ISLAMABAD: A young Spanish couple has set out to explore the world on their bicycles and found themselves in the middle of Eidul Azha celebrations. “Alhough we were familiar with the word, Eid but did not know how it is celebrated,” said Diego Sanjulian, 26 in his interview with The Express Tribune.
Sanjulian and his partner Marina Gonzalez, 25, are currently in Pakistan before they move on to the rest of the world on their bicycles. “Initially we were shocked to see people just roaming around the city with their animals. We saw cows, sheep and in some cases even camels. We were eventually informed of the true nature of the sacrifice,” said Sanjulian, a resident of Barcelona, Spain.
On the first day of Eid, the couple went for a ride across the capital and Gonzalez was fascinated by the colourful attires that women donned with matching jewellery and make up. The animal sacrifices and the resultant offal on the roads, with scattered heads and skin, were disturbing for the couple to witness. “Although it was hard to see innocent animals being slaughtered and their remains not being respected, the overall sentiment of distributing meat to relatives and underprivileged people made the experience worthwhile,” said Gonzalez.
“We have spent almost a month in Pakistan and can say with confidence that our reservations to come here were baseless. The country is safe enough to travel and explore,” said Sanjulian, adding that they were reluctant to cross through as the impression they had was that it was unsafe.
They started their bicycle journey from Thailand from where they crossed over into Laos, followed by Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. They then crossed Southern Europe making their way from the Balkans to Turkey through Iraq, Iran, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. They crossed into Pakistan from the Chinese border and plan to exit to India via the Wagah border after exploring Lahore. They have covered a total of 34,000 kms to date. “We are hoping to cycle through Indian mountain ranges and hope we can make it there before winter starts,” said the couple.
The couple has only explored the northern side of the country, including Peshawar and were floored by the hospitality, culture and weather of the country. “The people of Pakistan are warm and their food has multitude of flavours. We have not gotten over the taste of the famous chapli kebabs of Peshawar and the mouth-watering mash ki daal (black gram lentil) from the Pak-China border,” they said reminiscing about some of their experiences. They expressed wonder for the beautiful mountain terrain found in the country and revealed that they were both taking this trip before they returned to mundane jobs. The young couple graduated from university in 2015, where Sanjulian studied biotechnology followed by a master’s degree in renewable energies. Gonzalez is a medical student and will look for a residency upon her return.
Talking about how bicycles became their basic modus operandi for travelling, they said the budgeting just made more sense. “We are covering most countries of the world in the same amount that we would have spent to just live in Barcelona for a month. The major cost of our trip being the visa fees,” said Sanjulian. He added that one must travel on their own to discover a city and not listen to people and form judgements.