Sunday, September 24, 2006

Asalaam Aleikum !

After trekking through the beautiful mountains of Laddakh, we decided to continue the theme and move onto Pakistan.
Crossing the Waggha border next to Amristar. Arms were held open to greet us by the people of Pakistan.

The experience began with the lowering of the flag at the border of Pakistan and India. Segregated by metal gates only meters apart; each side having a small football stadium filled with cheering patriotic locals. As the flags are lowered at 6pm each side screams and cheers their anthem, trying to out do each other.

Moving towards Lahore in a segregated bus for men and women, the temperature soared to 40 degrees. Though, as it goes in Pakistan, we met a super cool guy called Malik (guesthouse owner) who cooled us down by inviting us to stay with his family for a couple of days.

Lahore is a cultural city filled with museums, mosques, parks etc. Our first cultural experience was at a spiritual site to see Sufi drummers and spinners. These sufis drum and spin non stop for 4 hours while the crowd smokes enough hash to keep the tourists in Goa happy for a summer. It was a sweaty, kooky, brilliant experience.

Islamabad was our next stop to sort out visa; and to be honest; the embassies are really the only things there (oh apart from really good yoghurt).

We continued our way north, direction Chitral and especially, one place that really interested us; the Kalash Valley. The only non Muslim valley in all of Pakistan. So the Shalwar kameez (traditional Pakistani dress) and head scarf came off and shared some mulberry and apricot wine with the locals.

We were really excited to hit the mountains again and to meet Sir Mathieu Paley at the beginning of the Northern Area in the city of Gilgit. (where we sadly missed Ms Belinda Flanders by one week).
After a few days chilling around in Gilgit, Mathieu, Nicolas and Bruno ( an explorer friend of Mathieu) headed for a trek in the valley of Shimshal…Amazing trek, beautiful and so nice to see Mathieu again.

I can’t begin to explain what we saw and the people we meet in Pakistan. Few of us know much about Pakistan beyond media impressions of Islamic fundamentalism, communal violence and martial law, but it contains some of Asia's most mind-blowing landscapes, extraordinary trekking, a multitude of cultures and a long tradition of hospitality. And hospitality is what impressed us the most with endless cups of chai (Tea), invitations to dinner, chats on the side of the street and the warmth from the locals.

One amazing trek we did was to Tagaphari. No matter how fast or slow one treks to the Rakoposhi Base camp. - the sunset over the Minapin Glacier and the peaks around (Especially Diran and Rakaposhi) are not to be missed. A true highlight. We camped there for a couple of night while warding off an insane yet courageous goat who took a likening to Nicolas.

We concluded our Pakistan experience with a last trek, by horse this time, in the Chapursan Valley (Afghan border, Wahan Corridor)
Although we were sadden to leave Pakistan for China, luckily for Danielle, we moved on as the nationwide celebration of Ramadan will begin soon. A month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting. Not what she calls a holiday.

Unfortuntely we are mssing some beautiful pictures, as we lost 1 of our camera while trekking at the end of our Pakistani trip.
We are now in Kashgar (China) waiting for our departure to Kyrgyzstan (tomorrow morning).

Hope you are all well, continue to give us some news.

Take good care,


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