Archive for September, 2010

Islamabad to Lahore

Frustrated that just when I’m about to upload something – I get zapped by loadshedding. Has not been a problem in that there’s back up power for lights and fans but it does mean that there is no internet connection coming into the area. Typically I’m then without for few days. Like now! (so typing up and saving for later)

Day 15. Islamabad

Great. Woke to find the skies cloudy and I didn’t even want to think about the prospect of our flight being cancelled. As it happens, it wasn’t and we were back in Islamabad by 11am. The flight was quite empty and we were even offered the first class seats. Now in the small ATRs where they all look exactly the same, there’s really no difference at all but it was the first time that it had ever happened to me so I took full opportunity for that 35min flight!

So suddenly we had a spare day which meant we could catch up with some of the sites we missed before. So off we headed to the Faisal Mosque followed by some ice creams at The Hotspot of course. That went down a real treat as it was the first youngish/hippish place we’d been too. Both Ryan and Jini were buying Lollywood send up t-shirts and tin plate posters. After that we headed to Jinnah Super and straight to Junaid Jamshed whereupon Ryan immediately started picking up kurta after kurta…

We had a quick wander into Khadi as well as Maharaja in F6 for some Pashminas – for Ryan of course before picking up Jini (who had long since gone back to the guesthouse for a rest!) and made our way to Seema Bajis for a lovely meal. Huma and Saher were about as well so it all made for a lovely reunion. As Saher had brought over his internet gadget, it did mean that I stayed up till 04.30 catching up with stuff. Oh well….

Day 16.  Islamabad to Lahore   

After a few hours sleep we were up early as mum was flying in from London. We had decided to meet her at the airport and for Rashid to pick up Ryan and Jini to meet us there. Mum came out cursing and blinding as one of her cases had got lost but otherwise she was in good spirits. After a brief catch up she was whisked off to Daultala as we headed for Lahore.

After checking in, we made for Lakshmi Chowk for some lunch and eneded up having some Tuka Tuk which was a novelty for the group. I’d contacted Javed, my friend and Lahore guide, and he was waiting outside the fort so soon enough we were at one of Lahore’s famous sites. After the fort we visited the Badshahi Mosque just as the sun was setting which made it all the more serene and peaceful. I’m always happy to be there as it’s my favourite building in Lahore if not in Pakistan. We ended up stuffing ourselves at Cooco’s as usual. It’s quite noticeable that only a few years ago, the mosque and minarets were brightly lit up whereas now it was just the domes which didn’t quite do it justice as well as it used to do.


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The Kalash Valleys

Day 13  Bumboret

Had a good night’s sleep after the long drive to Chitral. I drew the curtains to discover the sky was cloudless and Tirich Mir stood majestically in front of us.

After breakfast, Ehsan headed to the PIA office to collect our tickets so I took the group down to the Shahi Masjid and old fort. Jini ans Ryan loved the beautiful little mosque with its bright domes and minarets. As we got nearer the inner area of the masjid, I noticed three older men sitting just in front of the area where the imam would lead prayers. I approached the one who I thought was the most senior looking. Well, he had the biggest turban and big bright red beard so if anything, he had bragging rights!  I asked if it was ok to bring them into the inner mosque as there was ongoing teaching in progress. He was a very polite man and jokingly said, better not to ask anyone so you’re not refused.

We wondered about for a bit and after a while the same man came up to us to ask where we are all from? He offered us tea and asked us to sit down. He then went on to recall some stories from the Hadith which I translated for Ryan and Jini. They found them very touching. He was very gentle and made us all feel incredibly welcome and was pleased that we were visiting. He was actually a visiting imam himself from Hangu which is in one of the seven tribal agencies that are near the Afghanistan border.

After we bade him farewell, we bumped into two Pakistani tourists from London just outside the mosque. One was involved in local politics in Ilford and the other was a film producer who was more than happy for us to visit a Lollywood studio when we got to Lahore. What luck!

We then had a quick tour around the old fort where the current royal family still had some quarters. Most of the fort is in a state of disrepair and it’s not really open to tourists but we wondered about nonetheless. A man approached us and explained that he was the prince’s driver and that some members of the royal family were currently staying in the fort. He was kind enough to show us about and informed us that the prince was a 26 year old barrister who normally lives in Islamabad but was on holiday here. They had just come from the Shandur Pass and like us had been fishing in Phunder and Langar.

