15,000km Tech Talk (Strongman)

Yes! We’ve survived the 15,000km mark (15,479.0km to be precise), & reaching New Delhi, India, doing so. It has become mentally straining since 2 months ago with the amount of onlookers (curious, handful and never seem to be in a hurry to go about their own chores) multiplying each day. The traffic … ah the traffic! Crazy … almost impossible, yet like the immigration officer who said to me with a smile, “Everything is possible in India”.

Looking GOOD

Generally, we’ve increased our daily mileage, covering 80km on average with 5 hours of pedalling. Basically all system are still working well, with some performing exceptionally. Thought the months of sand, rain, snow and heat, and the ugly mixture of everything would have caused much hurt to shifting mechanism, but happy to say, the FD, RD, chainrings and sprokets have continued to deliver the shift-by-the-click standards! Thumbs up Shimano! Nonetheless, I’m missing the delights on the faces of people whenever SK showed the wonders of the dynamo front hub. Indeed, for a couple of nights we have to ride late into the night, mainly to search for lodging.
Montbell panniers (hope you haven’t forgotten them) work as desired; maintaining its waterproofness & durablity. No sign of fatigue from its buckles, stiches and seams. Except for the well-wishes from our new-found friends and a small cut … erm … happened about a month ago, while coming down the KKH (doesn’t stand for your dearest hospital!). The law of Downhill + Speeding + Pothole + Weight = Inequality of Balance, I crashed, just fell and skided on the road. Only the front left pannier suffered a 2cm cut, as the rear has the spare tyres to act as bumper. The rider was thankfully tucked behind these, leaving just the shoulder and the knee to slight bruises. Most fortunately, he was wearing his trusty Giro helmet *wink*, else who knows what his head & face will become. A word to all riders out there, “If you have a helmet, WEAR it well!”

Under Investigation
SPD has been giving off a rotation click during forward pedalling. Can’t see anything unusual on the outside. Hope it’s not an inside job.
Has fully replaced the 1st pair of Michelin tyres. Been riding the 2nd sets for approx. 3000km until a recent rewarding encounter in Ludhiana, India’s bicycle hub. Presently equiped with brand new (I do mean brand new!) made-in-India (MII) tyres from Ralson, so far having travelled for more than 500km. Fingers still crossed. How do you feel? Take a poll under the heading ‘Testing Rubber’. Reply with :
CHAPATI if you feel – Good luck! Change ASAP.
BASMATI if you feel – No problem! Better than you think.

Too much, simply too much!

Don’t know if it’s me & my butt or the numerous squeezy hands of the others which inflicted this wound .. sigh … the crack seem to get longer everytime I look at it!

This poor fellow (& its twin on the other end) has taken all the stresses from the cold, hot, dust, rain and my … powerful grip *grin*

Holding ON

This front rack has been ‘repaired’ by the locals in Kyrgyzstan with their methods. Looking good … “Mr Pierce Wong, do you still recall your promise? *wink* heehee …
In a few days time, our journey will be into the 1-yr milestone. Wow … 365 days on the road … how time flies … we’ll keep going with your support and techtalk shall return when we reach 20,000km mark! See you then! Happy riding!

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I promised to do my BEST!

Once a scout, always a scout! At the Battrasi forest, we found a scout college. One of the top college in the country too! Remember your promise?!

These young men all wore scout uniform, which is quite similar to the army. However, scouting only represent a small portion of their huge curriculum. Of course, how else can they be the best with too much campings, hikings and singings *wink* These young men were very well-mannered & keen to approach us. On the other hand, they’ve got rules in the college hence we did not get to interact with them much.

Coincidentally, a group of high school scouts from various districts had gathered in the scout training camp that night, preparing for their trekking programs the next day. Their singings, cheerings & the enthusiasm refreshed my memories of my scouting days …… this is the scouting light of mine ….

These boys all dressed in their best, ready to set off. Keep it up! Thanks for the songs, friendship and joy you’ve shared! We promised to do our best!

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Bridging friendship … yet no entry without NOC!

Along the highway to Tharkot, we crossed this Friendship Bridge. The Chinese received very much likings from the Pakistanese. This firm relationship probably dates back to the planning of this highway.

