50/50 As I pedal up the mountainous Karakorum Highway (KKH) I am admiring the lush green hills, oh no, not again… I jam the brakes dive to the side of the road and throw up. Jump back up on the bicycle and pedal on… Another puke rally for me as I make my way over the mountains with 50 percent of my lunch left in my belly. The funny thing is I don’t want to stop pedaling because at each turn of the bend in the road the people here are truly fun to meet and be around.
Frequently throughout the day I am greeted with clapping from inside buses and women in head scarf smiling out the car windows. A couple of families on holiday that I met stopped and caught up to me to say hello several times throughout the final 200km of the KKH. Despite my collapsing stomach, the people of Pakistan are truly special.
Call A Friend As anyone who reads my writing knows Mongolia has always been my favorite country. However, Pakistan, may be taking the lead in beautiful mountain scenery and ridiculously nice, fun people. The people lucky enough to live in Pakistan score off the charts on the sense of humor, warm hearted hospitality and kindness scale. My new phone is full of contact numbers of folks to stay with, dinner invitations, on call Urdu/English language translators and phone calls just checking in to say welcome to Pakistan.
In case you forgot, I am also a girl in a Muslim country were women have a different role then in western countries. However, I have experienced nothing but respect, encouragement and offers of tea. Granted my ankles can spin a head or 2 around here but hey there is nothing wrong with having the world’s sexiest ankles. Besides I have never had any cleavage to distract anyone so for the first time in my life at least some part of me provides an extra tingle in somebody’s pants.
I was stopped today as I made my final push off the KKH into Islamabad. Some university students wanted to ask me to name 3 problems I have encountered since entering Pakistan and crossing down the KKH. I had to laugh and say honestly?, there really isn’t anything….. I thought hard and said I don’t think this counts but the kids want to play all the time and hold on to the back of the bike as I go up the mountains. At first the game’s intention is to push me up the hill but when the energy in their little legs wanes it becomes me towing them up the hill. Pandemic The Magic Bicycle is struggling to stay upright and get over the hill. I eventually stop, laugh with them for a few moments then tell them to let go and run beside me if they really want to run all the way across Pakistan. However, this probably could be easily prevented, if I actually could chew or carry all the gum some of them are trying to sell me.
Ask The Audience The only other answer I could think of for the road side pop quiz was concerning some of the unique behavior of the young men on motorbikes after they sort out that I am indeed a rare breed of species, a foreign solo woman on a magic bicycle. The drive by ‘OMG look at her I might just crash look’ these guys sport is an ongoing concern as I pedal the world. And by no means NOT unique to the region.
However, here in Pakistan, the ‘OMG look at her I might just crash look’ has great entertainment value for me. When a guy on a motorbike decides to flirt it up while going mock ninety in heavy traffic, I am initially concerned for his wellbeing and lack of focus on driving the road. I am the friendly type; however, flirting in traffic in foreign lands KM after KM really doesn’t do it for me. In hot pursuit these guys are and sticking to their motorized manly mission to get my attention.
As I slam Pandemic’s brakes and skid into anyone official looking, like a sling shot off the manly motorcyclists go, red faced, leaving me laughing with an audience. Anyone official looking, military, police, truck drivers, old, religious, or female make the best audiences. The great news here is, this is Pakistan and people work together in groups and these official folks are everywhere. Also, the Pakistani sense of humor is expansive and fun. Therefore, these security filled official audiences’ welcome magic bicycles and also find this ‘fling the flirt’ tactic as entertaining as I do.
So who wants to be a cyclist?