Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque

We spent the late afternoon at Lahore Fort, a remnant of the old Muslim rule of the Mughals which finally ended with the fall of the 'King of Delhi during the mutiny of 1857 against the British. It reminds you how Lahore and India have so much in common, despite the separation caused by the creation of Pakistan. The Mughal culture was almost the highpoint of the last thousand years of culture in this part of the world, they seemed to embrace a form of Hinduism and Islam that they mixed with Sufisim, poetry, science and philosophy, preserving the latter and giving children in the Madrassas the best education of the time anywhere in the world.

It was only with the Hindu soldiers (sepoys) rebellion against the British in the 1850's and the consequent blame attached to the Muslim Mughal emperors by the ridiculously ignorant British, that the Muslims were marginalised in India and the power transferred to the Hindus. This led in the end to the rise of 'Hinduism' and the eventual creation of India swiftly followed by Pakistan, as a response to fears for the safety and rights of Muslims in India. It also left fertile ground for conservative back to basics Wahabi Islam to spread from Afghanistan as a response to the glitz and glamour of the Mughal emperors, and ended with the conservative Islam now found in Pakistan.

The fort is pretty well preserved/refurbished and gives a good idea about the opulence amongst which the Mughals lived. Huge harem's, extended families, hundreds of children all living in the fort along with Eunochs, armies, poets etc.

Next to the fort is the Badshahi mosque which is one of the biggest in the world and can be viewed from the top of Cooco's Den, a restaurant on the roof of one of the old Haveli's of Lahore – the old buildings left from the Mughal era.

India and Amritsar


Pakistan - Contents

The Karakorum Highway Pakistan - 029
Crossing the border from China
The Karakorum Highway
Rebuilding the Karakorum

Suspension Bridge Walk
The Three Glacier Walk
The Karamabad Sisters and Hospitality

Irrigation creates life
The Baltit Fort
Lady's Finger Mountain Pakistan - 055

Buying Local Clothes
Gilgit Shops
The Gilgit Polo Tournament
Mr Baig and the Medina Guest House

Fairy Meadows
Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat
Silhouettes at Nanga Parbat
High Dynamic Range Photography of Nanga Parbat
High Mountains Everywhere
Mohammed Nour at Fairy Meadows
Riding on the Minibus Roof

Gilgit to Chitral
Road Guide
Route Profile and Hotels Pakistan - 150
Part 1 - Riding up the valley
Part 2 - Climbing higher
Part 3 - Shandur Pass 
Part 4 - The Descent
Part 5 - The Friendliest People
Part 6 - Great Light
Part 7 - More HDR Photography

The Kalasha Valleys
The Kalash People
Pressure on Kalasha Culture
Kalasha Houses 
Stuck in the Land of the Kalasha Pakistan - 221
Crossing the Lowari Pass

Lahore & The Twin Cities 
National Press Article
Pakistan - India Border Ceremony
Sufi Night in Lahore
Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque

Pakistani Trucks
Gilgit Polo Tournament
Pakistan - India Border Ceremony
Sufi Night Pakistan - 174

People we met 
The Karamabad Sisters
Alex, Alby and their truck
Mohammed Nour at Fairy Meadows
The Kalasha People
Mr Baig at the Medina Guest House

Our Route and Cycling Guides
China - Pakistan Border Road Guide
Route throught the Karakorum in Pakistan
Route through China, Pakistan and India
Gilgit to Chitral Road Guide
Gilgit to Chitral Profile and Hotels
Gilgit to Shandur Pass Map
Route Map from Lahore to Kathmandu

Getting a Pakistani Visa in HK
Getting a Pakistani visa and onward travel


Crazy Sufi night in Lahore

When someone told me that Sufi Night was held in the equivalent of a mosh pit (the crowded chaos at the front of a gig where everyone is squashed in and bounces around together) I didn't really believe them. But they were completely correct, it was absolute madness and a brilliant night.

