So we buy some cookies and leave all the tourist guides and shops behind and start the hike. And we have no idea about the hike which is kind of okay. No idea how much the elevation gain, where the path goes to and what we’ll find in the end. We are even debating the difference between meadows and valley. 

But the path is easy to find. Steep but easy. We are not experienced hikers, we are lowlanders, Dutchies who are living below sea level and find every mountain a challenge. But we love mountains and we love challenges so we just go. With our flow, which is a lot slower than the porters we see on the way but a lot quicker than those locals who rented a horse to bring them to the meadows. Yeah, you read that right. Horses! So it’s possible to rent a horse and a porter and be a lazy tourist. 

We’ve seen quite a few of those. Mostly Pakistani tourists. “I don’t like domestic tourists because they don’t care” a hotel owner we meet on the way tells us. And they ‘not caring’ is visible on the way up. Here and there we find waste thrown in nature; plastic bottles, chocolate wrappers and more is found on the side of the pathway. It makes it a lot less idyllic to walk here. As do the tourists that come down from the meadows. Boys on slippery sneakers and sweatpants walk down slowly holding each other’s hands while young boys (porters) hike behind them with their bags. One boy even carries three of their backpacks. I’m proud of myself carrying my own backpack, which looks great but is not handy for hiking. Normally I can handle a backpack for an hour or so before my back starts hurting. The perks of living with sculiose. But this time I’m doing alright. I have no idea how but it’s going well! 

The hike is steep though and Yuri has some troubles. Normally he’s like a mountain goat enjoying the hike but now he’s quickly out of breathe. Is it the heigh? Possible. Or just the mere fact that we’ve been sitting and driving the van for way too many hours instead of doing some exercise. I’m going slowly but steady, try to keep my breathing as normal as possible and place one foot in front of the other. It’s not a difficult hike and we soon reach half way. From here it’s just a little more up and we arrive at the meadows.

The tourist circus

The fairy meadows is anything but fairy. It’s not majestic at all, although the view on Nanga Parbat is. Wherever you look there are chalet like buildings and they are even building more. We knew it would be touristy but this is a shock to both of us. It’s like a ski resort in the Alps. Wooden chalets and hotels cover the open meadows and a muddy road goes from hotel to hotel. Some children run towards us in the hope to sell some snacks or their service. We need neither. We walk up to one of the hotels and ask for some warm chai. It was raining so everything got wet and we got a bit cold. A warm chai will definitely help warming up.

Or so we thought. Hiking a mountain in the rain is nice, you’re warm and the rain cools you down. But once you sit down in a big room with wet clothes and no heater to warm up you’re cooling down. A cup of chai is only doing so much. Because we only stay here for two nights and didn’t want to carry a lot of weight we didn’t bring any dry clothes nor a sweater. I’m regretting my decision right now. 

A warm shower would help! But that takes a while, one hour to be precise. So I’m now in bed trying to get warm below the bedsheets. Up to now it’s not going very well so I might do some jumping jacks. The biggest problem is our wet clothes, they won’t dry as well. From such a touristy place I would’ve expected a bit more. The rooms are also quite expensive so a heater would’ve been nice. The hut is build of wood and I can see Nanga Parbat from the KIEREN in the walls. The sun is nowhere to be found and clouds cover the top of the mountain.

We have not seen the K2, not the K1 or any of the K’s for that matter, but we are seeing the Killer Mountain: Nanga Parbat. And even though the room is cold and there is no heater I’m sure we have one of the best views on the mountain that’s almost impossible to climb. 

“Are you going to base camp?” One of the guys asks us and I wonder if he’s blind. We don’t really look like climbers. Seeing my expression he explains himself. “It’s about three hours walk and not that steep not difficult”. We look at each other and the idea of hiking to base camp enters our minds. We were planning on hiking to Beyal, the next camp, just because it’s less touristy and it must be an amazing hike. That’s about 1.5 hours. So if Base Camp is just 1,5 hours from there we might have a go at it. We have a full day tomorrow and haven’t hiked in a while so it might be just want we need. 

However, my priority now is getting warm, have some food, finish my book and relax a bit. Tomorrow is another day, we’ll see how we feel by then. 

Love, Milene & Yuri

Check our latest blogs

The heart of Pakistan

The heart of Pakistan

We end our beautiful Pakistan trip in the heart of the country. Let’s expLahore the city of culture, spicy food and history.

