I usually do not write about non-cycling days, but being Pakistan and our first day here, I thought some information could be useful. Please ask for more if I’m missing anything.
1. Money. The only way to obtain money at the airport is on the exchange points. There are 3 ATMs that do not work with foreign cards (not debit nor credit). So bring some money (the exchange rate is quite good just outside of the terminal). There are millions of ATMs across the city that have the same problem; only certain banks will acept foreign credit cards.
2. Heat. You can’t imagine how hot it can get here. Enough for me to say “be careful” (and I tolerate heat without a problem). Also, electricity was cut off after 2pm when were here. Only those few places with generators could keep fans going.
3. What to do. I can’t speak about Islamabad because we didn’t go there (but everybody told us there’s not much to see there, just some official buildings), but I can’t tell you there isn’t much to see in Rawalpindi. Just a neverending market and the usual chaos from big cities in this side of the world.
4. Is it like India? No. It looks similar but people don’t bother you so much, there’re just a few beggers, everybody seems friendlier… It’s a “soft” or “not-so-bad” version of India.
5. No, we did not find one single tourist.
6. Yes, it is a very Islamic country and you’ll notice it. We didn’t find anything bad or extreme though, but we must admit being males might be easier. We found only 10 girls/women in Rapalwindi (out of maybe some 5000 people), guys were asked to leave a bus station because one single girl was coming… Those kind of things. Just in case, we bought local clothes and felt very confortable with them (they cost 10 euros). Recommended.
Going back to cycling, yes, we’re happy we made our decission to start the cycling in Chilas and not here. No way of cycling after 8.30am under that heat. Still, the main reasons to skip this initial parts were:
1. Exit of the city through crowded motorways.
2. Very unsafe driving (even though it didn’t seem as bad as India)
3. Kids reportedly throwing rocks at cyclists from high above during those initial kilometers (as many as 300km).