Home from my 18 days on the Hindu Kush Adventure – shared plenty of both in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Northern Areas with a bunch of crazy ladies (Ali, Amanda, Ann, Annie, Joan, Thelma, Trisha) , and honourary ‘girl’ Rob, with Benedict, Stan and Zafar guiding the way.
It’s a really beautiful part of the world, with a fascinating history and cultures – from Alexander the Great to the Great Game right up to the Taliban and the present day. The region’s emerging tourist industry was virtually wiped out by 9/11 – so the sight of 11 westerners was guaranteed to generate excitement, together with lots of smiles and hellos. Plenty of hiking high up into the mountains and shopping in the bazaars kept everyone happy, as did Kalash home brew, Mastuj apple brandy, Karimabad’s Chinese beer and red wine and pizza in Islamabad. And who said Pakistan was a dry country?!!
I only succumbed to vertigo once – looking out from Palaga, aka Jonny Bealby’s hut perched on a mountain top high up above the Rumbur Valley where we were spending the night – even lying down on my charpoy the world continued to spin, but not for long. With my lack of head for heights I wasn’t too keen on some of the roads either – particularly the KKH, which is chipped into mountainsides with sheer drops down to the Gilgit and Indus rivers a long way below. But it was worth it – I have returned with a rucksack of very dusty clothes, a collection of Chitrali hats, and lots of photos – edited highlights accumulating on Flickr.