The way to Fairy Meadows

The way to Fairy Meadows

Probably one of the most touristy spots of Pakistan, normally we would ignore places like this and skip them. However, friends told us it’s definitely worth it so here we are, sitting in a jeep on a steep mountain waiting for people to clear a landslide. It just...

We're also on Instagram!

check it out
Nomads & Bears

Nomads & Bears

Nomads & Bears

The violent past of Pakistan seems very far away at Deosai National Park. It is one of the highest plains in the world, home to the nomadic Gujjar tribe in the summer and closed for everyone except wildlife in the winter. However, even here the past is never far away. 

 

 

Deosai National Park

The sun touches the tops of the mountains when I open my eyes. All else is covered in a blanket of dew. The marmots are still sleeping when I place my feet in my cold and wet flip flops. And while I walk through the wet grassy land birds are showing a first sign of life. The world is waking up and only the glacier water can be heard flowing gently through the meadows. I walk to the edge of the river and hear the glacier in the distance waking up. A roaring sound after which I suddenly see some tiny heads peaking out of holes in the ground. It ain’t Bilbo Baggins but marmots. I entered their Hobbiton and they wonder who this stranger is. They look at me and I at them, once we establish we are no threat to each other, we both turn our heads towards the mountains in front of us and enjoy the early morning. It is so peaceful here that even though its just five o’clock I feel so rested and relax. 

There is absolutely nothing here but green mountains, a slow and calm flowing river and marmots. A glacier and white mountaintop in the distance. No planes flying over, no phone connection, no people. Absolutely nothing but nature. And we decide to go with the flow of nature. Waking up, reading a book, making some tea. The sun finally touches the van and everything warms up, also my toes which were freezing. The bees start zooming around us and the marmots get out of their home to have a stroll. Yuri is out behaving like a wildlife photographer while I read a book about the intriguing and somewhat disturbing past of Pakistan.

Cause as peacefully it is here as violent it was in the past. And that past repeats itself once in a while. These lands were once ruled by (surprising) British occupiers. Let’s share a bit of the history of Pakistan shall we? 

The start of Pakistan

Pakistan started by the partition of British India, in response to the demands of Islamic nationalists: as articulated by the All India Muslim League under the leadership of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. From independence (1947) until 1971, Pakistan (both de facto and in law) consisted of two regions—West Pakistan, in the Indus River basin in the northwestern portion of the Indian subcontinent, and East Pakistan, located more than 1,600 km to the east in the vast delta of the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system. In response to grave internal political problems that erupted in civil war in 1971, East Pakistan was proclaimed the independent country of Bangladesh. Read more here.

The East Indian Company in Pakistan

So, the East Indian Company ruled these lands for about two centuries when it became officially known as British India, which was controlled by the British government. However, lot of uprisings, protests and world wars put pressure on the British government and in 1947 there was a power change. British India split up into two countries: India and Pakistan. The two countries became independent at midnight of 15th of August 1947. 

Two headfigures of the Indian independence were Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. A third figure, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, campaigned for an own Muslim state. Muslims were the largest minority and therefore feared their position in Indian society. Nehru became the first president of India, Jinnah of Pakistan. 

However, as always with a change of power a lot of sectarian violence occurred. At the time of partition in 1947, as many as 10 million Muslim refugees fled their homes in India and sought refuge in Pakistan—about 8 million in West Pakistan. Virtually an equal number of Hindus and Sikhs were uprooted from their land and familiar surroundings in what became Pakistan, and they fled to India. Unlike the earlier migrations, which took centuries to unfold, these chaotic population transfers took hardly one year. The resulting impact on the life of the subcontinent has reverberated ever since in the rivalries between the two countries, and each has continued to seek a lasting modus vivendi with the other. Pakistan and India have fought four wars, three of which (1948–49, 1965, and 1999) were over Kashmir. Since 1998 both countries have also possessed nuclear weapons, further heightening tensions between them. 

Life on earth is harsh

The world knows so much violence, so much sadness. It’s hard to read about the horrific past while being surrounded by the peace and quiet of nature. Oh and nature can be destructive and violent as well of course. Being eaten alive when you just hatched, having to fight another male just because it’s in your nature, eating your own kids or husband just because… life on earth is harsh but I guess we humans have mastered it. 

