EXCLUSIVE: Italian, Swedish biker duo falls in love with Pakistan

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KARACHI: I happened to cross paths with two foreigners on motorcycles in the city–one of them was an Italian (Matteo Nanni) while the other was a Swede (Niklas Aitamaa). We exchanged numbers and I decided to interview them.

The adventurous foreigners had traveled from Europe to discover Asia and had finally found themselves in Pakistan. They fell in love not only with the country but also its exotic food, mountains, weather and of course, the hospitable people.

I interviewed Niklas and Matteo for The National Courier.

Q1. Introductions first, guys. Who are you and where are you from?

Matteo: I’m Matteo Nanni from Italy. My hobbies include travelling, photography and I’m definitely a motorcycle lover. I decided to take some time off just to travel to the Far East. I met my friend Nicklas from Sweden in Esfahan, Iran. He’s also a globetrotter on a bike. We have a similar route to the East but with different schedule.

Niklas: Nicklas Aittamaa, 22 years old from the capital of Sweden, Stockholm. I studied Architecture at high school but didn’t continue. My love for travel overtook the need to study.

Q2. What is your whole trip about? Where did you get this idea from?

Matteo: My dream is to reach Sydney, Australia by June as I travel through South East Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia. I would like to spend time with the people and enjoy the moments, get familiar with the different cultures in a deep way, more as a traveller than as a tourist. I’ve always been in love with Asia.

Niklas: My trip has been about two things. First of all, to prove that you don’t need an expensive bike to go on an adventure like this. I have a 125cc bike and never had a problem traveling on it. Secondly, I would like to showcase reality of countries and people. I want to show the world that some countries (for example Pakistan) is so much more than the Taliban and bombings. That I do through YouTube and Instagram.

Q3. What countries besides Pakistan have you traveled to, so far?

Matteo: I decided to skip Europe since I know it well because of several trips in the last couple of years and I focused on the Eastern countries. So I took the ferry boat from Italy to Greece, crossed the contry and travelled to Turkey and Iran, and finally Pakistan.

Niklas: My route was through Europe, starting with a ferry from Sweden to Poland. Next I traveled to these countries in chronological order: Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey and then Iran.

Q4. Before coming to Pakistan, what did you think about the country and the people?
Matteo: Unfortunatley media doesn’t portray Pakistan and some Middle East countries in a positive light. I form my own opinion via my travels and after meeting people. I had many friends through whom I received good feedback about Pakistan so I decide to come.

Niklas: Before coming to pakistan, I didn’t know so much about the country. I guess I just had the typical western image of the country which was the reason I got so intrigued to explore its reality. I thought people wouldn’t be friendly to me and the country won’t be safe for me as I was a foreigner. But that certainly wasn’t the case.

Also I thought Pakistan was almost an entire desert. Then I found out about the mountains in the north and all the palm trees in the south. So different.

Q5. Do you have any Pakistani friends back home?
Matteo: No, unfortunately I don’t know any Pakistanis in Italy but I know some of them are running businesses in cities like Bologna, Milan and Rome. I hope to meet some of them in future and share my experiences.

Niklas: No

Q6. When you told your people in your country you were coming to Pakistan, what did they say?

Matteo: Actually many people in Italy and Europe don’t know much about Pakistan. They know of corse the location and the history but the current information come mostly from media. That, unfortunately, is not authentic. As travellers we should show the world our real experiences.

Niklas: I tried to explain to my friends and family what I had found out about Pakistan and that it’s not as bad as people think. But it’s basically impossible to change the mindset of even close friends with words. Everyone thought I was crazy and warned me from going to Pakistan if I didn’t want to die…

Q7. How many cities of Pakistan did you travel in? Any interesting stories you’d like to share about them?

Matteo: After Taftan border we stopped in Dalbadin, then few days in Quetta to obtain our NOC document to travel with our vehicle. After Quetta, we made our way to Shikarpur and then Jhal Magsi in Balochistan. Then Hyderabad and finally Karachi where we are spending a few days to visit the city, the sea side and to meet some local people who contacted us by social media.