Music from the night: Click preview to play it on this page

IMGA0007 (by Yodod)

There were maybe 500 people crowded into an open area between some buildings and a Sufi shrine, all sat next to each other closer than I could have imagined people could sit. Thursdays are also tourist night, so there is an area that we are led to, obviously full of people who had a good seat, who now have to be aggressively kicked out of the area and threatened with sticks to make them move. It doesn't help that everyone in the whole room is smoking huge joints and isn't inclined to move. Half the crowd is in a trance, the rest are passing around joints like there's no tomorrow.

IMGA0010 (by Yodod)

The 50 Pakistanis's who were sitting on the steps of the shrine in the tourist area were replaced by about 10 tourists all staying at Malik's guest house - 'The Regal Internet Inn'. He's well respected and his helper Niemet also did his best to make sure we were all OK. All over Lahore if we said we were staying with Malik people said he was a very good man and touched their heart, everyone saw him as their friend. The reason for all this chaos were the three drummers stood with huge drums, swirling around like dervishes (the original dervishes were the first Sufis) playing amazing rhythms and spinning on the spot while they did it. The most famous one is deaf (blue clothing) and can still keep time from all the vibrations.

IMGA0003 (by Yodod)

We stayed for about 4 hours and went home elated from the experience, if the first people to play acid house weren't inspired by Lahore's Sufi night I will be amazed. What made it even more strange was the transvestite's who regularly walked through the crowd and went into the shrines and then prayed for half an hour or so, while the music was going on. In such a crazy macho man world it seemed so incongruous to see 'gay men' dressed as women being able to walk around openly. Some are eunochs and live a very secretive life that William Dalrymple managed to find out a little about in 'City of Djinn's', they are respected and feared in Pakistan and India, yet are thought to bring good luck...........


Wagha border ceremony - Pakistan and India

Anyone who watched Michael Palin's 'Himalaya' will have seen the crazy border ceremony between Pakistan and India but nothing really prepares you for the spectacle of it.

On Sundays especially, thousands of people travel the 30km from Lahore (Pakistan) and Amritsar (India) to attend. It is like going to a football match...walking towards the stadium with announcements and the buzz of so many people all attending one event.

The whole nationalistic spectacle makes you laugh, smile, groan and despair...all in equal measure. It's great theatre, watching the crowd is almost as good as watching the stars - the soldiers. Two sets of people divided by a line that none of them would have chosen, shouting 'Pakistan....Super Power'!! and chanting at the Indian crowd behind a small dividing gate.


We're in the Pakistan National Press

On the way into Rawalpindi from Islamabad, we got stopped at some traffic lights by a reporter and his photographer. We pulled in and were then interviewed while a load of people gathered around to watch.

The next day we were in the paper and virtually our whole story was made up. The only thing they got right was our names and the fact that we started in Mongolia.

We were never scared, we never had 4 punctures. Don't believe what you read in the papers. Be a critical thinker!!!

Today we got asked to sign the article by the hotel owner who has mounted it on the wall in his office. Then another couple of local people came to see us and asked for us to sign their copy too. It was a bit embarassing, but very funny.


Cycling in Pakistan - Gilgit to Chitral - Part 5 - The friendliest people

All the way from Gilgit we have been constantly harassed in the nicest possible way by the lovely people on the side of the road wanting us to stop for 'Chai' (tea), to take their photograph, to sit and talk to them, to give them 'one pen, one pen', or more annoyingly to walk beside us and stare as we labour up a steep hill, struggling to go in a straight line and to get enough oxygen into our lungs.

We can hardly blame them, not many tourists come this way and any that do are packed inside the NATCO bus or in Jeeps insulated from the people in the villages. We are today's entertainment. If anyone wants to practice their English, we're a great opportunity...
'Hello, How are you?'; 'What is your name?'; What is your religion?'; What is your village name?'; 'Photo,photo, photo?'; 'Green Chilli!' (all that one little boy could say in English)

We would often meet large groups of children walking huge distances to get home from school, anxious to interact with the strange foreigners and their loaded bicycles. Some were shy, others desperate to show off their English skills. Many of the children go to Government schools, (8 Rupees/month – $0.1) but others are lucky enough to go to the Aga Khan English Medium Schools (350R/month - $5) and speak superb English for their age.

