PAKISTAN 2016 August – Hunza, Skardu

It’s green! I see green! Was my first impression after arriving in Islamabad by flight, from grey Kabul. (for other stories look in my next writings PAKISTAN – ……..)

Attention! You are driving on a wrong side!“, “It’s normal, that’s how we avoid accidents“. “Oh, one more car!”,  “In this country if they drive as in Europe it means that something bad will happen, but till you understand nothing in this circulation, you are safe.” I hardly could adapt to the left side driving. My very first moment in Pakistan and it was already a mess in my head. It’s not in my blood this type of circulation.

At 11am I met Farhad, who came to pick me up and to take to Hunza valley. He had free time and wanted to see some places too, so we went together. It was a 16 hour drive to our destination. First adventure, we were stuck in traffic as a chicken truck was stuck in a swamp, which was a sandy road until a flood from the mountains water. The chickens were stressed. One tractor helped clean the road and make it drivable.  The other travelers just supported the tractor driver morally by observing all the process. The women stayed in the cars, but not me. My curiosity couldn’t keep me away from all local activities. My presence brought a good result. After the road was cleaned up, the cars, which were in front of our car passed first. Other cars kept waiting so we passed as soon as possible. Cars waited patiently. They seemed so organized (but just in this case so far 🙂 ). They did this maneuver spontaneously. I was impressed. They try to let women go first. Traveler woman has even bigger respect. All the people I met people tried to show their country from the best side.

We stopped in Naran for a night.  This is known as a main spot to rest during the long trip from Islamabad to Gilgit. Here people come just to relax or to hike. There is a big camp site and the possibility to sleep in a tent or a hotel room. Different choices, with different prices. A Hotel room per night for two costs around 20 Euros. Even during summer the nights are not so warm here. Sometimes it’s just +13 in the evening.

Continuing our trip on a narrow road between the mountains and a river, we saw an accident. It was a truck which fell down a slope. Two managed to escape and 2 were gone. Some locals were looking for them in the river. People could do nothing more, it was too dangerous to risk more lives.

Babusar was the highest and coldest point on the way to Gilgit. The landscape was changing all the time. I couldn’t close my eyes as not to miss anything. Valleys, forests, villages on the slopes, wooden bridges, glaciers and mountains all brought joy to my eyes during this trip.

At the afternoon we reached Gilgit. The first thing we did on arrival was to buy me a local SIM card. It had to be registered and only started to work 24 hours later. It all depends from which company you buy it from. Some companies don’t ask for registration. If you plan to travel to the north of Pakistan, it’s better to buy a SIM card there. This way you will have less connection problems.

We had complications finding a given address, so one local bike driver accompanied us to the right place. Here we met a local guide, Farhad’s friend’s friend. After Farhad concluded that Isaak is a good guy, he decided to leave me under his protection. We all went to Hunza valley village to stay with Isaak’s big, super friendly family. The next day Farhad left and with my new companion I went for a trek. I didn’t plan any treks in the mountains but as Farhad felt it coming, he left me his sport shoes (I just had sandals) and made my small adventures possible.

It’s colorful here.  The locals love using colorful fabrics for their clothes. They are more colorful than Pakistanis in the capital. Friends told me that the further north from grey Karachi, the more colors appear on people clothes.

Borith Lake is very interesting place to observe birds between March and June. It is situated at 2.5 km altitude. The lake can be reached via a 2 km unpaved road from Husseini village or by foot. It is also accessible by a 2-3 hour trail directly from Ghuylkin village, across the end of the Ghulkin glacier. Our choice was the second one. Before arriving to the glacier we passed by a village, where the locals invited us for tea. Walking on glacier was a new experience for me. Sand and snow was moving easily and to fall down was very easy for the beginner. We made it without accident. After getting down, we could finally take a small siesta at the lake. What a silence, what air. A young local family invited us for a picnic but we declined, continuing our walk. Our next stop was at a local “restaurant”, with views of the lake. Some artists from Lahore involved me in their filming about traveling in the north of Pakistan (they love tourists and use them in their own projects. There is a stereotype that foreigners (specialy “white” skin) bring more prestige).

After getting down we reached Hussaini village. This village is still deprived of basic activity and is super famous for its bridge. Walking on a shaking pane hanging over the river bridge was unforgettable. It has high wires and is connected through wooden panes. While locals can pass it in 5 minutes without using any hands, for me it took at least 30 minutes. I was moving slowly like a snail. Such a shaky bridge is everyday reality for the locals, who have to pass it going to the fields to bring grass for their animals. I was shaking just from the idea of passing it (not talking about the path they have to climb after to get to the fields). Walking Hussaini bridge is equally exiting and scary. It is one of the deadliest bridges in the world. If you wish to indulge in some adventure that can give you a boost of adrenaline, then consider walking on this perilous bridge.