In some areas, cable cars are used to bridge people instead. This is the operation cabin at one end while the other is merely an anchor. A man sits (sometimes sleeps) here, but I wonder what’s his working hours …

The cable car looks quite stable to carry both people as well as goods. What a ride it seemed. We’ll maybe think about the safety, yet to the local, it’s a living.

Gosh … I’m hungry, tired, dirty and lost in the crowd.

Ah … once again, we are saved. Tufail Mohammad is a teacher & speaks perfect English.

He introduced to us his country favourite sport, criket. Sounded like a very long and slow game.

“What! This is the hometown of our ex-prime minister?”, we were surprised that the town Battagram may have such a close relationship with Malaysia.

Another proper cultivated terrace. Today we will be climbing this small hill.

Up & about, rounds & bends, as we paced up the Battrasi hills. This forest is like a natural reserve, with tranquil atmosphere & quiet roads.

And we found a police post at the top. Thankfully the man in black have decided to take us in for the night. Officer Abrar Shah serving us hot tea & sharing their dinner.

This region is a little sensitive, explained Mushtaq, the poice commando, as it borders the capital of the Pakistan controlled Kashmir, Muzafarabad.

I can’t recall his exact words, but Shazaman immediately recognized us as Malaysian when we approached his teashop. With that chance meeting, came kopi & cakes :) *slurps*

At the same time, SK found that his front rack has broken apart. Fortunately, Shazaman’s friend own a metal workshop. Ready in a minute!

Mr Shazaman had went to Penang & Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for some months during 1994 as an Islamic preacher. After 10 years, he still manages Malay language fairly well. Eagerly, he recounted those days while making chapati for his customers.

“No NOC? Sorry then, no entry.” We were merely 15km from Muzafarabad. Now got to backtrack over the hills …. sigh …

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With education, with hope …

Soon after we realised that we’re being followed cautiously .. keeping a safe distance ….

“okie … good luck & have a safe journey!” the men in blue bid us farewell. Looks out we’ve come out of a sensitive region … the mysterious Kohistan … hmm ..

This German couple has been on the road for a year now (quite the same time we’ve started) and heading to Kashgar. They are really well equiped and were on full-suspension cycles. Way to go! Keep the spirit high!

As the highway leads further down, more greenery can be seen with field of crops and houses and villages along the mountain slopes.

In Jigal village, we met Nisar. He is a teacher & the headmaster of the public school. Here in their morning assembly, everyday the students will sing the National Athem, a poem by their national poet & recite from the Koran.

Their classroom is nothing more than a room with a blackboard and a chair for the teacher. In fact, it is a wonderful though humble beginning, a hope for a better future.

Unlike some countries, it doesn’t pay very well to teach in the village, least to brag about the benefits. Nonetheless, these young teachers strive on. It’s the best thing they can do for the next generation, for their country. Pass it on!

We’re beginning to see many of these terrace on the slopes of the mountains. In many places, water is brought about by irrigation.

The Chinese engineer explained another usage of water equally important but probably more destructive for the nature. They’re building a dam & a hydro-plant. In this initial phase, rocks from the hills are blasted away to path way e lfor pipings, roads and structures.

In such projects, the local authority has to be well informed and given FULL cooperation in order to get things done on schedule. Luckily for us, we happened to arrived in time for such dinner meetings :)

This China-Pak power project in Besham would last for some years to come, therefore proper housing, dinning and recreation compound have to be well factor in. By early next year, around 200 Chinese staffs will be mobilised to work here.

Mr Gan & Mr Chai, the men leading this major project. Good luck and make us proud!

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Dealing with timber, grease & …. mangoes!

“1..2…..UP!” By their hardwork, these loaded the truck with thick & solid blocks of timber. I believe these are heading for Islamabad, fuelling the ever increasing demand. Anyone give a thought for the forest?

A charismatic young man, Dost, happily agreed to let us spend the night in his makeshift shelter pieced together with his timber blocks. However, the strong wind blowing in, bringing the dark cloud nearer seem to suggest otherwise.