Because some of Northern Areas isn't officially part of Pakistan, but part of the disputed Kashmir, the local people rely on the Aga Khan to build bridges, schools and medical centres, put pipes in for drinking water and build irrigation channels, as they receive very little from the Pakistani government. His picture is everywhere and the prowess in English of so many of the children is testament to the success of his many schemes in the area. Amazingly his schools are also co-educational which may help explain the more relaxed relationships between men and women in the countryside.

Women would frequently talk to us and many spoke better English than their husbands, and it was almost liberating to see them walking alone and unveiled, shaking hands with men from their village, something we would never see in towns.

Many people wanted us to take their pictures and then send them copies when we reached a larger town, our notebook is now full of addresses. Some people wouldn't even want the photos sent to them, they just wanted the interaction and to see themselves on the screen of our cameras. Often if we stopped to take a picture of something, groups of men would line up beside it to add interest, or ask for us to take photographs of the whole family. Children nearly always got really excited as we arrived, and thanks to well intentioned NGOs, we would hear the chant of 'pen, pen, pen, pen' echoing round the terraces above us.

One other thing that amazed us was the number of children with pale skin and red hair, and others with amazingly blue eyes, so unlike the rest of the population of Pakistan.

Here's a slideshow of some of the people we met:


Amazing Decoration on Pakistani trucks

All trucks in Pakistan are decorated like this and everyone decorates even their motorbikes and tractors. We've heard about a street in Lahore where you can get your pushbike decorated. im still trying to make up my mind whether to get mine done:

This post is for Ari in New Zealand. Hi from Simon and Isabelle.
Did you get our postcard?


Alex, Alby and their Mini-truck!!

The big polo tournament in Gilgit

We were lucky enough to be in Gilgit during the annual Gilgit Polo competition.

With so many military and police in the towns of the Northern Areas there are lots of well organised teams that enter this annual competition. It lasts for one week from November the 1st and as tourists we got to sit in the VIP section to watch the opening ceremony and the first exhibition game between the Gilgit Police B team and the Gilgit Scouts B team.

Every town in the Northern areas has a Polo ground which consists of a long thin field surrounded by high walls an banked concrete seating or steps.

The whole atmosphere was fantastic and involved musicians, singers, dancers, flag carrying, each team parading past the VIP guests (us), lots of saluting and also during the game quite a bit of angry appealing to the umpire concerning the rules.

The Police won 9-2

Here's some photos of the whole spectacular:

Mr Baig at the Madina Guest House in Gilgit


Cycle Touring - Spares and Tools for cycle touring

Here's some picture of our spares and tools.
If you click on the picture you can go to a flickr page where each item is tagged so you can see what it is. We can fit all of this in the bottom of one of the panniers.


Mongolia - main menu

Ulaan Baatar
Arriving in Ulaan Baatar
Our appartment in Ulaan Baatar
Missionaries everywhere in Ulaan Baatar
The Journey
Mongolian roads are certainly different
We meet more cyclists
Half way and knackered
Defeated by terrible sandy roads
Amazing cloudy skies a we cross a pass
Horses everywhere
Chili Lips for Isabelle
Incredible sand dunes
Trying to keep clean
The valley of pain
Incredible evening light
The best campsite on earth
Finally we reach Olgii
Olgii in the far west
Sunsets 1
Sunsets 2
Sunsets 3
General Gallery
Typical hospitality Yurts are changing

Birds of Prey
Yaks at the border
Slideshow of road surfaces to expect
How the road changes constantly
Food and Drink
Typical food
Typical drink
Mongol Rally
We meet the Mongol Rally coming through

