There are 2 roads to Islamabad, the motorway and the normal road. The normal road is a little shorter but passes through a lot of towns and villages so as per Omars recommendation we opted for the motorway. It was Helen and I plus Bryn.
The first obstacle came when we were stopped getting onto the motorway by the police. Apparently there is a rule that bikes over 500cc are allowed but most police don‘t really know this. They informed us we could not go and needed all sorts of type approval permits and certificates. When asked where we could get these they didn’t seem to know. A little more persuasion I presented my (copied) driving license. This didn’t seem to satisfy them so we presented the IDP which magically did the trick. It seems that an official looking bit of paper with stamps and a photo was all we needed. They let us go explaining that we had to stay in the left lane unless overtaking (duh)
The motorway was fantastic, better than even the Autobahns in Germany. It took about 4 hours to get to Islamabad with a couple of stops including a Subway restaurant of all places. We passed a car who later pulled into one of these stops to chat. The older lady from the car thought we were American spies with our strange motorbikes. Her son explained she gets a bit excited sometimes. Meanwhile I wondered what sort of spies would ride around on very conspicuous bikes…
When we got to Islamabad we were asked for our tickets at the toll gate. This was news to us as we had not been charged on a toll road since Europe (in Iran it was something like “where you from“, “Ireland“, “ok, on you go“). We were not given tickets when we got on the motorway. Some arguing ensued and they wanted to charge us a lost ticket fee which was about double the normal price. I explained we had not lost the tickets so why charge lost ticket fee? They said it was our mistake, we said it wasn’t, etc etc etc. Meanwhile a large impatient queue was building up behind beeping horns and starting to get out of their vehicles. The booth clerk was looking more and more flustered. He pointed to the side and said we should go there.We nodded yes yes and played the dumb foreigner card again as we sailed on into Islamabad.
We found our way to the tourist campsite where we pitched our tent and made dinner. We drifted off to sleep soothed by the sound of gunfire in the distance. Of course here they fire weapons at weddings and so on but it was hard to know if that was the case here or not. In the morning we awoke to discover the police also encamped in the grounds complete with machine gun emplacement. hmm
Helen and I headed to Manshira on the KKH, with Bryn staying behind to chase up his passport. The first part of the road was congested and busy so the going was slow but directions simple to follow. The first part of the KKH was tarmac lined by trees. It was basically a road like any other except for the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road who thought that flashing the headlights would mean everything would work out a-ok.
We found the hotel comfortable so stayed there for 2 nights, but Helen health took a turn for the worse again so that plus our concerns about the security situation meant we turned back the following morning for Islamabad. When we arrived we found Bryn still there so we went out for dinner in an Afgahn restaurant. We were shocked at the modernness of Islamabad, laid out in a grid with streets 5 or 6 lanes wide. All the global brands were here from Dominoes to Dunkin Dohnuts. It seemed impossible to imagine all this in the same country as Jacobabad.
We had everything packed and ready to leave the following morning when Bryn noticed Helens water pump leaking again. I sat and watched it for a while hoping it would stop after a bit but it did not. With 400km or so to do til Lahore we opted to stay and fix it. Using the tools I had with me and the experience gained from the last time the going went well. The only snag was getting the sump bolt out to drain the oil because all I had was a spanner the right size and it was beginning to chew the bolt head. A guard wandered over and was taking a friendly interest. After some sign language he told me to try the Bazaar over the road. I was unsure where it was so he changed out of uniform and helpfully took me over there. Sure enough there was a shop and they had the elusive 24mm socket to sell me single. It was 6 side drive and only about two quid. I wished there were bazaars at home.
With the bike sorted we unashamedly had a domino’s pizza for dinner, ready to head to Lahore in the morning.