As we walked back to the hotel, my friend Zahir the archaeologist rang to say he had also just got to the hotel. He had emailed me a few days earlier to say that he was going to be carrying out some field work in the area and that morning I’d sent him a message not sure if he was likely to pick it up. Ehsan was also back at the hotel with some developments. It appeared that no foreigners were currently being allowed to visit the Kalasha Valleys on the grounds that there had been some incidents in the region. Some locals had been killed recently and the police were not taking any chances with foreign visitors.

Saif Ullah Jan, a respected member of the Kalash from Balanguru, Rumbur was also at the hotel as he’d come into Chitral for some work related matters. He was sceptical of the police motives but conceded that it was out of his hands. As foreigners, we still had to register with the Chitral Police as is the policy so we agreed that we would discuss the situation with the DPO who was the head of the Chitral Police and able to make the final decision. As Zahir had been working in the area for the last ten years, he agreed to come along and try and add weight to our cause. The problem was that the DPO was new and no-one knew him or rather how to work with him.

The registration was an amusing process with four men fussing over forms and triple checking everything we wrote. There was some debate about my NICOP card which didn’t surprise me as some people in official roles still look at it as if it doesn’t exist. Eventually we were escorted to another heavily fortified building and ushered into a big office where a man in a white shirt behind a big table was signing documents and being advised by two or three others.

He was the big cheese so we were all on our best behaviour. Zahir had got wind that he was a Pathan so started chatting to him in Pashto which seemed to work as they discovered that they went to the same university and so shared a few jokes. The DPO was also from a village not far from Zahirs. He then explained to us in English and Urdu that there had been some intelligence to suggest that militants were active in the area and that there had been some recent murders. Whilst the general view was that these had been part of a local dispute, one could not afford to take any chances.

After Zahir did some persuasive talking as well as pointing out that I’d recently received an award recognised by the Pakistani High Commission in the UK, agreed to allow us to visit but with two conditions. The first being that we couldn’t stay the night and the second that we had an armed guard with us of four policemen. This seemed like overkill but we didn’t argue.

As time was running short, we headed for Bumboret as Zahir had a Kalash student of his there who had just completed a masters in archaeology and was going to be running the museum in the valley. He had known the family for about 9 years so knew that we’d all be welcome into their home as his guests. This was a great opportunity to ask questions and be up close and personal with the Kalash.

The route was much the same as before with the tarmac road running to Ayun and then it becoming a rough jeep track. To make matters worse, the recent floods had caused considerable damage to the infrastructure including some small bridges and the track itself so repairs were still ongoing.

We arrived in the village of Brun in Bumboret Valley and followed Zahir up to one of the Kalash houses where he could not find anyone but beckoned us to sit in the main living area. Shortly we were introduced to the head of the household, Wazir Kalash who is also a senior and respected member of the community. Soon we were joined by other members of the family and offered fruits, nuts and tea. Saeed Gul, Zahir’s student was away in another village but had been sent for. We chatted away and asked questions about the culture and beliefs as well as joked about.

We were then taken for a tour around the village, the temple (Jastekhan) and some traditional homes. It’s always amazing to wander about these villages amongst the curious Kalash. Especially the women whose traditional outfits and headdresses are very bright and eye catching.

Saeed Gul finally arrived and we were all surprised to meet a very vivacious young woman who was full of smiles and giggles. She was very confident and spoke excellent Urdu and good English which is very rare in the Kalash Valleys. She was fascinating to talk to as she described her experiences as a student in Chitral and then Peshawar. Unfortunately, it was getting dark and we had orders to head back so we bade farewell and headed back to Chitral.

Day 14.  Rumbur

We were joined at breakfast by Saifullah Jan of the Kalash which was great as Jini could ask away all the questions she wanted to as he spoke English very well.

Zahir also showed up and suggested we visit Chitral museum before heading to Rumbur. I hadn’t ever seen the museum and was very impressed at the collection they had amassed. Most of this was due to Zahir’s direct excavations.

In Rumbur, we were met by Yasir, Saifullah’s son who also gave us a tour around the village before a wonderful lunch and another wander about. It was a shame that we had the four policemen with us again but it was better than not being there at all. I was also quietly pleased with the news that only a week early, one of our competitors groups had called Yasir and asked about visiting the Kalash Valleys. They had to be told that they wouldn’t be allowed.

Eventually we had to make out way back to Chitral where we got some good news in that our flights had been confirmed for the following day and so allowing us the luxury of a 45 minute flight rather than a 14 hour road journey.

