We decided to spend a rest day in Chilas, and rest we did. After setting everything out to dry from the hurried packing in last nights rain and heading into town to get food, I don’t think we left the hotel for the rest of the day.
The following day, well rested, we loaded up the bikes and got ready to start on the two day trip to Gilgit, the regional capital. The route was said to be beautiful, as most of the riding on the KKH so far has been, with the first views of the Himalayas, and even passing by Nanga Parbat, second highest mountain in the Pakistan after K-2 and ninth in the world. So hopefully the weather would be clear for that.
As we were leaving the hotel we found out that once again the police wanted to escort. We had been told an escort in Gilgit Baltistan wasn’t necessary and had been looking forward to enjoying the first free riding in a while. This news left us a bit disappointed but we decided to make the best of it by throwing our panniers in the back of the pick up escort and enjoy the ride unencumbered by our heavy baggage.
We changed escorts frequently enough, mostly moving the luggage from truck to truck ourselves but sometimes the police would move it themselves and allow us to keep cycling. We were making a great pace without the luggage, and before lunchtime we had crossed the bridge at Raikot. From here on the new road competed in 2013 began and it was in perfect condition. We passed by the spot where Nanga Parbat could be viewed and luckily the clouds parted and we could see its snowy peak glinting in the distance.
The farther we travelled the more we could glimpse snowy peaks lining hanging valleys that pulled away from the main Indus River valley. Shortly after lunch we arrived at the convergence of the Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Karakorum mountain ranges and stopped to take in this significant moment. At times the distance we’ve covered in the bike doesn’t sink in properly, but at big landmarks like the realisation that we cycled here from our front doors can come as a bit of a surprise.
From here on we followed the Gilgit river which was going to take us to the city of Gilgit, biggest city north of Islamabad along the KKH. The Gilgit river valley was a lot wider and at meanders in the river large platforms of fertile soil stood fuelling the plantlife that brightened up the rocky scenery with patches of green.
The sheer scale of the scenery we were cycling through was immense, all man made things were dwarfed in comparison to the soaring peaks and dipping course cut by the river. The road to Gilgit from Chilas would take two days normally, but with our luggage in the back of the escort can we completed the run in one day, pulling into Gilgit after dark.
Gilgit is a bustling city with the main thoroughfare lined with storefronts but not limited to only that road as it extends a couple of streets either side. Tiny, rocket old stores sit next to huge complexes for all branches of the Military and Police that operate in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Police checkpoints are frequent in the city and curfews sometimes enforced, thought not while we were there. As with a lot of cities in the north power supple is a real issue, so with no electricity most days the whole place shuts down after dark.