Q: How did all of this start, and what’s next for you?
A: I studied in San Francisco in 2005, and while I did not experience any racism myself, I would always find that people would get a bit uncomfortable when I said I was from Pakistan. I wanted people to know how this country really was. I wanted the world to meet Pakistan.
The first time around, I travelled from San Francisco to Lahore in 2011 and covered 40,000 kilometres in six months. My goal in life is to pump love for Pakistan. So, I now invite people from all over the world to come and see Pakistan for themselves and take them on tours around the country.
A 70-year-old biker, known as Bones, had always wanted to ride his bike on the Karakoram Highway. He contacted me and we rode around Pakistan for three weeks, and travelled to Skardu, Gilgit, Hunza, Islamabad and the Pak-China border.
Q: How do the tourists react to Pakistan?
A: When I pick them up from the airport, I can always see fear and confusion in their eyes. But when they are leaving, after having spent a few weeks here, they don’t want to go back and cry when they do.
The Pakistan they experience is so different than what they know about it. For instance, I never take any security with me and despite travelling with foreigners, women among them, I have never been faced with any threats or problems.
Q: Have you ever been lonely or scared when you are travelling alone?
A: Of course you feel lonely at times when you are travelling alone, but I have never thought about giving up and going home.
There have been days when I was in a deserted place at night and I could not find a hotel or a house to stay at so I had to sleep by the side of the road with my bike next to me, in the cold. Sometimes I have no food or water. For example, it was minus 18 degrees at Khunjerab Pass and the water in my bottle had frozen so I couldn’t even take a sip. But the bad days are the ones you remember most later.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2015
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