Phase 1 - The idea
23.06.2019 - 10.11.2019
Karakoram Highway........the dream to cycle this route had been on my mind at least for the last 10 years! As of a month or two ago - I decided to make this a reality!
All I needed was self determination and to continue dreaming to make this a once in a life time opportunity! Over the last several weeks, following trying to keep the trip low key, Iots of my family and friends have become aware of my trip and have persuaded me to document my tour. Given I enjoy expressing myself in writing and that I have a wonderful personal mission to accomplish, why not create a regular blog?!
The two main questions I am asked are WHY and HOW?
The HOW (and a bit of background) is the easy part - cycle tour of the Karakoram Highway by bike (colloquially known as the bicycle). I've recently acquired a Fuji Touring 2017 steel framed pedal cycle which I will be using for the almost 1300 kilometre (800 miles) bike ride. My starting point will be Kashgar, Xinjiang, China and final destination will be Islamabad, Pakistan and hopefully onwards to my Kanaily, Azad Kashmir which is my village. For those that don't know - the Karakoram Highway is the old historic silk road route connecting these two amazing countries. I won't go into the politics of both countries - as it's far too complicated and I don't wish to talk about the negatives at this stage. I'd rather highlight the positives and express my personal challenges through China and Pakistan.
The WHY is somewhat of a challenging question. In my mind - I've kept it simple. The real question I pose to myself is WHY CAN'T I DO THIS? In short, the answer is - I CAN! We all need a positive mindset. When the idea was borne out around ten years ago, I was not a position to do this tour and a lot was weighing against me. I had started my career as a Police Constable for Nottinghamshire Police in 2008 and felt I needed to establish myself. I was not financially stable at the time either and to embark on missions like this, one has to be fairly comfortable. I was extremely unfit and felt I needed to be in much better shape. I never had a bike and had no idea how I could cope if I got a puncture or had some sort of mishap! Understandably, as is human nature I had some self doubts asking myself if I really was capable................for these reasons, it remained a dream............until now of course.
Over the last several years, I have had many ups and downs (the downs which I will keep private but known to my close family and friends). I have had the most amazing support from both family and friends helping me through my downs - it's extremely difficult to put into words how much their support, trust and belief they have had in me. Without this, my personal life would have been in turmoil. I'm extremely blessed to have such amazing people in my life and hold you all very dear to me and I'll be eternally grateful.
Ten years on from the distant dream, I can now say an opportunity has presented itself - and I am grasping it with both hands inshallah! I still get the odd negative comments about my capability to do this and the general "put down" attitude. Had I cared for this - I would never go! I like to have a balanced outlook in life and the negativity is something you have to accept and deal with. Those comments actually spur me on to do this even more! So for those "put downs", keep it up as I'll be cycling on a bike in one of the most beautiful regions in the world whilst you will be doing the mundane in life. I know who's shoes I'd rather be in!
As of now, the idea has come together - but thus far, this has been a journey of patience, luck and determination. I'm blessed with having some amazing family and friends ( I keep going on about this but I'm proud of this fact). You've given me the support and encouragement to make this dream almost a reality. I am now fairly established in my career having served 10 years as a front line Police Officer and my desire is keep going and one day achieve promotion and continue to make a difference in society. There is nothing more rewarding than working in the public sector. I work with some incredible people who have believed in me - that belief is one of the reasons why I will be completing this tour inshallah. As a Muslim, I have made a conscious effort to get closer to Allah and been trying regularly pray and enhance my life spiritually (work in progress though). I have been running for the last 6-7 years and have have improved my fitness (though in the last couple of years there has been a bit of a decline but (also work in progress). I also started cycling in 2016/17 and joined a wonderful "band of brothers" part of the notorious Cycle Hubb and experienced the joys on two wheels. What better way than to see the world. I've seen some beautiful places on my own doorstep - now is the time to expand that. I've completed 4 half marathons and 2 endurance bike ride events (100 miles and 70 miles) amongst other training activities. I figure I am certainly capable and know the time was right and alhamdulillah, everything seems to be coming together perfectly.
I'm also toying with idea of signing up on Facebook. I have resisted joining since it's inception but may now have a necessity to join. Part of my route involves crossing the highest border crossing (at an elevation of 4800 metres) and there is a distinct lack of live information about when parts of the route are closed due to politics and environmental factors. I've been reliably informed there is a Facebook group with people providing real time information which will of course be invaluable to me. On a side note, my dad in his 60's who is a technophobe and even he has recently signed up on Facebook which has got all my family in stitches! Gonna have to follow in my father's footsteps.
97 days to go