I was in central Pakistan when the Ramadan. It was great, people were incredible friendly. I had been cycling for weeks now with Guido but it was time to say goodbye.
I had been cycling with Guido for 5 weeks through south Iran and central and south Pakistan and we had been through quite a few things. One of those things was his sickness. Due to that sickness we had to spend a week in Multan.
Multan is located in central Pakistan. Not that Multan was unpleasant, in fact it was quite a interesting and sizable city, especially when you realize we had spend now quite some time in the wild open country of south and central Pakistan.
There was not too much to visit. Sure, the city had 11 city gates, like the one here on the picture. The bazaars were great too. In fact, behind our hotel one of the bazaars contained a slaughterhouse. There was blood all over that part of the bazaar while the animals were waiting for their turn.
When we entered Multan we found a cheap and not too dirty hotel. Later we found out we could have stayed in a much nicer and descent hotel. By then Guido was no longer able to walk straight up. He wasn't even able to think about food.
We had come through Baluchistan, the southern most province, south of Afghanistan on our way to central Pakistan. The Pakistanis had been very nice, very hospitable to us. Unfortunately Guido (and as it turned out much later me too) he had picked up an infection, probably through eating not well prepared chicken. He was, so to say, on the run, lost a few kg's. All he did was drinking water, and even that, he had to be forced.
After some days Guido said he was ready for the next stage were we would pass central Pakistan to Lahore. We cycled easy on flat lands until we reached Lahore. Central Pakistan is neither difficult nor very interesting. It just takes a few days cycling to cross the flat lands to Lahore
Guido wanted to go into India while my plan was to cycle up north to the Karakoram Highway. Lahore was right at the border of central Pakistan and the northern areas where the mountains dominate the landscape.
It was during our stay here the Ramadan started. At day time there was hardly anything at day time available. Especially in the morning it was difficult. Guido and I had found us a nice double room in the YWCA. In fact it was the only double room available. The room was great and we had a flat roof as a balcony available.
We spend a day in repairing and cleaning our bicycles. Our last day in Lahore would also be the start of the Ramadan. Since both of us had no idea if there would be food available in the morning we had bought the evening before bread, eggs, cream cheese and yogurt. Coffee was always in our bags.
That morning we overlooked the area and had a real splurge breakfast while the locals had to wait until sunset before they were allowed to eat. I know, it sounds insulting, but no one saw us anyway. Later I found found quite some Pakistanis eating during the day as long as others didn't see them!
We fried the eggs, boiled water for coffee and enjoyed our last meal together. Not for nothing we carried both a little stove and some petrol. Of course we made sure the Pakistanis would not see us eating. After all, we were guests in the country and didn't want to offend anyone. But the idea of starting the Ramadan with a splurge breakfast was quite hilarious.
After breakfast we packed our bags and left the YWCA for a last few kilometers together. It was a strange thought, to continue alone. Both of us were ready to continue on our own although we had enjoyed each others company. It was time to continue a different road.
Guido cycled further into India, went to Thailand and further south until he reached Australia. I went north, into the cold (it was already December) north Pakistan Himalayas.
While I was on the Karakoram Highway, there were moments I couldn't continue before I had something warm in my body. Out of sight of locals I boiled water to prepare coffee. Cycling during the Ramadan wasn't more difficult then normal. The only thing I had to do was prepare my breakfast the evening before. And that was not always an easy task.
Also, on my way to Islamabad, I arrived in some little town. At arrival in the hotel I was immediately invited to join the sunset dinner with the hotel staff. This was something I had not experienced before. It was great fun.
On my way north after Islamabad I stayed at a road hostel. These hostels are usually for truck drivers and other lost souls like me. When I arrived I was immediately invited to join the first meal (for them) that day.
Until late that night people were singing, shouting and eating. I was wondering what fasting during the Ramadan really meant. Here it seemed that as long you didn't eat between sunrise and sunset you could eat as much as you wanted. Not what I thought Ramadan was supposed to be.
By around midnight everybody was deep asleep. But not for long! At about 4 I woke up. People were busy preparing the pre-breakfast. This meal is allowed to eat as long as it is consumed before sunrise.
It was too early for me to eat but I was watching the Pakistanis while they ate and prepared to leave. I couldn't see much difference in the food they normally ate and what they had now. It was all rice, dhal, a bit of mutton and some veggies. Here, in these rough areas of the world, there's not much available. Most people eat three times a day the same thing, day in, day out, week in, week out, year in, year out.
Since I was awake, I decided to start riding early. That was quite a mistake. The temperature here was just below zero, there was a bit of snow along the roads but the road itself was free. Later this snow would melt by the sun. Now however, I freezing. No time to loose. But that is another adventure.
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Cycling in Baluchistan
An amazing part of Pakistan is Baluchistan. I crossed it twice, and it was worth the effort.
It's a good stop right in the middle of the journey to Karimabad. Very scenic valley so it's a good day hiking.
Gilgit and Hunza
This is the heart of the Karakorams Highway. A few magnificent days on the bicycle passing giants. You come closer to the roof of the world then anywhere else.