A quick trip to the bazaar resulted in a couple of shawls being bought before returning for our last dinner with both Zahir and Ehsan.

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Gilgit to Chitral

Day 11.  Gilgit to Gupis

The route from Gilgit to Chitral is one rarely done but it’s a real treat for anyone lucky enough to have the time as it’s a quiet scenic backroad. Well, it’s the only road but it hugs the mountains and has the emerald green Ghizer River running alongside for company. The road is also paved which makes for a much welcome break from the bumpy KKH.

We started the day by visiting the Kargah Buddah, a 2nd century carving of a buddah high on a cliff face. It’s lucky that it’s so in accessible as I’m sure it would have been defaced a long time ago. There are only two in Pakistan.

From there we continued along the road with the obligatory tea stops to Gupis with views of the stunning Khalti Lake. We got there in good time for Ehsan to pick up some fishing rods and for us to try some trout fishing. After a good while, it was up to Ehsan to come up trumps with the one fish of the day. At last Ryan would be able to get some protein. Mind you, he had already put his vegetarianism on hold having realised early on that he may go spare if he had daal and veggies everyday!

We would have continued up to Phunder but the PTDC motel had been shut on account of there being no business. I think our group and one local were the only people staying.

Day 12. Gupis to Chitral

Started off early as we knew there was a long drive ahead. After a brief stop in Phunder for photos and tea in Teru, our first proper break came when we decided to have another crack at some trout fishing in Langar. This is the flat meadow just below the Shandur Pass and teeming with trout…if you can catch them! The last time I fished here, we stayed the night and had trout for dinner as well as for breakfast and lunch the next day. This time we couldn’t even get the one…

So we headed on now on a jeep track up to the Shandur Pass. In fact the paved road stops as it always has done just after Phunder. Why? Now there’s a good question. Still, no big deal and we cruised on up and stopped by the polo field. This is the site of the annual 3 day polo festival/tournament between Gilgit and Chitral and played on the highest polo field in the world at 3700m. From here we descended on a rough jeep track to Sor Laspur and from there to Mastuj. I have to say that we did start to curse the authorities at this point due to the sheer neglect and lack of development of the roads. It took us till 3.30pm to get to the PTDC in Mastuj for lunch having left Gupis at 08.30. Not only that but we then had to endure more bone crunching jeep track for another 2 hours before geting to Buni where the road is again paved. The paved section starts and stops in exactly the same place as it did when I first visited these parts in 2004. I really hope it’s not another 6 years before we see some progress. It’s so frustrating knowing that a journey that could be done in 2 hours currently takes 5.

We finally got into Chitral about 9pm and stayed at the Tirich Mir View Hotel for the first time as the chap at the Pamir had been quite unreasonable with us the last time. It turned out to be a lovely place with a beautiful garden and great views of Tirich Mir.        

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Islamabad to Hunza

Day1.  Islamabad to Daultala

Flew into Lahore on September 12th and just about got our connecting flight to Islamabad where we were met by our trusty driver, Rashid. I’ve been using him now for about four years now and he’s never let me down. It would be great if one day soon i could employ him full time rather than on a freelance basis.

First stop was my cousin Seema’s place in Rawal Pindi where Jini, the journalist had been staying as she got in the day before. As she’d arrived on Eid, i’d wondered what kind of day she’d had with Seema’s family and the usual comings and goings of friends and loved ones as would have been the case.

‘You’ve got such a lovely family’ were her first words so i guess i was relieved that she’d been looked after well. Seema’s two girls, Maryam and Fatima had bonded with her particularly well and they were reluctant to let go of their new best friend!

After a few hours of the expected Pakistani faffing and food, we headed for Daultala for the night. I figured this was the best option as it was still only a day after Eid and most of the places in Islamabad would be shut still.

Was great to see the village again and the whole family came out to greet us as they usually do. I suppose it was the first visit with Shama as my wife which i kept forgetting but it did mean that we got star treatment.

After a late lunch, we went for a stroll in the village which i knew could end up in mayhem…and it did.

There was a fair in the village which meant that all the kids were out in force and our group were keen to have a go on one of the rides that looked straight out of Victorian times. So before you knew it, there were a bunch of foreigners enjoying themselves and the local kids even more just watching them.

Mind you, it did mean that the village stroll became something like out of the pied piper as we were followed by a throng of curious kids wondering who the hell we were and why we were in their village! Poor Saher, my cousin, had to fend them off particularly as some of them were quite unruly and heckling as kids do.

