Meet Sane and Mark; an Australian couple who travel around the world on their bikes. Yes, you read that right, bikes! From Australia to Europe through Asia, their goal is to keep riding until they reach America. Adventure runs in their blood. And with this kind of perseverance for enduring hardships and tackling obstacles in new countries, they crossed the Pak-India border to make their way into Lahore.
The couple’s initial reaction upon entering the city of gardens was that of satisfaction and felicity. They observed how the traffic and living conditions were better than India; a country they left behind in this journey. But too soon, problems reared their heads. Mark couldn’t find an ATM that would accept his card and the continuous public staring made Sane uneasy. But all their worries effaced soon when they dined in at Coocoo’s Den Cafe overlooking the alluring Badshahi Mosque. Being vegetarians, the couple had a few difficulties finding the right meal. Sane describes that it was one of the only moments she missed being in India.
Next morning, the couple decided to head to Islamabad on motorway. Misguided, they reached as far as the Motorway toll plaza, only to find out that bikes were not allowed on the Motorway. Making a trip all the way through GT Road, they finally reached Islamabad; exhausted and tired. In the capital they met a local, Ali, who invited them for some tea at his rooftop and presented them with a pair of Shalwar Kameez. Spending a few days in the northern areas and drinking in the exquisite landscape of Gilgit, the couple’s goal was to return to Islamabad and catch their train to Quetta in time. The plan was to enter Iran through Balochistan.
Making their way past countless police check-posts, they finally made their way to Karimabad, the capital of Hunza. There they were astounded to see such colossal differences regarding education and the freedom of women as compared to some other towns they came across. They noticed how the city had a high literacy rate and how people were much more friendly and optimistic. It was here in Karimabad that a close friend of mine caught up with Sane and Mark and exchanged thoughts.
Even after some technical bike issues, Sane and Mark made their way back from the snow-capped mountains of Gilgit to Islamabad to catch their train to Quetta. Sane describes how every time she told Pakistanis’ that they were going to Balochistan, the couple were met with looks of disbelief and horror. Making the 34 hour trip, they unloaded their bikes from the train and drove around Quetta late at night. To their amazement they found a hotel with five other foreign over-landers from Holland and New Zeland, also riding on bikes. Quite surprisingly they all decided to cross Balochistan together to make their way towards Iran. After three weeks of traveling and paperwork, the seven musketeers made their way to Iran. Pakistan, as Sane describes, was one of the biggest challenge in their journey. However in her eyes, all challenges are precious learning experiences.
Travelers like Sane and Mark need to visit Pakistan more often. Pakistan used to be an attractive tourist country. We need to realize that not all foreigners are ill-hearted and anti-Pakistan. Some are here just for the adventures this young country has to offer.
By Irfan Tahir