The original plan for today was to ride the 268km from Gujranwala to Murree, skirting Islamabad, but around midnight last night I was googling Continental tyre dealers in Islamabad – keen to have the two new spare tyres we’ve been carrying since Turkey fitted to the bike before we head up the KKH. The return trip up the KKH is around 2,000km in length, and we’ve already clocked up 13,600km on the front tyre and 7,000km on the rear. We checked the tyres in the morning after breakfast and they still have some usable tread left on them so we’ll keep them as spares.
The second plan for the day was to stay in Gujranwala an extra day as Karen was feeling a bit second-hand, but there was no room at the inn so we whipped up our third plan – ride the 220km to Islamabad, have the tyres fitted, and stay the evening.
We were on the road around 10:00am, and the going was slow to start with – averaging 60kmh in the first two hours as we zigged and zagged through the chaotic traffic along the N5. A traffic jam ahead announced a serious accident – everything had ground to a halt. Local riders on their little 150’s were taking to the grass verge to squeeze around the cars, and despite the bulk of the BMW we followed suit, at times gesturing to drivers to move their cars a fraction so we could get through. Once we’d past the accident site we had an easy run up north, stopping only briefly around midday for a coke and an ice cream.
The view started to change with low mountains ahead, and the scenery changed from populated to countryside. We slipped through the few tool booths we encountered and zipped past a small convoy of military vehicles, soldiers waving back at us.
I’d googled the location of the only Continental dealer in Islamabad, and fortunately their address was easy to remember and just as easy to find – straight up the Islamabad Highway – cross the Kashmir Highway – pick up the service road on the right and continue north on it until it turned right, then look for the ‘Continental Tyres’ sign, near the Envoy Continental Hotel.
Around 2:00pm we rolled up at ‘Continental Tyres Islamabad’, the big BMW attracting the attention of all the workers in the tyre store as well as many passing pedestrians. Massal Khan introduced himself – owner of the store – and it wasn’t long before he was on the tools himself, removing the wheels and supervising the tyre replacement and balancing.
Karen and I checked into the Envoy Hotel next door – not cheap at 80 euro and a disappointment after our great experience at the Marian in Gujranwala, but we didn’t want to push on late in the afternoon after the bike was ready, and then struggle with finding accomodation in Murree, 50km up the road. We had called the Shangrila in Murree in the morning as Trip Advisor rates it as Murree’s number #1 hotel, and it 140 euros it quite possibly is – but that’s way to steep for us.
Massal and his team did a fantastic job sorting out the bike – all the Continental dealers we have met in the UK, Turkey and now Pakistan have been very helpful and they are like a big family, and they are passionate about their tyres. Massal gave us a big ‘Continental’ sticker for the bike, and we had a quick round of selfies before saying goodbye. We’ll see Massal on the return leg of our KKH ride as he noticed that one of the tools in my toolkit is broken and he kindly offered to source a replacement. That’s typical of the service we’ve received here in Pakistan – friendly, helpful, and always willing to go the extra mile.
Tomorrow we’ll ride through Murree enroute for Naran – that will put us back on schedule. It’s been cooler riding today – maxxing out at 33.5 degrees C, and we’re both looking forwards to the cooler north and the beautiful scenery we’ve heard so much about.