The last of the Karakoram Highway

Thankfully our jeep was a little less crowded than this.
Thankfully our jeep was a little less crowded than this.

It took us twelve hours by jeep from Gilgit to Abbottabad. A bus would have taken twice that. Google maps, using reasonable assumptions about the sub 400km distance, estimates it should take about six and a half hours. But google hasn’t driven in northern Pakistan.

It was mostly the state of the road that kept out speed down to a minimum. There were patches with asphalt but many were heavily potholed. Travel by bus would have been dire. We stopped often, for us to furnish copies of our passports and visas to endless security checkpoints, or for the others in the jeep to pray. Twice we had to wait while an armed police escort was arranged to accompany our jeep for what is considered a dangerous area. The locals said the areas weren’t dangerous at all. It was just that an attack on tourists two years ago had made the police especially sensitive when foreigners were about.

Our driver also stopped to load up on Mountain Dew – it’s what Men drink here – which he shared with everyone in the jeep. An Education bureaucrat from Gilgit was heading to Abbottadbad to get his back checked out. And a kindly old religious scholar was accompanying his grandson to start college in Islamabad. The bureaucrat and theologian started the journey snapping and bickering with each other about some aspect of jeep etiquette which might have been whether or not to ask the names of other passengers. But by the end they were laughing together and backslapping each other.

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