Border Crossing
Our experience
Cycling guide
Road Guides for Cyclists
Overall guide and advice
Part 1 - UB to Tsetserleg
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
The Border
Complete route maps to download
Google map



The Kashgar Runs

11am – Day 2
These are the ramblings of someone suffering from 'Man-Diarrhoea', a particularly dire illness (signified by my capitalisation) that women seem to be only vaguely aware of. This can be the only explanation for Isabelle's relaxed attitude towards my predicament. Ever since the mountains before Korla I've been a bit run down and ended up catching a really annoying cold which I only shook off a couple of days ago. Getting caught in the snow wasn't exactly good for it but hey...these are the trials and tribulations of a long distance cycle tourer.  The one thing that I didn't expect was 'the shits' – I haven't had it since Africa in 2002 despite travelling all around SE Asia and India and always drinking the tap water and trying to build up my immunity wherever possible. I am now going through the recovery stage of a really vicious attack. I started to run out of energy a couple of days ago as we travelled by bus round the Taklamakan desert and just put it down to that thing where you always get ill at the beginning of a holiday. Why is that? - it's as though your body switches off your immune system for a few days because it needs a rest from looking after you on the road or at work.
2pm: I write this not because I think anyone really wants to know the details, but because it's damn boring lying here burping and farting, waiting for the next urgent trip to the toilet, whilst drinking copious amounts of flat coca-cola, rehydration salts a couple of times a day, and knowing I should eat but not wanting anything to go into the maelstrom of my digestive tract. I wait breathlessly for the magic drug Ciprofloxacin to kill all the aggressive little bastards multiplying in my intestines. Without going into too many details I haven't urinated for 48 hours but still need to drink constantly...I've had a fever of 38.5ºC for the last 24 hours, thankfully that's now subsided and I can stop breaking out in cold sweats in my 27ºC hotel room. I'm sick to death of lying down but every time I sit up, the gurgling starts again so I lie there watching endless CCTV5 repeats of the Chinese Olympic triumphs, table tennis and weight lifting being a couple of the less riveting favourites. The worst bit is the endless segues between segues advertising more of the same later in the day. I've discovered XJTV10 which is just Premier League football, although I'm even getting bored of that now. I have this dream that if I watch the TV for long enough I will eventually be able to speak Chinese fluently, although I also had this dream about French when I met Isabelle.

6pm: My biggest problem is that after a couple of days of lying here I'm getting crabby and uncomfortable, I'm not really tired but I feel exhausted, I'm hungry but don't want food, I want to go out but can't face it, I watch TV but I've seen it all before and I really need a shower but water frightens me. I'm not even ready to wear pants yet which says something about my state, so I sit here typing this with all on display, hoping the cleaning lady doesn't use her key-card to get in without knocking first. It must be tremendous fun for Isabelle, who kindly buys me the things I desire and then sits there looking as bored as I feel. At night I've been watching films on our impossibly small laptop sent out by my friend Rob in the UK. Janette, who chose the films, has excellent taste, but why are today's offerings all about death and loss!? I need cheering up not constant crying and blubbing.
7pm: After no visits to the toilet for 4 hours, I've just had to rush, I'm disappointed but I'm still hopeful that tomorrow I'll be much better. My sense of self pity is beginning to piss even me off. I'm bored of it now. And worst of all I'm sick of Isabelle saying 'Does that mean I'm stronger than you because I didn't get ill?' I have no answer, which bugs me,the question is so obviously irrational and makes no sense. It's like her other questions - 'How many ants do you think there are in the world?' or 'How many blades of grass are there?'. I try and explain using complicated scientific gobbledygook how only strong immune systems can face such harsh bacterial infections but she sees through me almost immediately. I end up muttering about the things that I ate that were different to her while she sits there and grins smugly.
8.40pm: I've now reached the stage where I am embarrassed by the state that I am in. The hotel room is a shambles with rubbish everywhere, there are plates of barely eaten rice and Isabelle says that I smell of illness. 'Nature' is clever, I now want to clean everything, a sure sign that I am ready to look after myself again. I've just had a shower and brushed my teeth, I even cleaned the outside of the toothpaste tube and used bottled sterile water rather than the tap water (which Isabelle seems to use with impunity). At this moment all dirt seems to disgust me. 
10pm: Another landmark, Cipro number 3 is now inside me. I am absolutely confident that I will be completely better tomorrow. I might even leave the hotel room. Now it's time for another film, I will not be watching one about illness or death. 
I think we'll watch 'Run Fatboy Run' or is the title a bit too reminiscent of my predicament? (not the Fatboy bit)