For now Pakistan is kind of peaceful. The amount of snow leopards are increasing, more effort is pushed towards sustainability and environmentally friendly companies and cultures, like the Kalash, are being protected. And places like this; Deosai National Park are a treat to everyone who needs to get away from the crowd. It’s not cheap though. The National Parks of Pakistan cost $20,- per person for foreigners (about 4.500 Rupees) whereas the locals pay about $1.5 (300 Rupees). That’s quite a big difference. Not sure yet what they do with the money. The roads are quite bad so surely the money isn’t going to infrastructure. We haven’t seen rangers, we did see plastic trash. The wildlife is somewhat protected as hunting them is only allowed with a special license (which they call eco tourism here – sounds peculiar to me). So numbers of wild foxes, snow leopards, bears, wolves and Markhor (goat) are increasing in numbers. A good thing about this park is that we are allowed to stay overnight. $40,- for just a couple of hours would be a rip off. But now we can stay as long as we want. It’s cheaper than a hotel 😉 

My feet are warm and I have made some tea for the way further into the park so we might get ready to move. It’s gonna be tricky, a muddy road where passing others is a challenge. 

Nomads & Bears

We continue the bumpy road to quite a touristy but also bear area. Apparently brown bears like to come here to scavenge for food left by tourists. And that’s a lot apparently. We don’t see any bears, for now, we do find our travel companions again. Adeel, Rosie, Talhaa and Abdullah (a good Pakistani photographer/videographer). So we are reunited again and reunited we visit some of Adele’s nomadic friends. 

The Gujjar nomads

They have special license to roam the Deosai grounds with their horses and goats, sleep and live in tents and have their dogs guard against bears and wolves. We get to meet them, drink goat milk with them and take some nice photos. I ask them about their way of life. They travel twice a year from Punjab via Kashmir to Deosai and back. They mainly herd goats and have horses to carry the stuff. Then there are the many, quite dangerous I must admit, dogs and the family exists of about 20-30 people, all living together in three tents. 

As always I love to meet nomadic people and whenever I’m with them and talk with them I wish to stay for a while. Live as they live, do as they do. And now I’m invited to do so… I might, next year though. The motivation and inspiration is there. 

After a while we make camp along a tiny river, have some food, make a campfire and Rosie is playing some guitar and singing a couple of songs. The stars are shining bright and the Milky Way is just out of this world. What a night. One to remember! 

We found what we are looking for; coldness!

I woke up at 5 this morning, not being able to sleep another minute. The cold shown on the windows of Alexine and the fact that I wear socks. I didn’t sleep much, too much going on in my head. So I decide to get up, sit in my chair and read my book. While I listen to some good music and warm up in the morning but already quite hot sun. My face is burned and so are my hands. The sun here is fierce and definitely a lot brighter than it is down in the valleys. We’re 4.100 meters up and it’s 10 degrees Celcius, some tiny clouds appear as does the cold wind which makes the temperature drop a couple degrees. But I’m alright now, tired but at a place like this nothing really matters. The birds wake up but still no bear in sight. Yuri and I might take a walk in search of some bears today. A nice hike on this high plateau, it’s good for us. We sit too much.

Searching for bears

It’s a 7km or 1.5 hour hike to the bear viewpoint. “You can’t go any further” the ranger informs us. The path is quite boring. Yeah we are walking on a high plateau with beautiful mountain tops all around, however the path is a ranger car path and diversity is nowhere to be found. Bears are also nowhere to be found unfortunately. So after 2.5 hours of hiking we return a bit disappointed. But at least we had a nice hike and a good exercise. 

We have lunch with Adeel, Rosie, Talhaa and Abdullah. Try to catch some fish afterwards, again a disappointment and then continue our route to a lake in Deosai NP. 

This will be our last night together and it’s going to be a cold one. The blue sky is covered with dark clouds and the wind brings in the cold. “It might snow tonight” Adeel says. I’m trying to convince him by saying that it’s still too warm for that, but what do I know of mountain weather. 

A ranger comes to us and tells us that bears come here every night so it’s fine to camp but food can’t be in tents or outside of our vehicles. I really want to see a bear so am contemplating if I’ll just drop some honey around Alexine. But no, you shouldn’t play with faith, it will go wrong. 

