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Nature is Delicious May 26, 2006

Posted by KG in Friends, Pakistan, Photos.
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So as you've probably guessed, I ended up in the mountains last weekend.  It took a good deal of planning, a small amount of subterfuge, and a whole lot of luck — getting permission to go to previously uncleared places here is a bear.  But from the time the initial idea was brought up it was our full on goal to get on a plane and get the heck out of Dodge.  Thus it was that five of us boarded PIA flight 340 at 1 PM last Friday and ended up in rural Pakistan, or at least part of it. The Pakistan where they live on subsistence farms. Where there is no City FM.  Or City. Or FM, for that matter.  Where the definition of road, as Dakota was fond of saying, was stretched pretty significantly.  We were in the previously-forbidden Swat Valley, where during the day we crawled on rocks and agitated our insides on the aforementioned roads.   At night, we sat around a fire and enjoyed clean air and actual stars.  No armored cars shuttling us about, no badges around our necks, no guards and no Marines (though there were many guns; come on, we were in Pathan land), no bland planned city.  Our trip was tinged, unfortunately, with a light patina of certain doom around every corner.  Pretty much from the moment we stepped on the plane, I was sure we were about to die.  PIA flights, sketchy village meals for $1.67, rock slides, jingle trucks forcing us into a ravine, poison trout, slipping down a snowbank into rapids, random Pathans with large guns, random Pathans with larger guns, fire pits that did a great Roman candle impersonation, sketchy goat milk tea, rickety bridges, and did I mention PIA flights?  There was quite literally terror around every corner.  It was awesome.

Getting out of Islamabad and into the boondocks was exactly what the doctor ordered — a heavy slug of nature in a country where the natural beauty is untapped.  The sheer potential of Pakistan as an adventure tourism destination is staggering, with prices that rival a night for four at a baseball game.  Its amazingly beautiful, clean, with some of the most kind and hospitable people I have ever met.  Maybe that's because they could see I had money.  Well, fine by me.  We learned that it costs 500 rupees (that's $8.33) to have a Pathan sherpa carry your lunch up a mountain — so I was more than happy to appear like a rich man.   

The problem with the trip: coming back and hitting the ground running.  I think I may have teased myself with the 48 hours of relaxation, because come work on Monday it was full steam ahead, with the usual chaos that comes part and parcel with being in a resource-strapped consular section.  More chaotic, even, with people on leave and the load spread thinly across the rest of us.  Oh, and wires exploding, screaming baby applicants, and screaming adult applicants.  Really, normal for here, but after a refreshing tonic of river breezes and fresh trout, it hit like a brick to the face.  In fact, it has taken me a full four days to write this blog entry.  Why?  Just too busy.  Argh.

I'm intent on repeating this sort of trip a few times while I'm here.  Currently, I'm trying to think of ways to justify a trip to Hunza, which would be absolutely amazing, and kind of unheard of in post 9/11 Mission Pakistan.  The valley has a lot to offer in terms of weird things I like — followers of an odd offshoot of Islam, huge forts, language isolates, beautiful people…

For now though, memories.  Cheap meals, kalashnikovs under tarps, fresh fried fish, scary mountain roads, beautifully shy children, and flat tires.  An idyllic weekend all around. 

Soaking in the SunKalam ValleyHoneymoonFishing

The Dreaded Snow WallThe Rushing SwatGlorious SunAt the Beginning of the Trip

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Comments»

1. Solomon2 - May 28, 2006

I’m glad you had a good time! But what is this about wires exploding at the consulate?


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