The neighbour, Hekmat, spotted our presence and came along just in time. Indeed, as soon as we got nicely under shelter at his house, droplets fell. Dost & his gang of labourers ran off to village’s mosque to take refuge. Destiny …

The men in orange, once again we met the friendly & mighty forces of the FWO. They are proud (they have every reason to be!) to show their presence with numerous signboards along the highway. Good going guys!

Servicing the hydro-generator that produces electricity to the town of Dassu, district capital of Kohistan.

Tucked by the banks of Gilgit river, Dassu grew in vibrance & excitement … and danger … watch for stones and spits from the children!! :(

Fresh icy & clear water from the glaciers inevitable have to meet with the sandy greyish river flowing down to the plains.

At a tea house, we chanced upon a family from Lahore coming all the way up here to escape the heat and take a family holiday, “It’s almost 50degC in our city!”.

Amir Zafar runs a printing house and also deals with pharmaceutical products. Every year he’ll take his family for an excursion and visit the many wonderful places his country has to offer.

Usually, they will also bring along some of the delights from their home … mangoes! What a rewarding refreshment! Thank You!

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Keeping cool with Police

As we tried asking for a night stay, the locals were quite reluctant & beckon us to head to the police station down the road. Indeed, the police showed up & took us away …

Naqeeb Ahmed, the young Detective Constable, has returned from the academy to serve in his district for 2-3 yrs now. He is fluent in English & related the tense atmosphere around the Thore region to us. Seemed we’re entering the territory of Kohistan *raise brow*

The officers on night duty have kindly given up their beds to us. This early morning, we were awaken, served tea and hurriedly bid goodbyes.

One of the check-points along this stretch of the highway. Foreigners have a standard but simple registration, while for the locals, a thorough screen seemed to be in place.

At many of the valleys with a outlet of the fresh mountain/glacier water near to the highway like this have naturally gathering more people, often forming a trading market around the communities, striving with life!

Heat is ON! We devised 2 ways to beat it … take a break under shelter, preferably at a tea house.

Else get off the cycles, park it …

Quickly get rid of the sweaty & burning clothes … *wink*

and take a dip in the clear & cold water rushing down from the mountains! What a Shiok feeling!

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Gilgit & onwards

The city where 2 sects of Muslim clashes just some weeks ago. There was a solemn & tense setting with the military presence at all corner.

The ideal place to solve all your digital requirements! The owner meets many tourists, some like us travelling on cycles, while others like the Japanese girl on a backpack. *Woman Power!* He has even specially allocated computers with Japanese language and settings!

Spot the on under the hands of the shopkeeper? Yeh, ice-creams! Zagum has barely stepped out of his house for less than 5 mins to found us looking desperate late in the evening. The next minute we were led in. Soon, he served us dinner and then took us out for a walk with his friends around the market area. This morning, he brought us to his uncle’s shop and free rounds of ice-creams for all! It’s a friendly city afterall!

The bricks are made of cement? Hmmm … anyone can enlighten us?

Continuing onwards from Gilgit, we met this Dutch couple. They are making a journey of ‘Kathmandu to Kathmandu‘ … that’s from a shop called Kathmandu in Amsterdam to the capital of the Nepali Kingdom Kathmandu. Even with the heat, the lady has to respect and abide by the local custom/practice. Keeping going guys!

This man doesn’t speak very much, but that doesn’t stop him from reaching to us. He was working on his furnitures when we approached to ask for a place to rest and take our chapati. He sit us into his hall and at once asked his child to prepare tea and fresh chapati for us. He’s showing us a book on Urdu to English translation.

Back to work, shaving these wooden blocks to size for a window frame.

A viewpoint where the 3 giant ranges meet, the Himalaya, the Karakoram & the Hindu Kush. Standing there, I felt a sense of inferiority yet surprisingly peaceful & calm …

So mighty, so majestic, don’t you feel vulnerable to their willings. Can you imagine how people have survive & grow under these conditions?

To try to match the surroundings, the awesome highway weave along with impressive bridges over icy river gushing below, giving a link between the giants.

Last night these men gave us refuge inspite of the disapproval from their head office. They are from the FWO, Frontier Works Organisation, a wing of the military. Since the completion of the KKH, they took on the task of maintenance for the highway.

The day before, we had ridden long & hard, up & down, around & about. Grateful for the hardwork! These heros standing behind all the glamour. FWO, once again, we salute you!