It’s so freezing cold outside that I’m hiding inside Alexine. Probably my favourite place of this whole Silk Road trip, the couch inside Alexine. This is where I feel at home, where I relax and where I can be in my bubble. Far away from people, from having to interact (which I love but sometimes you just want to be alone right?) and from the outside world in general. This is our save space where no one can come. Well, people are of course welcome in Alexine. Rosie uses her lately as a dressing room. Very convenient. I also like to write here. From Alexine I can see the world, life passing by outside but inside it stands still for a minute. And now it’s my warm place, out of the wind. I’m properly sunburned today and didn’t sleep well so I’m death tired. Still, it’s just 8pm so need to keep my eyes open a little longer. 

Because of the clouds it’s pitch black outside, can’t see a thing. So also won’t see a bear and with the wind rocking Alexine I’m not sure if I would be able to distinguish the wind from a bear rocking her. It’s our last night in the National Park and the last night with this amazing company. We have talked, laughed and created so much. So much fun and so inspired. A time to never forget.

But tomorrow it’s time to move on. The Fairy Meadows and killer mountain (Nanga Parbat) are waiting. Afterwards we’ll move to Islamabad, then to Lahore and then … if our visas are accepted, to India! But until then, a lot more to explore. And let’s hope this is the coldest it gets in the coming weeks 😉 Yeah I know, after Iran we said we wanted to go to the coolness of the mountains. Well, we found it and got enough of it already. Never satisfied 🤣

Love, Milene & Yuri

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The way to Fairy Meadows

Probably one of the most touristy spots of Pakistan, normally we would ignore places like this and skip them. However, friends told us it’s definitely worth it so here we are, sitting in a jeep on a steep mountain waiting for people to clear a landslide. It just...

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Bunch of Creatives

Bunch of Creatives

Bunch of Creatives

Dark clouds on my left, beautiful sun rays on my right and in front of me a little river finding it’s way through green pastures and bare mountains. Every now and then we see the head of a golden marmot above the grass. Some blue sky finds clearance in between the clouds that seem to flee from the mountains on which the white snow is the cherry on top.

The Pakistani highlands

It’s not cold but refreshing while the wind blows through my clothes and the sun rays appear and disappear on my face. I got sunburned and put some local oil on my face. It is so tranquil and beautiful here our hearts are filled with eternal love for this place. It beats faster of excitement when the landscape changes as the clouds move above the incredible landscape. 

The road was tough and not without challenges. It started with steep, rocky and bumpy roads but impeccable views up to 2.400 meters. At this point we reached the plain that makes Deosai National Park one of a kind. Although, it does remind me of my beloved Cairngorms in Scotland. I fell in love there and I fall in love here. The weather seems quite the same as does the landscape. Even the roads show signs of similarities. But we’re not in Scotland, were in Pakistan. So as soon as we reach the top of the road we are welcomed by selfie loving Pakistani people. All very kind but it takes away the magic. So, after a couple of vansies and selfies we continue our trip.

The fellowship

Adeel, Rosie, Talhaa and us. A unlikely but amazing fellowship exploring the HImalaya and the limits of creativity together. Well, guess what? There aren’t any limits to creativity. For days we enjoyed filming and photographing together. 

Adeel is a Pakistani adventurer, the first digital nomad of the country and knows so so much about the country. Then there is his wife Rosie. She’s from Canada and a true explorer. She rides a bike fearlessly and is a Pakistani celebrity. Then there is Talhaa, a very talented Pakistani videographer with endless energy.

Stuck in the mud

While everyone (another thing different from Scotland – it’s kind of crowded here) moves straight we take the dirt road left. No adventure without off the beaten tracks. And while we venture once again beyond the ordinary we find ourselves in the most awesome environment we could wish for. Far away from human settlements and totally out of reach.

That last one is a bit tricky here because the dirt road becomes a bit of a mud road with deep pools and slippery parts. Of course I take a wrong decision and we end up being stuck in the mud. But, nothing we can’t handle. We have been stuck before and learned from that. Stones in front of and behind the wheel. Then, I’ll get Alexine in motion. To the front, to the back, she turns into a rocking boat. It reminds me of Jack Sparrow in ‘the end of the world’ where he rocks the ship back to the land of the living. We rock Alexine as well, although we don’t rock her upside down she does move and with some strong push work of Yuri we get her out! Screams of happiness “we did it!! We did it ourselves!” When you travel the world in a van you’ll experience these moments of true pride quite often. When we changed our tire within 20 minutes, when we got Alexine up a very steep 4×4 road, when we fixed an engine problem and when we got her out of the mud. You’ll find out you are capable of things you didn’t know you were and you’ll get so creative. All you have is all you need and all you ever and what you don’t have you don’t need. 