Finally getting into China at long last

Simon and Isa in China at last (by Yodod)
We have spent the last 3 months worrying about how to get into China. It felt as though we were cursed. In April with our HK ID card, we could have got a one year multiple entry visa, then the Tibet protests stopped that. Until recently it was possible to get a visa in Almaty, but the Chinese embassy there has now become like Fort Knox – no-one can get in, let alone apply for a visa. We have spent so many sleepless nights worrying about how to get into China, we've heard reports of people being refused entry on bicycles, about cyclists being thrown out of hotels once they do get in, of other cyclists being told that the border was closed to foreigners.......it has been hell. Last night I woke up several times and as we cycled the last 20km to the border my heart was racing with apprehension, I was nearly sick.

This has now all changed – we are now in China – and it's ovely.YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Once through customs we couldn't stop grinning – our cycle ride to Nepal is still on. We got across the border with absolutely no trouble and the officials were super friendly. They didn't mind that we had had to fly all the way to Hong Kong to get our visa, I think they were just surprised to see any foreigners entering China from Kazakhstan seeing as how they've made it so hard this year. The English speaking border guards were desperate to help, we were moved to the front of queues, and customs was straightforward. Once in Korgas it was easy to get a room in a hotel and compared to Kazkahstan the quality and price is astonishing.

I was reading in a newspaper in Almaty, that this year China has had less tourists than for many years, despite the Olympics. The Tibet protests caused such panic about press exposure that all the visa restrictions were imposed. It's a shame that the government of China isn't more confident. It seems to be doing a good job leading a country that only a few years ago was considered part of the developing world. My electronic key card hotel room, with ensuite bathroom and aircon seems to tell a different story.


Kazakhstan - Contents

Culture Kazakhstan - 11
Graveyard Domes
Roadside Companions
President Nazarbaev
Travelling by Train

Roadside Views in Northern Kazakhstan
The amazing Charyn Canyon
Our Hidden Campsite
Why we love Central Asia Kazakhstan - 28

Registration and Visas
Registering your visa
Trying to get a Chinese Visa in Almaty
Getting a Visa and onward travel

Border Crossing
Russia to Kazakhstan

Frank Van Rijn - a Dutch cycling legend
Vincent our Taiwanese friend 

Getting a Visa and onward travel

Kazakhstan Landscapes

IMG_4363 (by Yodod)
IMG_4367 (by Yodod)
IMG_4377 (by Yodod)


We get ourselves a cycling translator - Vincent

We get ourselves a cycling Translator - Vincent 25th September 2008 On the final day in Kazakhstan we set off early, hoping to get somewhere near the Chinese border. About 2km down the road we saw another cyclist infront of us. We chased him down and met Vincent – a Taiwanese man cycling from California to Beijing. He started in May and always does at least 100km every day and has now done about 12,000km in total. We camped together just before the border and he has now become our lucky charm....we think that without him and his perfect Mandarin we would have struggled to get across the border into China. Vincent left his job as an engineer because it was driving him mad and told his wife that he wanted to cycle across the world. After not speaking to him for a few days she finally realised that maybe she should support his idea and she 's now an avid reader of his regular posts on his blog. (unfortunately in Mandarin) His Taiwanese Passport (Republic of China) is an unusual document as it isn't recognised by China. He has to use a special passport here because China still sees Taiwan as being Chinese. Even the Kazakhs refused to give him a Kazakhstan visa in his Taiwanese passport because they don't want China to think they recognise Taiwan, so they gave it him on a separate piece of paper which caused him loads of problems at the Kazakh border. Vincent speaks good English and takes photos of everything. He refers to himself as 'That crazy Taiwanese guy' and is going to cycle with us until we head South for Pakistan. He feels as though he is now home because for the first time since he left Taiwan he can now understand everything that everyone says and he loves the food (as do we!)