After the evening meal, we weren’t really going to last much into the night despite the family insisting so we all sloped of to bed as quickly as possible. Slept with open windows and beautiful breeze for about two hours before the unmistakable sound of mosquitoes buzzing around our ears! We finally couldn’t take it no more and ended up downstairs on the couch. Note to self – bring the mosquito net!

Day 2.  Daultala to Islamabad via Hassan Abdal and Taxila

The day started with a hearty breakfast of eggs from our own chickens, paratha and lots of chai. Rashid had already got there and after a few family pics with the group we were away.

Our first stop was the Sikh Gurdwara, Panja Sahib at Hassan Abdal. I was a little worried that we were turning up unannounced as the famous shrine of Data Darbar in Lahore had been bombed earlier this year and security may well have been beefed up.

I wasn’t wrong. Understandably, there were guards outside who point blank were refusing to let us in without prior permission. As I hadn’t had time to look into this, I persisted in asking if there was anyone local that I could talk to. As is the case in Pakistan, I was finally referred to someone who agreed to look at my TravelPak documents. With some more pleading he agreed but gave us only 15 minutes.

Not great but not a wasted journey. We managed to have a look about and more importantly visit the sacred stone which is said to have the imprint of Guru Nanak when he stopped the boulder that was hurled down at him by a sufi saint. We also had a good chat with a Sikh family about the shrine and dip our feet in the cool clear waters.

Next stop was Taxila. My good friend, Zahir who is a professor of archaeology had arranged for a previous director of Taxila museum to be our private guide which was a real honour. Abdul Ghafoor Lone was a real gent and it was amazing to be given a tour of the museum as well as the sites of Daramajika and Jaulian. I’m hoping to meet up with him again to discuss how to regularly get an expert as a guide for our groups.

After Taxila, we headed back to Monals Restaurant at Pir Sohawa. It was a Monday night and jam packed. I suppose it was still Eid holidays after all. There was a great atmosphere and everyone was having a good time. We all noted that it certainly didn’t feel like a country going through its worst natural disaster.

Day 3.  Islamabad to Chattar Plain

This was the first of many long drives and sampling the KKH too. It had been shut for six weeks due to the landslides and floods. That’s the longest I’ve ever known it to be shut for. We had already decided that we were going to take the KKH as far as Mansera, then head to Balakot and from there onto Naran via the Kaghan Valley. The main reason for this was to see Lake Saiful Maluk as well as avoiding the somewhat monotonous journey through Indus Kohistan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s stunning enough in places as it was probably the hardest section of the KKH to build but after about two hours of imposing barren brown mountains… In contrast, the Kaghan Valley is wider and a lush green so I think a better alternative.

Balakot brought back some fond memories as that’s where I spent two months building shelters with TCF after the 2005 earthquake. We even drove past the first model shelter that I built which is still standing by the junction of the Mansera/Muzaffarabad road at Bessian. That took me back…

Unfortunately we got wind of some new landslides between Balakot and Naran but more importantly after Naran and before the Babusar Pass. We’d heard that it could take a few days to clear so whilst we could probably make it to Naran and Saiful Maluk, we may have to turn back.

So rather than be faced with that and lose a day, I decided to forfeit the lake and turn around to head back to the KKH. We got as far as Chattar Plain and called it a night there. A pleasant surprise was that a good friend, Shahid Rana who used to run Rana’s Lodge in Besham was now running the Greens Hotel at Chattar. Unfortunately, he was still in Lahore for the Eid break but I had a nice chat with him on the phone and his staff looked after us as expected.

Day 4.  Chattar Plain to Chilas.

Today was the long drive up to Chilas with lunch at Dassu. I can’t really remember too much about it as I got hit by some stomach bug and had an attack of vomiting and diarrhoea so was knocked out from weakness most of that trip.

What I do recall was that we had to be escorted twice by the police on that stretch which has never happened before. I’ve had a mobile police escort when it’s got dark but not during the day…

Day 5.  Chilas to Fairy Meadows.

We started early as we were off to Fairy Meadows. That in itself isn’t such a big deal but the recent landslides and flooding had caused extensive damage to both the jeep track to Thatto as well as the track to Fairy Meadows itself. What that meant was that the jeeps could only take us so far so we had to walk for three hours just to the old jeep stop. Then we had to trek up the route that the locals take which is a lot steeper even if it is shorter. Having got up at 5am, we finally made it to Fairy Meadows at 4.30pm.