So, there we went, all by ourselves. We almost had a crash with another vehicle. The road is narrow and while both cars went to the sides we both leaned over towards each other. It was almost like two deers whose antlers are tangled after a fight. The other vehicle was carrying loads of gras, so Alexine got fully covered in it. Luckily, that was the only “damage” done. 

At some point I thought enough is enough. The muddy road got worse and the light was leaving us. Besides we were supposed to meet up with our friends Adeel, Rosie and Talhaa. To explain who they are I’ll go back a few days.

Welcome to the cold desert

After reaching the border with China it was time to explore more of the North of Pakistan. Thus we moved our lazy asses to Skardu where we would hopefully find enough energy to do some proper hiking. I mean, we’re in the Himalaya and who doesn’t hike in the Himalaya? 

We drove the awesome highway to Skardu, where lots of travellers arrive who hike to K2 base camp. That’s not our plan. We like hiking but we’re not the type of people that need to hike to a base camp or something. Nothing to prove ourselves, although I’m still proud we made it to the top of the highest mountain of a Oceania. 

We got ourselves to Skardu and without a plan moved to the cold desert (2200 meters) where we would stay for the night. We wanted to get out of Skardu as soon as possible, it’s nothing more than a busy and quite touristy city. However, we needed to sort some things out and while we were on our way we met with Adeel & Rosie. We’ve been following them on Instagram for a short while and were really  inspired by their travels and thirst for adventure. So, we turned and moved them to their hotel. There we got to talk for hours and decided to meet up the next day to go to Khaplu all together. 

Easily said and done! We slept in the desert again (great place! So quiet and peaceful). The next day we drove to Khaplu where we had delicious lunch at a hotel. Afterwards we explored the very unique village of Bhara. The village is unique because of its architecture. When you get off the main road and into the village you immediately know this is different. You find yourself in tiny alleys above which people live in homes that are built with living rooms on the first floor. The cattle stay on the ground floor. Some homes are attached and a little pathway squeezes itself in between homes below. Good for winters when it’s very cold here and snows a lot. In the winter however, people do not stay in their normal homes. They move to the cellars with their cattle to keep warm. They live like this for three months. While we walk through the village we are the attraction of the day. Everyone comes out to check on us. A pity we aren’t allowed to photograph the women because they look amazing with their incredibly colourful dresses. I love it when people wear colours, it makes the world a happier place. A local who, speaks English, shows us around and tells us about the culture and architecture. He also buys us some dried apricots. “This is a welcome to you, because you are our guests” he says. 

After our brief visit we get into the van to drive to a crystal lake around the corner. Well, not really around the corner. It takes us 45 minutes because we have to cross the thundering river. The river that often floods villages located on the banks. The river is mainly dirt and looks like a bit mud stream. But on the banks of the river there are some pools where the sand doesn’t twirl because of the current and those places are as crystal clear as glas. Wow! 

Unfortunately for us there is no camping place next to one of these lakes so we find ourselves a spot next to the raging river. A bit later Adeel, Rosie and Talhaa arrive. We make camp here for the night, have diner together and lots of stories to tell. Rosie is a famous Youtuber (especially in Pakistan), she is a biker and solo traveller. She lived in Oman for 13 years and biked 11.000km’s through Pakistan on her own. She documents that in movies and on Instagram. She’s a legend and such a kind and heartwarming person. Three years ago she married with Adeel. Adeel is Pakistani, also a biker and loves to connect (and talk) with people. He is such an open person and always in for a talk. I have rarely met such an open, kind and hospitable person. And then there is Talhaa, a young man and so promising. Talhaa is a videographer with a keen eye for unique perspectives and beautiful lighting. Together we form a bunch of creatives. Great company and very inspiring.

