Joe Pichler: A long way to India
For more than 30 years the Austrian adventurer Joe Pichler crosses the continents. After journeys through South America and Africa, he now travels through Asia, a three-months trip with India as final destination.
It´s getting serious, the day of departure arrives any time soon! My apartment seems like a Touratech sub-office with integrated photo and electronics section. It´s always fascinating to see how many things can be stowed on a motorcycle.
After a short stop in Dubrovnik, we continued our trip across Greece. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any bears or wolfs there. After a day off, which we spend on the Aegean coast, we set off to our adventure “a long way to India”.
In Turkey, we spend most of the time on the main roads, but sometimes we have to risk a sidestep into the gravel.
After 3,400km, we finally reach Cappadocia, that´s where the fun starts.
The ride to Mount Nemrut seems like traveling on the moon.
In Erzurum we stop at Dogan Motorsiklet, a motorcycle shop, that seems unimpressive, but is an important check point on our long journey:
1. Here I get a new set Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres
2. Our passports with the Pakistani visa finally arrived with UPS. Now we can continue our tour as scheduled via Iran – Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan – Kyrgyzstan – China and Pakistan before we finally reach India
We reached Iran. From now on Renate has to wear a headscarf and I smoke Shisha instead of drinking beer.
Hossein from Urmia helped us to cross the Iranian border, which can be a difficult and stressful undertaking. But for riders, who only want to enter Iran, Hossein can organize a crossing without carnet!
On two wheels we travel through the Iranian province of Kurdistan. The border to Iraq is pretty close and Bagdad only 250 km away from our viewpoint. But here in Howrama one notices nothing of the crisis.
Today, the 17th century´s saying “Esfahan nesf e jahan” (“Esfahan is the half of the world”) maybe is slightly exaggerated, but Esfahan still is a fascinating city and it´s residents are friendly and cosmopolitan.
Stops at the petrol station are a pleasant experience in Iran: 24 cents per litre, perfect for our holiday fund.
The Dasht e Lut is one of the most beautiful Asian deserts, but also one of the hottest. At 6pm it still has 49 °C, but the heat is nothing that could prevent me and my KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R from drawing some tracks into the hot desert sand.
On our last day in Iran, we met up with a local motorcycle club from Bonjurd. However, there is an Iranian law which says that bikes can be ridden only one day per week, only on Friday! The other days can be only be ridden bikes up to 250cc at a maximum. Thanks guys for the great lunch and the short ride together!
640 km across the Karakum Desert. It´s the longest stage of our trip, mostly on bad asphalt and temperatures over 40 °C. But there are pleasant news as well: In Turkmenabad I get the first beer for four weeks now. Cheers!
Down sleeping bag and heated grips. Things we haven´t taken advantage of for weeks, but here in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan they become important again. Thanks to Urs von MuzToo for the helpful tips!
At the foot of the 7134 m Peak Lenin mountain we set up our tent in a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. For 15,000 km we carried the camping equipment for no purpose, but here in this surrounding you realize why the effort is worth it.
In this nice hotel lobby, we will spend the next four days. Actually, everything has started well. Taher, our guide from Kashgar, came to the Kyrgyz – Chinese border, because entering China with a motorcycle is only possible with an official guide! In Kashgar we spend some days waiting until the Islamic holidays of Ramadan end so that we can continue to our tour to Pakistan. But the Pakistani authorities have quickly changed their mind and do not open the border. Tomorrow is a public holiday in China and on weekends the Khunjerab Pass is closed anyway. So we have no option than to wait in Tashkurgan at a height of 3,000 m. The first day we can travel to cross the border is Monday, Inschallah!
The time in Tashkurgan wasn’t that bad. There is Sinkiang beer, grilled lamb and plenty of time to take pictures.
We made it! After five hours of exit procedure and 125km convoy riding, we reach the Khunjerab Pass. With 4639m it is one of the world´s highest border crossings. On the Karakorum Highway we are heading to the south. Since 2010, the road is blocked near Attabad due to a huge landslide. The artificial lake we have to cross with a boat.
I don’t like to get up early. But to see the sunrise over the 7.788m high Rakaposhi it was worth to get up at 4:30am.
With heavy trucks the government blocked all roads to Lahore at critical points such as bridges and crossroads. The police advised us to stay in Islamabad and in the safe hotel until the riots calmed down a bit. But it´s not that easy to detain us. Some how we find our way and start the 300km trip to Lahore. With a car it would have been impossible to break through the numerous barriers, but with a motorcycle one can always find an escape, even if it is arduous. We need 12 hours for 300km and I´ve never been so relieved to reach a stage destination. After ten weeks of riding we reach the Indian border and witness the bizarre spectacle of closing the border while the sun sets.
We have been marooned in Amritsar for four day now. Obviously, the Indian customs authorities like my tyres so much, since they don´t want to release it.
This is Mr. Babu, “the white knight”. In his suitcase he carries a brandnew set of Metzeler Karoo3 tyres. Many thanks to Shravan Krishnan from KTM Headquartes – without his help and support it would not have been possible to pass through customs. Since in the evening everything is closed in Srinagar, I have to change the tyre on my own. Of course, I have carried my Touratech compressor and have already broad experience when changing tyres, but the Karoo 3 is a particularly tough one and makes me sweat. However, the first set lasts for incredible 13,000km!
Zanskar can only be reached via the Penzo Pass at a height of 4,401m. Unfortunately, there is no different way back, but the way pays off.
Once gain the Indians are a little bit too enthusiastic: Neither is the Khardung La 5,602m high, nor is it the world´s highest road. How can I tell that? In Bolivia I´ve been at 5,796m, but at least it´s the highest point of our journey. During the past three months we traveled 19,012km. Without any problems my KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R brought us to hot deserts, dusty steppes and even to the snow-covered roof of the world.
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Photos: Joe Pichler | www.josef-pichler.at