Charyn Canyon - One of the best sights in Kazakhstan

About 200km from Almaty is an amazing natural wonder called Charyn Canyon.
Here's how it's described by the Kazakhs:

It's spectacular and well worth the visit. So many people seem to just drive there from Almaty, look over the side for an hour and then head back. They are making a great mistake. The canyon has loads of great viewpoints at the top and it is possible to scramble around exploring for hours. We eventually found the dirt road down into the canyon and were rewarded with spectacular views as we cycled down through the side canyon called the 'Valley of the Castles'. The initial descent into the canyon was very steep but when we finally reached the river we had the whole place to ourselves. Why there aren't more people there is hard to understand, this was definitely the highlight of our time in Kazakhstan. For Frank – our cycling companion - it was heaven because he could finally get warm. Guide books say that it is too hot here in summer but with all the glacial melt water flowing down from the mountains, this is hard to imagine. We would have liked to have spent a day exploring but we needed to push on to China to cross the high mountains before winter sets in. We left Frank basking in the sun.



Graveyard Domes in Kazakhstan

As we cycled through Kazakhstan we often saw some amazing graveyards. This one was the best:

Frank Van Rijn - A cycling legend

On the road out of Almaty we met Frank van Rijn – a Dutch cycling legend. He hasn't quite reached the half million km mark yet but he's getting close. He's now in his 60s and still going strong although we think some of his clothing needs updating as he spent most of our 3 days with him complaining about the terrible cold.

Frank van Rijn (by Yodod)Frank van Rijn (by Yodod)

His website: frankvanrijn.nl details his many trips, which basically cover the whole world. He is sponsored by Gazelle (a dutch cycle maker who pay for all his flights and provide his bike), Vaude (panniers and clothes), Schwalbe (tyres) and cycles for between 6 and 9 months a year before returning to Holland to write books and present slideshows. The only thing he has that isn't sponsored, is his brown leather shoes which he insists on wearing whenever cycling.

It was great to spend time with him debating how normal he is, the likelihood of aliens, the merits of clip on cycling shoes, dogs or cats? and Buddha not needing water for 60 days, although some of his views are slightly affected by the large amount of time he spends on his bike. He hates dogs because they always chase him (he carries an ultrasonic device called a Dog Dazer) and because they bark at night when he camps near villages and they once ripped his tent apart. (We think he left food inside!)

We went with him from Almaty to Charyn gorge and it was sad to have to leave him to head for China. We hope the cold in the mountains of Kazakhstan doesn't make his life too miserable.



How to get a Chinese Visa in Almaty?

We finally arrived in Almaty on the 2nd September only to discover that the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan is the hardest place to enter on earth. They should keep nuclear weapons there. People spend days queuing only to be told that they are now at the back of the queue, or that they are at the wrong door, or that they forgot to pick up a ticket and have no place in the queue. Some Australians who spoke perfect Mandarin were just told to go away. We tried a travel agent that had been recommended but he said that it was now impossible for him to get visas. We eventually found another travel agent who said that US$500 should be able to get one, but when he rang up his contact they said that this 'superb' deal had stopped in mid August. We investigated sending our passports by DHL to friends in HK who would try and get the visa for us, but all the travel agents said that they needed to see our HK entry stamps in our passport or pass our ID card information to the Chinese embassy. Even this inspired idea was doomed to failure and we also risked waiting 10 days and failing anyway. We also didn't want to do anything that would get us into trouble in China.