Exploring villages

The next day we’ve got some work to do. Well, they have some work to do (finishing a commercial reel), Yuri also needs to edit and finish a reel and I’m not feeling well. The Pakistani food agrees with me, a lot!!, but the amount of oil they use in a dish doesn’t. And my body is still not itself. It’s been a month of physical ups and downs for me and I can’t handle much. Which is new to me. I used to be able to handle anything, from eating cow eyes to sheep brains and from drinking blood to drinking milk right out of the cow. Well, apparently those times are over. So while everyone is busy on the laptop, I’m busy on the toilet 😉

Anyway, after all work is done we go to Kaphlu and walk around the village. We get to pick apricots, put them in the basket and Rosie carries it to the street. Like the locals do. Mostly done by women btw. While the men sit in their shops and talking about … whatever they talk about, the women are working on the land, carrying for their children and doing the chores in the household. Doesn’t sound like an equal devision of tasks to me and as always that bothers me. It also bothers me that I can’t photograph the hardworking women. Again it’s the men who don’t want the women being photographed. “If we are photographed and our husbands find out they can throw us out of the house” one of the women tells me. Inside I get angry… if men would stop oppressing others and instead help the women with the hard work it would be a much better world. The men are always in charge and see where that has led the world? And I know it’s easy for me to write as I grew up in a country where women aren’t oppressed anymore and are almost as equal as men. Yes, almost, because even in The Netherlands women often earn less than men, some men still think they can touch a women without consent, some men still use their power to make women obey them. The inequality between gender is everywhere but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore it and let it be right? I believe in a world of the free. Where everyone can dress how they want, marry who they want and decide for themselves if they want to be photographed or not. And even though we’re far from a free world it’s my duty to fight for it. 

But, that aside. The village is nice, we meet kind people and have a good hike. It’s not as beautiful or interesting as Bhara but definitely fun to walk through. After our small stroll we move up the mountain and find ourself a camping spot with a beautiful view. I’m feeling worse and worse until the only thing I can do is lie down so that’s what I do. I lie down and fall asleep. In the morning I feel even worse. I can’t even sit up straight. Huge headache (quite used to that though), painful stomach and no energy at all. It’s like a sponsh being UITWRINGEN, although I try to drink water I can’t drink much. And the thought of food makes me sick. So that’s my day. 

We get back to Skardu, stay in the desert where I fall asleep from 8pm to the morning. The next day I feel a bit better but I have no energy left. Adeel, Rosie and Talhaa also came to the desert and together we go to another valley. This time we explore Chundah valley. A beautiful valley above Skardu. We stay at this magnificent place surrounded by green mountains, little streams of ice cold water and a pond of the same temperature. While I already turn into a block of ice after dipping one toe in the water, the village boys show me how courage really looks like and one after another they jump in the water. They get out freezing, of course. 

Again we walk through the village but as soon as some locals tell us girls to cover our hair we decide it’s enough. Still, I got to talk to a local who was working on getting the apricot pit out of the apricot. From the pit they make oil (the one I now have on my somewhat sunburned face) and the apricot skin they drie in the sun for a delicious snack. The man shows me how to do it. Some of the pits you can eat, not this one he tells me. And I write telling but we don’t speak each other’s language, however, we understand each other. It sometimes feels I just make sounds and some awkward body movements to make myself understand. Often that actually works 😁 

Anyway, that brings us to right here right now. In Deosai National Park, where we are now enjoying the amazing sunset on a plain which we only share with some golden marmots and hopefully some bears and who knows; a snow leopard? 

There are lots of wild animals in this National park. From wolves to bears and from snow leopards to Ibex. Even some very special goats and of course the golden marmots who are so curious that they come quite close. Dark clouds surround us and the sun is nothing more than a light in the far distance. It’s getting cold and we can finally wear our winter clothes again. This is what we craved for after months of scorching Iranian heat. I’m still not recovered so I guess it’ll be an early night under our thick blankets while the stars shine behind the clouds. We lost Adeel, Rosie and Taheel somewhere so hopefully we find them later today or tomorrow 🤣

Love, Milene & Yuri

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The way to Fairy Meadows

Probably one of the most touristy spots of Pakistan, normally we would ignore places like this and skip them. However, friends told us it’s definitely worth it so here we are, sitting in a jeep on a steep mountain waiting for people to clear a landslide. It just...

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The Silk Road to China

The Silk Road to China

The Silk Road to China

April 2021 we set out on an adventure. With a 45 year old Volkswagen T2 can we would be driving the Silk Road to China. 

Why the Silk Road?

