That’s right, she’s riding through Pakistan, and for the most part, solo. Bike enthusiasts curious to know what she’s riding – it’s a red BMW F700 GS.
Women aren’t commonly seen riding motorcycles in Pakistan, let alone foreigners, but Gabrielle has been met with mostly positive reactions. That isn’t, of course, to take away from why women here aren’t seen using bikes as a means of transport. The problems that exist here are very much real and pressing.
However, Gabrielle’s experience is definitely refreshing to hear about. Speaking to MangoBaaz regarding the same, here’s what she said:
“I get a lot of shocked faces, a lot of smiles. People in Pakistan seem to be very excited to see me on a motorcycle. The funniest reaction was that of a 6-year-old, who asked if I was a boy or a girl when he saw me riding the bike.”
The love for riding motorcycles is in her blood.
“My father rode,” she tells us. “He passed away when I was 2, but I know he was very adventurous, and it’s something that’s been passed down to me.” She insists that riding on a motorcycle is the best way to experience all of the sights and sounds of a place.
“I bought my first bike in Thailand. I had never even ridden before, but right away, I knew that this was the only way forward for me. I rode 12,000 km alone after that.” Since then, Rosie has ridden over 30 different types of motorcycles, from dirt bikes to big adventure bikes.
Gabrielle started traveling solo 17 years ago, and while that may seem odd to some, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I enjoy my time alone, it’s not scary,” she tells us.
According to Gabrielle, traveling alone as a female actually gives her an advantage. “People don’t see you as a threat and they want to help you and take care of you,” she says.
Traveling alone has given her the opportunity to meet new people. “People are always curious, they want to know more about me and I’ve had many amazing encounters this way,” she tells us.
When asked if the idea of visiting Pakistan ever scared her, she answered with a resounding no.
“As a seasoned traveler, I know not to listen when people tell me a place isn’t safe. I heard the same when I was planning to go to South Africa a few years ago, but I went anyway,” she says.
“There was an inquisitive charm luring me to experience the real side of the country and find out first-hand just what it was like there. Unlike what the media has to say about Pakistan, the travelers I’ve spoken to have only ever had amazing things to say about it,” she writes on Instagram.
Rosie was invited to visit Pakistan by none other than Huzaifa Ubaid Khan, a Pakistani expat based in Oman. Despite living abroad, Huzaifa’s love for Pakistan runs deep, and it was this love that fueled the fire in him to start his Pakistan Awaits initiative. Huzaifa organizes group trips to Pakistan, keen to show the world a different side to the country often portrayed negatively in mainstream media.
Rosie began her three month journey through Pakistan on a week-long project with the folks from Pakistan Awaits. Now, she continues to ride solo through the country, sharing stories of the kindness, compassion and love she has received from people she’s met along the way.
So far, she’s seen Lahore, Swat and Malam Jabba. She’s currently in Multan and plans to ride all the way to Gwadar. She’ll be stopping along the way of course, and plans to visit a multitude of cities including Sukkur, Hyderabad and Karachi.
While she hasn’t seen enough of Pakistan to decide which city she’s liked most, Lahore has a special place in her heart.
According to Gabrielle, it isn’t the physical aspects that make a city what it is, it’s the experiences and the people.
“I’ve had so many incredible moments here in Pakistan,” she says, “and its really just meeting people and getting to experience kindness on a whole another level that’s so humbling.”
She’s shared a number of stories on Instagram documenting the kindness she was met with in the city. While riding through the streets of Lahore, Rosie came across a food stall, and of course the delicious smells drew her in. She was invited by the stall owner – Aunty – to try the food and join her and her granddaughter for dinner.
“The food was a gift. She said that I was a guest in her country and it was her honor and duty to show me grace and love. She explained to me that, in Islam, it is taught by Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) to love and care for one another, and to offer food to others. That it’s through her religion and faith that she is kind and hospitable to others. That being a Muslim means peace and love,” Gabrielle writes on Instagram.
Pakistan is known for its spicy food and Rosie has been thoroughly enjoying it!
“It’s actually too good (the food), because I’ve gained 3 kilos here. Spice definitely isn’t an issue, I’ve actually got better spice tolerance than some of my Pakistani friends,” she tells us.
Rosie has also had street side chai in Lahore, and tea seller Ali also refused compensation, insisting that Rosie was a guest in his Pakistan. She returned the gesture by giving him a printed photograph she took of him.
We all know how important round rotis are, and Rosie made sure to learn how to make some while in Lahore. It’s safe to say her attempt didn’t go to well, but has anyone made the perfect roti their first time around? (Please note the pun).
Rosie’s pretty much seen every inch of Lahore during the past few weeks, and of course that includes a visit to none other than Liberty Market, where she met her very own Pakistani namesake, Gulab! The two had a blast trying on traditional clothing and jewelry, and Gulab was sure to treat Rosie to some Kashmiri chai!
Rosie’s heartfelt messages and stories from Pakistan have garnered quite a bit of foreign interest.
“That’s the power of social media, I’ve received so many messages from people telling me they want to visit Pakistan,” she says. Unfortunately, other than in Malam Jabba, Rosie has yet to see a single foreigner in Pakistan.
“The security is very excessive here for foreigners, which is understandable, but it makes it very difficult for foreigners to travel here,” she tells us. Her contacts have allowed her to travel without a personal guard, but others may not find themselves to be as lucky.
We asked Rosie what she wants the world to know about Pakistan, and here’s what she had to say:
“It’s hard to sum it up because I’ve taken a different approach and have gone deeper than most people do when they visit. The kindness that has been displayed, it comes from such a beautiful, deep place in the heart. I think people could really learn something from those in Pakistan and it breaks my heart to hear the negative things people have to say.”
“I actually burst into tears this one time because as a female, non-Muslim foreigner I feel so accepted and welcomed here – not only in public places but also into homes and places of worship. People wouldn’t do that in Canada or the US, and it’s very humbling.”
Rosie still has the South of Pakistan left to explore on this trip, but that isn’t enough for the Canadian adventurer. “I plan on coming back this August to visit the Northern areas, I just have to go back to Canada first so I can bring my dog!” she tells us.
We can’t wait to see the rest of her journey through social media. Let us know what you think of her adventures in Pakistan in the comments below!