By now it was the 6th September and we were left with a horrible dilemna; either carry on back to Europe or fly over China to either Pakistan or India, neither option being ideal. We cursed the Olympics, we cursed the Tibetan protesters, we cursed the Chinese government, we even tried blaming each other but when we enquired about air tickets to India another outrageous idea popped into our heads...........

The following morning we were on an Air Astana flight to Bangok, followed by an Air Asia flight to Macau and a Hydrofoil to Hong Kong. Two days later we had a proper Chinese visa and then 3 days after that another Kazakh visa so that we could re-enter Kazakhstan. After a surreal 10 days in HK visiting friends and scaring them to death by just turning up at their houses with no warning, we landed back in Almaty on the 18th September and on the 20th we were back on our bikes. This has to be one of the most expensive 'visa-runs' ever!!!!!!!



President Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan

Here's some nice pictures of the President of Kazakhstan. He used to be the leader of the Communist party when the USSR was around and really didn't want to split from the Russians until Gorbachov forced his hand. He's now led Kazakhstan ever since 'independence' and thanks to the enormous amount of gas and oil here has managed to create an extremely rich elite and a growing upper middle class (as well as somehow making himself very comfortable).

IMG_4314 (by Yodod)

His picture is everywhere, with children, with gas pipelines, with outrageous city developments. This is all despite the fact that up to 20% of the population live below the poverty line and are really subsistence farmers. His daughter is being groomed to be the new president in a dynastic line reminiscent of Bush or the Kennedy's and has combined her own political party with that of her father.

IMG_4315 (by Yodod)

Elections here are corrupt and denounced by international election observers, and Nazarbaev's political opponents are found shot, or end up locked up in prison during election years and with Nazarbaev controlling the media they don't have much chance to start with. For the moment Kazakh's are quite pragmatic about him, while the country is developing they seem prepared to put up with him. He does have some good ideas, but why doesn't he just give back all the money he's 'stolen' and step down from government? Does he think he's the only Kazakh who could run the country? Maybe he is?


Russia - The Altai - Photo Gallery


Mongolia - On the Road - Photo Gallery


Mongolia - Landscapes - Photo Gallery



Route through Pakistan - The Karakorum Highway

Here is our route from Kashgar in Xinjiang province (China) all the way to Lahore. We cycled South into Pakistan until Gilgit and then took a dirt road West over the Shandur pass to Chitral in the far North-West of Pakistan. From there we headed South and East to Islamabad and then on towards Lahore using the Grand Trunk Road through Gujranwala: You can zoom in and move around this map which is one of the great maps available from John the Map, who sells some beautiful maps ideal for the whole Karakorum Highway:

Click to Zoom; SHIFT click to Zoom Out; Click and hold to move
You will need Silverlight on your computer to view the above map. routemappakistan routemapchina


How to register your visa in Kazakhstan (With map for registration in Semey)

When you enter Kazakhstan you are meant to register your visa within 5 days....this isn't the easiest thing to do, although it depends where and how you enter the country. You are looking to get 2 stamps on the Migration card that you have to complete before going through immigration control. Do not lose this card!
  1. Aeroplane - it should be done at immigration. Unless it's a small airport it will probably be automatic.
  2. Train - can get it done but difficult and involves nagging and begging
  3. Road - no one knows how to do it or seems to want to try. We kept asking but 'Nyet, Nyet, Nyet!'

If it doesn't get registered on entry then your best option is to go to a hotel who will register it for you for a fee. This can range between $10 and $20. If your hotel (like ours) won't do it then you will have to find the OVIR office or Immigration office yourself. We started with the police station and eventually got to the right place. In Semey all the instructions for the registration form were in Russian and no-one was prepared to help us in the office. We were just a problem rather than people who needed help. Eventually a really nice security guard came and started filling it in for us in Cyrillic with our passports etc. and we then wrote an explanation sheet which we gave to the registration people to stick on the wall. They looked mildly pleased so it might still be there and of some use.