Burushaski is a language spoken by Burusho people, who reside almost entirely in these territories. Closer to the border with China border they speak the Burusho language and Wakhi, which is one of the several Pamir languages.

We stayed for a night in a small hotel in Sost. We paid 15 dollars (because it was friends of the friends) though it costs 25 dollars, as it is the only hotel in this region. For breakfast they usually serve eggs, so if you are selective with food like me, then always have snacks with you.

We paid 25 dollars (while others asked 40) for a taxi, to the China border and back. It was a sweet police guy who took us there. The trip took about 4 hours in total. Locals passing by in their cars always waved. They waved on the streets too to welcome me into their country.

The Khunjerab Pass is the only modern day border crossing between China and Pakistan, accessed via the Karakorum Highway. Arriving at the border there were already maybe 50 Pakistanis.  They like to go there and take selfies. Some Pakistanis came, switched on music, danced and then went away. It’s nice there. Mountains, all white, covered with snow, but not so cold at all. The sun was shining bright. Going back down the mountains we had the chance to see the proud local, Ibex family. They seemed like they didn’t care about seeing people 200 meters away from them.  Later on the way we saw yaks and a snow leopard. This small snow leopard was in a big cage placed outside at a river.  Her ‘owner’ didn’t keep her as an attraction, not at all. He saved her as a baby girl from drawing in a river. He couldn’t let her go as she didn’t know how to hunt and survive alone in. To protect her, she was living in that big cage, but sadly lots of locals were coming for selfis. They tried to make the poor leopard move using a long stick and making lots of noise. Unfortunately most of locals don’t know how to treat animals with respect (not talking about animals for meat that usually are treated with lots of cruelty (breaking chicken wings and each time take a bird by her broken wings throwing her from one place to another like a trash, an example) while later killing them halal saying that this way they respect it and safe  animals from the suffering!!!!!).

From Sost to Hunza valley, Murtazabad village a bus cost 200 rupees/2 dollars. Local mini buses cost 20 rupees.

People are kind and helpful. We shook hands with one old woman, saying hello.  Then she kissed my hand. This kiss is a sign of their respect.

Kids are curious. Seeing me, they immediately stood in line asking to take a picture. Disciplined like in an army. Though the locals are very curious, they leave you your space. The most educated and friendly Pakistanis (from what I heard from the locals) are these from Hunza. 

After dinner, my family was sitting in the kitchen talking. They were busy organizing a wedding. Everybody took part in the organizing and preparation. I was invited too, but I couldn’t stay 3 more days. The family never let me help in any household jobs. Guests are sacred there and respected a lot.

Electricity often disappears in the villages. Locals receive sms messages everyday informing when electricity will be switched on, and for how long. People are dependent on this schedule and try to adapt and do all the household jobs while the electricity is on. This happens even in the capital so inhabitants use super noisy power generators placed outside their houses.

The Next day we went to visit the Altit fort. In its earlier days the fort was surrounded by the settlers of the city, and traders who would bring along goods from across the world. A stop while making their way to the land from China through the ancient Silk route, soon it became a cultural hub of the region.

The fort was built by the Mirs (ruling family) of Hunza, as a display of power to the Mirs of Nagar and has stood tall in front of Karakoram since the 11th century. The fort and in particular the Shikari tower is around 1100 years old, which makes it the oldest monument in the Gilgit–Baltistan.

Not only has it survived many attacks but it has also withstood several earthquakes since it was built, making it perhaps one of the most astonishing architectural structures of its time.

The fort is sited on two rocks; the eastern rock is higher as compared to the western rock. The fort was constructed in six different stages by using the various natural levels of the rock. Narrow corridors are used for accessing the construction at different levels. The mosque, the storage area, and the guest rooms can be easily accessed from the watch tower.

This unique structure is over 1,000 feet above the Hunza River. Its only tower, known as the Shikari Tower (hunters’ tower) was built strategically to monitor the entire land, especially during war time. The Hunza valley used to be under constant threat from Kaiven Rus (Russian) and Chinese troops of that time.

The tower was not only used to keep an eye out for threats, but was also used to throw prisoners off, who were serving their death sentence.

