Dan Wright's Blog 'The Trouble with the Taliban'

…They seem to favour sports utility vehicles over bicycles.

OK, I suppose they have some more significant foibles than that, but perhaps the root cause of their angst is a lack of balance. Of the two-wheeled variety. Perhaps they’ve never found inner peace halfway up a hill climb? Or perhaps they just have too much energy left over from never cycling that it needs to find some other more troublesome outlet?

I thought that if they were unlikely to join me in the Peak District, I’d take cycling to the Taliban in Pakistan. In any case, probably a more chilled out location than parts of the Med this summer. You never know – this time next year, there might be an Ibizan beach club pumping out some chill-out vibe on the road heading to Chitral … (Khyber Pacha?).

So, I’ve stashed up on enough energy gels to fuel the Russian Olympic team; defeated the full resources of the British Consulate when challenged with the cost-effective importation of a bike to Gilgit Baltistan Province; and trawled every bike website there is to find kit that will straddle temperatures forecast between -10 and +40 degrees – without anything approaching success.

And come August 15, I’m off to the North West Frontier Province to cycle to China through the Karakoram Himalaya. We’re heading through the Hunza Valley, Rakaposhi at nearly 8000m above and K2 and Concordia just off to the right hand side. Skardu to the Khunjrab Pass via Gilgit is about 350km and we plan to do it in around 5 days. The only certainty in which there seems to be any local confidence is the uphill nature of the task.

My local charge d’affaires, Mr Mohammad Ali Raza of Tour de Lahore fame (when not running Vision Pakistan), is as ever all over matters on the ground. It’s going to be hot. And cold. Dry. With the chance of monsoon. Mainly good roads. Except when there aren’t any. A boat’s been mentioned. He’s no longer sure which day I’m coming or going, even though I’ve communicated these facts several times in writing.

What we’d really like to do is raise some money for kids’ educational and development programmes in Pakistan and beyond. Vision’s Pakistani operations are associated with a local initiative called The Knowledge Foundation which delivers social projects to sponsor street kids into education and then beyond into professional careers. Having raised some money with your kind assistance for our nominated charity “Kids at School in Nepal” a couple of years ago, and having seen the dramatic impact even small sums can have when directed with force and focus on the ground, we resolved to make an equivalent effort in Pakistan and India.

However, even in this month’s hirsute disguise as an undercover military operative who saw his better days some time around the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan (think ‘Lion of Kabul’ with a bald patch), I have been unable to find a ‘just giving’ equivalent that allows either the easy transfer of funds to Pakistan or any kind of Gift Aid recovery.

So my request is that your funds are donated to “Kids at School in Nepal” (www.kasin.org.uk) via Virgin Money (please note ‘Vision’ in the message box so that we can track and match).

All costs are of course being met by Vision and the individuals, so any money raised goes directly to the charitable initiatives.