It was very sad to see that the river flowing from the Raikot Glacier had actually taken away the entire settlement of Jhel during the heavy rains. No lives had been lost but many families had lost homes including Fazal-ur-Rehman  – our friend whose cottages we were staying in.

The weather wasn’t great at FM which meant that Nanga Parbat was behind cloud as well as it feeling very cold. Luckily this time, we weren’t camping and staying in one of the huts/cottages. Fazal had made some neat additions to his newer huts as they had an attached toilet/bathroom as well as hot water! Admittedly the hot water depended on the drum being heated up by burning firewood but it was a luxury nonetheless. A great campfire was the perfect end to the day although no-one looked forward to getting into the cold cabins and trying to sleep.

Day 6.  Fairy Meadows.

We briefly woke up to catch the sunrise… well we missed any lovely orange glows but we did get to see the top half of the mountain bathed in the morning light before drifting back to sleep. Eventually we strolled out into the warmth but it was still cloudy so we simply had a long leisurely breakfast and sat chatting. We did attempt to head towards Beyal camp but got to about 15 mins when the rain, which had started during the walk, got worse. So we headed back and that was about as close to base camp as we were going to get!

Day 7.  Fairy Meadows to Karimabad

After another unbearably cold night, which was very unusual for mid September, we had an early start and were away by 7am to head back to Thatto and the jeeps. The only eventful thing of the night was being woken up about 00.30 by a quite violent shaking. My only conclusion was that it was a tremor or earthquake so I shot out of bed and went outside. No-one else seemed to be stirring so we (me Shama and Ryan) simply went back to bed. Well, I can’t say we all did as the shock had released some adrenalin so bang went my good night’s sleep! In the morning only a few others had also felt it so we were at least relieved that we hadn’t imagined it.

At Raikot Bridge, we bumped into a British couple who had travelled into Pakistan from Mongolia and China and were heading to India. We gave them a lift to Gilgit and exchanged details as they were going to be in Lahore at the same time as us. We then all bundled into Ehsan’s new Land Crusier and headed up the KKH to Hunza.

From Raikot Bridge to the Khunjerab Pass, the Chinese have the contract for rebuilding the KKH. That’s all fine but what I do not understand is why they are going about it the way they are. Rather than rebuilding it section by section, they are reducing the entire length to rubble before they tarmac. What this means is that the ‘highway’ is a very slow way. The road is all dirt track which makes for a very slow, bumpy and incredibly frustrating ride. Admittedly the longest part is preparing the highway for some degree of landslide protection as well as effective drainage. It’s estimated that it should be done by the 2012 season.

What that meant for us is that the usual 2 hours to Karimabad took us 4.5 hours. We rocked up to the hotel late and exhausted and after some food and a hot shower were out like a light knowing we had a much deserved lie in.

We stayed at the Darbar which I thought to try out for the first time on account of a friend now managing the place and so guaranteeing me good rates. The Darbar is actually owned by the current Mir of Hunza so is regarded as the best hotel in Karimabad. The staff and service had always had a bad reputation but as Karim was now working there, it was worth checking out.

Day 8.  Karimabad.

The weather had cleared and the sun was shining as we awoke. Looking out the bedroom window with the 7000m+ Ultar Peak looming in front of me, I remembered why I love Hunza so much.

Today was a free day really with only the World Heritage Baltit Fort to see. Isa, a friend and guide did a great job as always as we were taken on a fantastic history lesson of Hunza and the fort. With the many handicraft shops lining the one street market, the group quickly dispersed to sample the wares.

I was looking rather hairy faced so ducked into the only barber with Ryan to have a shave Pakistani style. Ryan was particularly impressed as the last and only time he was shaved was in Bolivia when he was overcharged for a job not well done. Pakistan 1 Bolivia 0.

At dinner time back at the hotel, Ehsan arrives and gives a small speech about the tradition of giving gifts to a bride and groom and their friends. Upon which we are presented with gifts in honour of the fact that it is the first time that I’m visiting Hunza with Shama. I was so touched. It was really beautiful. My gift was a traditional wedding robe with extra long sleeves (which is how it is worn) and a Hunza hat. Shama’s was a traditional hat worn by Hunza women and a scarf.

Ehsan had also arranged for some musicians for a performance to which we were of course invited to. It took place on the ground floor of the hotel. By the time we got down, the party is in full swing Hunza style with the men dancing various traditional songs. The arak is also in flow so there’s no shyness in the guys getting up and showing off their stuff.

