Khunerjab Pass is 4,733m above sea level, and the goal for today was to ride from Passu to Khunerjab Pass and then return to Hunza. Khunerjab Pass is the border crossing between Pakistan and China, and hence is the northernmost point on the KKH a rider in Pakistan can travel without entering China.
Our day started with farewells to most of the overland travellers who had joined us at the Ambassador Hotel in Passu – with the exception of Martin and Kenny who wanted to ride back to the border crossing as the scenery was so impressive – the rest of the group were heading south.
Packing the bike was easy as we’d left our spare tyres and dry bags back in Hunza, and so after a pleasant breakfast we were ready to get going. The road was a dream to ride on – though you needed to watch out for the occasional rockfalls that had left rubble over the road, and patches of road that had been ripped up and replaced with large chunky gravel.
The scenery was breathtaking, and the further north we travelled the more stunning it became. Rising above the valley walls we could see snow covered mountains, and the sky was a bright blue with just a few wispy clouds.
Just out of Sost at one of the few police checkpoints we encountered today we were led to an outdoor enclosure – inside was Lolly – a three year old snow leopard that had been rescued from the nearby river when he was only six months old. Karen had a good chat with Saeed, the young man who cared for Lolly, and made a small donation to Lolly’s upkeep.
At first the road followed alongside the riverbed but eventually it started to climb through a series of switchbacks. The little Hondas struggled with the lack of oxygen as we climbed up, but the fuel-injected BMW leapt to the front of the pack and powered up the climb. We could see the dip between the mountain peaks that announced the top of the pass, and the ground around us was covered in a light dusting of snow.
Arriving at the Pakistani border checkpoint we met five or six policemen – all very friendly and keen to hear about our impressions of Pakistan, keen also to share the biscuits I passed around for morning tea. Karen slipped into the police compound for some photos in the snow that had accumulated there whilst we waited for the other riders to arrive.
When Moin arrived he was able to arrange with a policeman to allow us to ride along the few hundred metres of no-man’s land, right up to the Chinese side of the border, and so as a group we took four motorbikes and ourselves across this strip of land and then assembled for a group photo (so do check out the photo gallery below!).
After returning to the Pakistan border post and thanking the policemen we headed back down from the pass, and the scenic beauty was even better when viewed from this direction. A few minutes later we caught up with Martin on his DR650 – he’d just run out of fuel – and so we gave him our spare fuel, and then the support jeep arrived so we got more fuel from them for Martin’s bike. This was the start of a recurring theme for the afternoon as the little Honda’s with their nine litre fuel tanks also ran out of fuel, and we had to draw fuel off Martin’s bike to refuel the Hondas. With a 30 litre fuel tank on the BMW and a range of around 450km – 500km when ridden reasonably (350km – 400km under fast riding, 650km – 700km under slow riding), our 1200 was the only bike to not run out of fuel today.
With Martin not far behind we were the first to arrive at the disembarkation point of yesterday’s boat trip and whilst waiting for the others I aired down our tyres a bit as the rocky climb up the southern end of the lake was going to be a challenge, but when Moin and Sonny arrived they went and chatted with the security guards guarding the unopened tunnel, and negotiated our passage through the tunnel. Waiting for our last rider gave me a chance to reinflate my tyres, and then as a group we had a slow and cautious ride through the four new tunnels and across the interconnecting bridges, avoiding workers and equipment strewn across the tunnel floors.
Once we’d cleared the tunnels we had a leisurely ride south, arriving back in Hunza after clocking up 280km for the day.
Martin, Karen and I arranged an evening meal in our Hunza View Hotel whilst the rest of the group went to the cafe for pancakes, and we had a great chat about riding up on the rooftop whilst we waited for dinner to be cooked – and as that took about 90 minutes we had a lot of time to chat!
The scenery we have enjoyed today has been truly magnificent – the photos capture quite well the views we saw as we rode up to the pass and then back down again, but what they don’t capture is the sense of achievement we experienced in getting to the top of the KKH. Today’s ride is a dream-come-true for me, and I’m so pleased that we changed our travel plans for Pakistan and came up here. A big thanks to everyone who encouraged us to explore this part of Pakistan – it’s a beautiful part of this wonderful country.