Published: May 24th 2008May 20th 2008
It’s been a veryy long since I’ve updated this blog last. Sorry for that… I’ll try to be better with it in the future!
Currently I’m on the plane from Islamabad to Bangkok. From where I’ll continue on to Sydney and Adelaide (will be home between 21st and 29th of May) and trying to somehow put a blog together… Some of the text has been written almost a month ago, but never posted because I wanted to add more things… and then we got so busy with all the challenges which we’ve encountered lately, that I just couldn’t concentrate on writing anything.
The photos are from my last visit to Neelum in April and last Sunday’s visit to the lake which has been created by the earthquake (A landslide blocked river and in about 2 years a big part of the valley has filled up with water , submerging quite a few villages in the process…)
After recovering from the flue, I’ve spend about one and the half weeks in Muzaffarabad working on different things, before it was time to come back to Kel on 21st of April.
And that’s where I’m at the moment. Just
sitting on the balcony of our office house and taking some time to write up bits and pieces.
Kel is getting more and more beautiful. The hills are starting to turn greenish with the grass; trees are getting fresh leaves and starting to blossom. However, it’s still freezing cold in the nights and whenever sun hides behind the clouds (well, that’s what’s to expect from the mountains, isn’t?). So, all my warm clothes are still very much in use. Quite often I find myself wearing 4 layers and still freezing (Muzaffarabad by now is nice and hot, weekend before I’ve left for Kel I even managed to get a bit of suntan after spending few hours on hotel’s balcony and wearing a t-shirt instead of long sleeves…)
Now, since I was sick and couldn’t be bothered to write any long stories last time, I guess I should tell you a bit more about this place…
Kel is about 150 km from Muzaffarabad in 2200 meter altitude (to get here, it takes about 7 hours 4WD driving on the mountain road which in some places is so narrow that only one car can pass and where you have this huge mountain
on one side and a high, unprotected cliff on the other with a mountain river at the bottom… itchy, itchy…).
The area itself is in LOC zone (Line Of Control, which has been created during the ongoing dispute between Pakistan and India). So, to get here you need to get permission from the army. I was told that most likely I’m only the 7th foreigner to visit this area since independence in 1947… waw!!! So, you can imagine how much attention I get whenever I’m moving around.
The other day we went to the village that belongs to Gurez Union council. And women there went crazy trying to meet this very strange looking, giant foreigner (most of the females here are up to my elbow, if…). All of them wanted to have a handshake, to touch and ask a lot of questions… of which I understood only one… (I’m still struggling big time with Urdu. Though I do from time to time understand quite well what is being said (of course the fact that they use some English words does help a lot…), but whenever I need to speak- forget it…)
This area is still very traditional and seriously
underdeveloped. Which ever sector you look at, all of them need big improvement - and it’s not about any fancy stuff, here we’re speaking about a basic awareness and most basic facilities… like drinking water close to home, toilets, health facilities (there is a hospital in Kel, but without any female doctor. And because of their traditions and cultural limits - females here are extremely reluctant to go and see a male doctor - they rather die…), basic skills in agriculture, basic improvements in education (the illiteracy rate is sky high...).and the list goes on…
But on the other hand this is an area of extreme natural beauty, completely unspoiled by any development…
There are more photos below