Salam! Here are some pindi, fresh tomatoes & cucumber to go with your chapati, and melon drinks to cool down the engines!

Brief but a filling meeting with the friends of PSO (Pakistan State Oil) petrol station :) The food & drinks you’ve shared on that hot day have been wholly digested, though the fond memories shall stay with this photo!

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Meeting FC & Mulberry

A tourist lodge sits silently atop a village while the awesome Batura Glacier sets itself at the background together with the mountain ranges. What a perfect spot to spend the day …

As we ply the roads down the valley, trees & vegetations sprung up along with villages. The rushing river roaring away below, echoing through the majestic landscape, at all times giving life and in a slower pace yet unstoppingly eroding downstream … what would this be in 10 yrs times?

These men stationed in the frontline against the daunting mountains & withstanding the harsh conditions, nonetheless are surprising approachable & cheerful. We proudly salute the Frontier Constable & many ‘shukuria’ for the tea!

A safety net for tight-ropes walker? haha … we’re harvesting whatever is falling from the tree *wink*

Seen or even tasted these before? Sweeter than sugar I must say! These are mulberries!

A fruity reward for the teamwork. All sm:)es and strangers no more!

We came across Gulab Shah while riding down, almost passing the Jutal village. After some thoughts, he led us to his friends and all the sweets things follow. Now having dinner in his home, savouring the world of brotherhood.

After the meal, the arrangement suddenly changed. Gulab’s friend Adil Khan, and leader of their tribal youth group decided to take the responsibility to provide for our night stay. This is taken at his shop the next morning.

Gulab INSISTED on offering us another round of ice-cream from his machine before we part. Can’t help myself! Stay well and BEST WISHES to your business!

I had only stopped for a rinse by the stream when this young man called us to his home for some food. Wonder what he has in store for us … is it danger?

He was eager to make friends with foreigners and let them feel at home. This place isn’t always as dangerous as the outside people persist. More mulberry, peach, tea and sour-milk! Shukuria! Shukuria!

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hot! Hot! HOT!!!

Hot! Hot! Hot! Pakistan is really very hot! Just 1 week ago, when we were in Islamabad, the hottest temperature at 46′C was recorded there! Elsewhere in Pakistan, temperature’s climbing at >50′C! *puff*
We are now in Lahore, the historical Mogul city bordering India. Today we will be crossing into Bollywood but people have been telling us … “India will be HOTTER!!!” haa …
Pakistan has been a land of extremes, from snow-cladded northern regions to scorching hot plains, from conservative strict muslims to tea offering friendly locals … etc. etc. etc.
Next stop … stepping into the 2nd largest movie industry in the world and the world’s 2nd most populated nation … crossing from Pakistan Punjab to India’s Punjab.
Stay tuned … (even though we haven’t been tuning in to this site for sometime )

p/s: a recent check of weather forecast – monsoons coming up north towards Delhi. Heavy floods in coastal cities. hmm … cooler climate? wet days ahead? *scratch head*

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Under the shade of Rakaposhi

One of the many bridges along the KKH that has enable linkage & promoted development around the isolated terrain. The builders who made this possible years ago didn’t forget to leave behind its mark.

Yeh! A whole plate of cherries! Furthermore, fresh from the tree & it’s not a dream!

Singapore?! Can you guess which textbook is this? ;)

Only a few stretch before we were told that no one will take us into their house. This young man proved otherwise. Amjad was very keen to befriend us & know about our travel, so were we to hear of his living. After the cherries feast, he brought us hot tea & cakes! He even gave up his bedroom for these 2 tiresome travellers.

His father is a school teacher, while his sister like himself are high-scorer & hope to further study in either medical or engineering. It’s encouraging to hear of such ambition from girls, especially in this country, where females are traditionally left out of such privileges.

More cherries to come for the new day!

Just give him a few minutes and a plateful will be ready for breakfast :)

The Dourkhan village (just below Karimabad city) is blessed with fresh water from the Ultar Glacier, nurturing the soil with wonderful weather, and a fantastic view of Rakaposhi peak.

Our friends wanted us to join them for cricket & stay another night, but reluctantly we had turned them down … sigh … can’t forgive ourselves for that.

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