The Silk Road is an ancient trading route from Xi’an to Rome, or Venice. It’s named after one of the major products traded on this road: silk. But many more things travelled along this route. From spices to merchants and from religions to deceases. And history is repeating itself. As we speak China is working towards a new Silk Road. A roadwork that connects countries and makes China once again the trading power of the world. But it are the ancient stories of Marco Polo and histories that attracted me to drive the road.

The silk route

The Silk Road was an ancient trade route that linked the Western world with the Middle East and Asia. It was a major conduit for trade between the Roman Empire and China and later between medieval European kingdoms and China.

Originating at Xi’an (Sian), the 6,400-km road, actually a caravan tract, followed the Great Wall of China to the northwest, bypassed the Takla Makan Desert, climbed the Pamirs (mountains), crossed Afghanistan, and went on to the Levant; from there the merchandise was shipped across the Mediterranean Sea. 

Travelling an ancient road in an ancient car

In 2015 I stumbled upon a Volkswagen T2, the dream of every hippie, on the internet. It was meant to be. With an etvenis of my late grandfather I could buy the van and start fixing it. Yuri was also in for the adventure and five years later we started. The van couldn’t be any other van. It had to be this one and I can’t explain why. Maybe because my father had a T1 when he was younger? Maybe because these are just the best vans ever made? Maybe because the van is invented by a Dutch man? The reason doesn’t really matter, I knew I didn’t want to travel it by foot like Ibn Battuta, nor by horse like Marco Polo, neither by backpacking like most. I wanted to do it my way.

The advanture

We set our, had some hiccups, even a break coming back to the Netherlands. Some borders closed and opened again, some stayed closed. And after 10 months of travelling we find ourselves in Pakistan. A surprise altogether. The land, the people, the nature. And this is the last land we drive the Silk Road. The ancient route went from Xi’An to Kashgar and from Kashgar it took multiple routes. One was the norther route – our initial plan. The second was the southern route – which we find ourselves on at the moment.

From Kashgar the silk route went to Islamabad and from there found it’s way to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and finally Rome. And we find ourselves on that road. Squeezed in between huge mountains a tiny road is found, jeep wide nowadays but in those times only donkeys and humans could walk here. The road is inaccessible nowadays, therefor the Pakistani government made the Karakoram Highway. From the highway we see glimpses of the past. History tucked away in the side of the mountains, only visible from afar. Oh the stories that are whispering along that road.

China

And there we go, following the winding road deeper and higher into the mountains. The river rushes next to us and has the same colour of the rocks around us. There is little vegetation here, all we can see are stones and rocks ready to cut a hole in the beautiful tarmac road. The new Silk Road or Karakoram Highway is a famous one. Tourists drive here to marvel at the Himalayan mountains. To see the white peaks in the distance and in the hope of seeing a snow leopard. However, most have to do with seeing Ibex, yak and marters. The three we’ve seen on the road here. 

And then after climbing about 2.000 meters we find ourselves at 4.700 meters above sea level and at the border with China. The end of the Silk Road for us. We would’ve loved to cross the border, move to Kashgar and from there to Xi’An. But, as said before it’s not only silk and spices that travelled the road. The pest and Black Death moved along it too. Not much has changed, as it is now Corona that killed. Corona crossed borders that are staying close to us, installing fear for more than two years already.

When travelling the Silk Road Corona seemed far away and very close by. We got to see the most touristy cities empty (Venice and Dubrovnik), we had to take tests and diversions as borders were closed, it made us change our route. And we’ve changed our route multiple times but this was the biggest change. No Turkmenistan, yes Pakistan. And even though we’re still a rad sad we didn’t get to see Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan with Alexine we are so so so happy and grateful we got to explore Pakistan.

Completing the Silk Road!

For now, we’ve reached China! We are here, at the border. The closest we will get to our final destination. The Silk Route is completed as far as Alexine can go. We can only continue on foot now. Backpacking our way to Xi’An. Should we?

Love, Milene & Yuri

Check our latest blogs

The heart of Pakistan

The heart of Pakistan

We end our beautiful Pakistan trip in the heart of the country. Let’s expLahore the city of culture, spicy food and history.

The way to Fairy Meadows

The way to Fairy Meadows

Probably one of the most touristy spots of Pakistan, normally we would ignore places like this and skip them. However, friends told us it’s definitely worth it so here we are, sitting in a jeep on a steep mountain waiting for people to clear a landslide. It just...

We're also on Instagram!

check it out