Of course, I have to get up too when the groom’s tune comes on. I wish I knew how to do their dance but my poor attempt is met with much cheer and everyone rushing up to put notes (money) into my Hunza cap.

Ryan was asked to get up and got the biggest cheers as he gyrated, shimmied and grooved around to the pipers and drummers. Luckily or unluckily we managed to capture most of the dances on video…

Day 9.  Karimabad to Passu and Back.

Today was going to be a special day for me as we would be going to Passu. Not that unusual as that’s what we usually do on our second day in Hunza but this was different as the landscape had been forever changed in January of this year.

The village of Attabad was completely destroyed by a huge landslide. Not only that but the landslide blocked the Hunza river causing an artificial lake to form on one side and drying up the river on the other. Ehsan had contacted me when this had happened and we’d sent an email out to get some relief funds over. Even back then I hadn’t fully appreciated the extent of the damage.

In May of this year, the Pakistan Army finally created a spillway for the dammed water as there was a clear threat of the artificial dam bursting and causing untold damage further down the valley and even as far as Gilgit.

As we approached the landslide and blockage, it was jaw droppingly huge. There were bulldozers everywhere and a new track had been carved out for local transport. Admittedly, this was only to get you as far as the drop of point. From there you got the first proper sighting of the lake. A beautiful blue lake that simply took the place of where the valley had once been. The KKH was nowhere to be seen.

From there one had to walk down to the makeshift ‘port’ where a number of cargo and passenger boats were loading up. It was really quite an incredible site. We negotiated a journey and climbed aboard. Off we went with the sun shining and clear turquoise water all around us. As we turned the corner, it became apparent that the lake stretched for as far as the eye could see. This was shocking as much as stunning.

As we continued the two hour journey, there was the occasional reminder of what had been there before. A bit of road, some houses, tops of trees. An entire bridge had been submerged and we went past the supports of the new one just popping up about the water.

We finally got to Hussaini where there was a makeshift camp with more loading and unloading as this was still the only way to transport goods from China to Pakistan and beyond. Again, we found some transport to take us to Passu where we broke for lunch. En route, we stopped to view the Passu suspension bridge that we always have a go at with all groups. This is the 200m Indiana Jones bridge that absolutely puts the fear of god into most! Unfortunately, because of the landslide and subsequent lake, this too had been damaged and rendered unusable. Before the spillway, it was underwater but now could be seen broken. Such a shame and I really hope they repair it.

At the Ambassador Hotel, Passu, we met a Pak/China Glaciology team carrying out some research on the glaciers so it was good to swap details as I’d be keen to see some of that data.

On our way back to Hussaini, we drove up to Borit Lake. Unfortunately, Tawakal Khan had been taken ill so was in Pindi which is why we never lunched there but we did continue up to the Passu Glacier viewpoint to see the ice white glacier up close.

We got back to Hussaini just before sunset but were told that no boats were going across as the waves further along were too dangerous so we’d have to stay the night. I wasn’t keen on this and decided to wait until a boat showed up to ask them. This proved to be a good move as a cargo boat finally arrived about 45 mins later and agreed to take us once they had loaded up for a return journey. It was dark by the time we finally sat on the cargo boat atop a lot of bundles of clothes from China. The moon was almost full and it was actually a very romantic journey back to Karimabad albeit a bit nippy!     

Day 10.  Karimabad to Gilgit

Not a lot to do today other than a late start and a last wonder about the market for some handicraft shopping before heading for Gilgit. En route we stopped as ever near Nasirabad to pick some natural garnet stones out of the mountainside and off the floor. Got to Gilgit just after sunset and had an early night as well as saying farewell to Saher and Huma who had accompanied us from Daultala.

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Welcome to the TravelPak blog.

Together with our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TravelPakUK we’ll be keeping you posted with our journeys through Pakistan.

We leave today at 18.00 and fly to Lahore and get the connecting flight to Islamabad. Eid in Pakistan is today so we’ll miss some of the celebrations.

But it was Eid yesterday for us and we had a great one in London.  Mind you, it’s properly celebrated for three days in Pakistan so we’ll be making sure we don’t miss out. As Islamabad will be mainly shut, we’ll head straight for Daultala (our family village) and get stuck in in true Punjabi style!

Ryan arrived from the States on Thursday morning and we haven’t really let him sleep or rest for that matter but he’s holding up well!

Will update next from Pakistan.

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