We had a really cool experience in Jhal Magsi where we had the chance to watch the Jeep Rally Desert Challenge 2018 and to spend a lot of time with local people.

Niklas: I have experienced the road between Taftan border and Quetta. From Quetta to the city of Shikarpur. Then from Shikarpur I went on an event which actually took place back in Balochistan. Jhal Magsi to be more precise.

Q8. How did you like the food here? Any favourites you’d like to mention?

Matteo: The food here is really delicious, quite different from the Italian one but really tasty and spicy. I really enjoyed the street food. Can’t remember the names of the dishes but I really like chicken and goat cocked in several ways with typical sauces, rice and bread.

Niklas: I love the food here, it’s really nice with all different spices and all though it can be a little challenging for my western stomach (laughs). But the taste is out of this world. I can’t remember any of the names of the dishes. Sorry.

Q9. What are some of the difficulties you faced in Pakistan or in other countries that you’ve traveled in so far?

Matteo: Actually the journey was quite easy. I had some problems with a really cold weather in Turkish mountains. Winter in central and south Pakistan is really good compared with the Italian season and now I feel really comfortable with the roads and traffic.

Niklas: The first country that I faced difficulties in was Iran. Iran has so much to work on when it comes to the relations with the US. Right now it is bad and it creates some problems for Iranian citizens and visitors. For example I coudn’t operate my bank account in Sweden when I entered Iran. This created a set of new problems as you can imagine.

In Pakistan the biggest issue so far is the internet connection, we have some wifi connections but they are really weak most of the time. We can’t find a way to purchase sims since we are not Pakistanis.

Q10. How did you find Pakistan different from other countries of the world?

Matteo: I found really genuine people in Pakistan, all of whom tried to help in different ways. I felt really safe and never alone in the journey. I didn’t travel to many countries in Asia but I think Pakistan is a really nice place to visit and to spend as much time possible with the lovely locals.

Niklas: Well, obviously it’s one of the first Muslim countries I had visited. So that’s different, and also the hospitality that I feel are so much more genuine here in the east than in the west. It barely exists if you compare that to the west. People are warm, caring and genuine most of the time.

The bond between family and friends I think is the most spectacular. I don’t know how to explain it because it’s probably normal for you but the way people interact and pay respect to family members and friends in the east is different.

One thing that I did not like was that women are bound in Pakistan and don’t enjoy as much freedom as the men do. That is wrong. I believe men and women should have equal opportunities.

Q11. How did the people here treat you? Did you attract a lot of attention or not?

Matteo: We attracted a lot of attention, mostly on the roads and in the villages where so many kids wanted to talk, take selfies and know something about the journey and Europe. I spent some crazy and funny moments with the lovely locals here.

Niklas: Everywhere I stop, people were inviting me for photos, chai, sweets, talks and so on. They are so curious to meet a foreigner for the first time and are very happy to see me. It’s lovely. Yes, I attracted a lot of attention.

Q12. Any message for the people of Pakistan?

Matteo: I hope you’ll always be so genuine, and open-minded with foreigners.
I will bring really good memories of Pakistan. I hope to have the chance to come back again, visit some friends I met on the road and travel to the famous northern Pakistan. To all the people who want to follow my long journey to the East, they can do so through Facebook and Instagram. Follow me by typing Matthew on the road.

Niklas: Keep interacting with foreigners as much as you can. Be active on social media for the outside world to see, keep being hospitable to all travellers and never let people say this is a bad country. Stand tall and be proud to call yourself Pakistani, its an amazing country.

Everyone should follow me on my Instagram page “NicklasAitt”. I post everything about my travelling and I’ll post a lot about Pakistan.

For those who don’t use Instagram, I also have a page on Facebook–“Gromance Adventures”.