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Published: November 7th 2007
A flat part of the Pakistan-China route
Following the Caravanserais
distributed all across Iran we arrived in the Pakistani border. The scenery didn't change much from one country to the other in the border. The desert remained the same, only the nice Iranian roads and buses where gone. The advertised luxury, express, air con bus was a 50 years old Chinese bus with 2 engines, one to run the bus and the other for the air-con. The road was single lane, used both to come and go. So during the trip our sport was to bet who would have to jump out of the road that time, us or the vehicle coming in the other direction.
As we arrived in Quetta at midnight we went straight to find a hotel, but for our surprise, despite the fact that the city has an amazing number of Hotels, none of them accepted us. So after more than one hour looking, came our salvation. The receptionist of one of the hotels offered us to sleep in his house. A single room 3x2meters shared with 5 other people. He offered us the only mattress and even after us mentioning that we could use our sleeping bags he would not accept us
Overlooking the Hunza valley, but still small compared to the enourmous background
to sleep in other than the best place.
We didn't spend much time in south Pakistan. From Quetta we went to Uch Sharif. Traveling in a non touristy country has its advantages; it forces you to get in contact with the people and their culture. So, after a night in the train and many small busses, thanks to the helpful Pakistanis we stand in front of the famous shrine, to explode in laughs when discover that it has only the front part!!! All the pictures I’ve seen of it are like mine, from the only side still standing. From this angle you can't see that during a flood some years ago, the back half collapsed. But it didn’t lose its beauty.
We had to rush to Islamabad. Our planned time in Pakistan was short because we had schedule to meet Lili in India in a few days time (and we where late as always)
. But half way through Pakistan we decided to change our route. Instead of going direct to India as planned we thought to explore north Pakistan and do a loop through China, Tibet and Nepal entering India by the north. We couldn't visit the Himalayas
Thisn place inspired the british writer to "The lost kingdom of Shangrilah"
latter because it would be too cold 😉 So Lili had to spend her first week in India, instead of visiting the country, getting visas for Pakistan. We remember well Lili speaking: I would never go to Pakistan, it's too dangerous!!
Pakistan recently, received as a gift from the Saudis a huge mosque, for 10,000 worshipers. Due to the shape of the minarets, a legend was created. People from Pakistan say that by the time of the construction, the US government sent CIA experts to check if the stylish minarets weren’t actually hidden nuclear missiles!
Only a few hours from Islamabad, in the border crossing to India take place a very interesting ceremony. Both Pakistan and India compare their powers everyday in a show while closing their border. From both sides, officials in costumes to let The British Royal Guard ashamed, scream orders and hit the ground with their boots while pulling down their flags and closing the gates between the two countries. There are not only the officials but a crowd of Indians and Pakistanis supporting their nations. (The second out numbered 20:1 - India has a stadium while Pakistan a few seats!)
Organized by cheerleaders, the
Just the front part!
Pakistanis carry flags and call "Pakistan! Pakistan!"
Going towards Afghanistan on the east side of the country, the last kilometers to the border are tribal areas ruled by local administration, where the Pakistani laws don’t apply. This let them free to do whatever they want. In the last decades they specialized in one single business: Guns. These little villages are packed with guns factories, where hundreds of copies from Ak-47, M-16, AR-15, and another range of machine guns, pistols and rocket launchers are manufactured and sold every day. Of course these areas are not open for tourists but is known that for a few Rupees, the local police will let you visit the factories and shoot a few rounds before asking you to leave!
With this information we decided, together with a Hawaiian friend, that Daara sound like a good place to visit!! Been in the most dangerous country in the world according to the Times magazine, didn't make us feel insecure. The first step was to take a bus crossing the tribal area so we could jump off the bus on the way. This part was easy, but we started regretting on the first minutes of the trip.
Was too expensive to try. But some pictures don't hurt! Claudio and his friend Kalashnikov.
All the other passenger asked us what we are going to do in Daara, and with a worried face said "You should go back, is not good there"
. Too late, we were on our way and half an hour latter we arrived.
The first person to welcome us was a policeman. We could see shock on his face. What are tourists doing here? He grabs me by the hand and saying something about Taliban started pulling me though the crowd. Looking around we could only see a peaceful village with its small shops, but all selling the same thing. Guns, guns and more guns!! A few meters from there our "guide"
enters one shop and told us NOT
to leave. No problems, we are where we wanted. That one was also a gun shop. Displayed on the walls, pilled on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, all around was pilled with guns, bullets, grenades etc. Rambo would be jealous!
We had few minutes to wait for the policeman arranges a car to take us out of there and it was enough to ask for some prices: AK-47 and any other machine gun, US$ 50, Bullets, US$ 0.10, Handguns a bit
The perfect disguise for atomic missiles.
more expensive because of the small parts.
Time is over, the police car arrived and we had to leave. Once on the back of the car, the other policeman, in between some comments about Talibanis being there, asked if we wanted to SEE
the guns or to TRY
it. He offered us a trial, but unfortunately asked for too much money.
Time to go back, the police car dropped us at the main road and waved down a bus back to safety.
Without knowing we ended seeing more of the silk route than what we expected. We saw the start in Turkey, we visited the Iranian part and now Pakistan offers even more. Pakistan hosts the most beautiful and dangerous part of the route, here called Karakoran Highway (KKH). Even thought there are many other things to do in Pakistan, in our opinion, the KKH is the highlight.
The KKH was built in the 70's, in partnership with China. Sneaking around mountains, hanging on cliffs or smooth trough valleys, this road is a breath taking trip, sometimes for the scenery, sometimes for the curves just on scary edges of the mountains.
Many of the villages are still unaffected
Lili change her mind
North Pakistan - I'll recommend to friends to come here for honey moon! - Lili
by the tourism, so it is still possible to experience the real live in the lost part of the Himalayas. The food, the clothes, the herds, the smell of wood burning in the stoves of stone houses. Everything is still there, in the middle of the colossal mountains of the biggest range in the world.
Pakistan is not as famous as their neighbors Nepal and Tibet, but has many peaks crossing the line of 8,000m too. The K2, the Nanga Parbat; there are so many high mountains in this almost unknown part of the Himalayas that around Gilgit there are mountains over 7,000m not even named!
Karimabad is a little paradise in earth. It has everything you could dream. A little guesthouse overlooking a picture perfect valley where a river flows slowly only to please you with the relaxing noise of water, while you stay by the fireplace sipping a hot coffee and reading a nice book or simply watching the animals waking trough the stepped rice fields. Only to wait for a nice dinner and sleep listening to the cric-cric of the night bugs outside. It’s easy to understand how this place inspired James Hilton to create “the
The hole salt brick glows with the light
lost kingdom of Shangri la” in his book
We are not big hiking fans but Passu has some places we couldn't miss, the small 4 hours hike called "The 2 bridges"
is perfect. A mixture of beautiful landscapes, traditional little villages and adventure.
For the first time Fernando have been on a glacier. Don't forget Brasil is not famous for cold stuff! We first didn't realize when we started to walk on top of the strange black rock, covered on gravel, until Claudio surprised screamed "Fer, this is not a rock, this is ice! Only then we understood why the terrain around was so strange, looking more like a constructions site. It was the land-iceberg pushing and breaking everything on its way down the mountain. Amazing!
And after these little hikes, we left Passu heading to China.
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