The Altit Fort was gifted to the Aga Khan Foundation in 1990. Their cultural service department has done a commendable job in restoring the fort, which has been operating as a tourist museum since 2007. The strong cultural values and the connection that the natives feel with their history is something which is lacking in the cities.

We had lunch in Altit ‘restaurant’, the only such type of place which is managed by woman. Here we had the chance to try local, super tasty kitchen, chicken soup, samosas and ice cream. Per person, all this cost around 1 dollar. After getting stronger we went to see the Eagles nest (it’s a huge must see and do !!!).  It takes about 1 hour to walk up to the mountains. On the way I tried to take pictures of local women, but they don’t like being photographed. Later I was told that they avoid being in pictures only because they don’t think they are dressed well enough for a shot. Kids on the other hand, always kept saying hello and asking for pictures. One boy after the pictures asked for a pen, as tourists sometimes share them with kids. In our case, I had some toys to give them. The kids were happy with any kind of attention.

Inter-Services Intelligence ISI – I am not sure that I would call them intelligent. They kept calling my companion many times per day (because it’s his number that they had). They checked on me every day nonstop. They even requested my companion to get an official permit to host me, and other unnecessary papers (that could last long to get). So illogical even they couldn’t explain why and what these papers were about! They told that it’s all for security. They bothered Farhad too, complaining about why he left me with other people and went back to the capital. Then they asked me to go to a hotel (their opinon, tourists have to stay just in hotels). I had a visa and a permit to visit this territory; it was enough for my trip and no need any other paper to have rights to enjoy holidays there. They insisted that they wanted to help me and to make my trip as good as possible. I don’t remember myself asking them to help me! It was just too much of them. I think these guys had nothing else to do, so they decided to bother me. They just tried to destroy my trip calling sometimes even 4 times per hour. I eventually switched off Isaak’s telephone. Finally, we could enjoy birds singing and a cool trek. The police seeing the phone switched off called Farhad, who was already back in Islamabad. They made him stress saying that I’d disappeared, I was dead, and that something bad had happened just as they knew it would. Farhad stressed too. He tried to reach us but in vain. At that moment we were hiking to the mountains and enjoying magnificent views of Hunza valley. In the evening we had to explain our ‘bad’ behavior. Even Farhad asked that police to leave me alone and let me enjoy my trip. They couldn’t understand. They called so many times and even asked us to call them back, as they had no more credits. They still called at least 10 more times to tell us to call them back, as they really had no more credits! We didn’t share our credits with them. I stayed a few nights in Murtazabad village, “ILLEGALLY” :).

It happened that tourists who got all the needed papers to travel and climb mountains close to the border with China were suspended from their adventures, just after their visit to ISI office. These guys try to “help” travelers so much that they just waste traveler’s time, patience and destroy holidays. Just ignore them to get what you came for.

The next day we went to Gilgit. I never expected that it would be so hard to take out money from an ATM. I finally managed at the sixth one I tried. If you plan a trip in the north, try to provide yourself with enough cash, to avoid being stuck without. For sure, your bank account will be blocked if you don’t inform your bank in advance about your trip!

In the evening I was invited to child ‘welcoming’ dinner in Gilgit. He was a week old and all family came to bring gifts and have dinner together. Pakistani women and men eat together, but in our case as the rooms were not big enough, we ate separately. The women really wanted me to eat a lot.  It was hard to explain that I was full.

After the dinner, the oldest man took the child in his hand, said a prayer, put him in a cradle, covered it by a sheet of white fabric while keeping saying prayers. In Pakistan they make a black dot in the middle of the forehead, to protect babies from evil eyes. His eyes were colored in black too. Kids eyes are colored with black until they are 5 years old, to protect the eyes from infection.

I went to this evening with Isaak and it was enough for people to start to think I am his girlfriend. After talking to his cousin, people started to say that he tried to take me away from Isaak. It appeared if I would stay longer talking to others, I would just simply not just destroy my reputation but interrogate their family about why and how that happened.  I was glad that we left the first.  I had no idea that they were talking about me when we left. One I was sure about – I came to meet new people and to see their local lifestyle, and how local traditions welcome a newborn into a family. I was lucky to escape at the time from there as Isaak said that they wanted to marry me, and that I had to stay with him. He wanted to marry too so kept coming in my bedroom few times per night. Luckily he was not an aggressive guy so he didn’t use any force and I got rid of him easily pointing a door, paying for his guide help in the end and escaping to Skardu. On other hand met some and heard stories that Japanese and Chinese girls love to come to Hunza and marry local guys.

In the heart of Baltistan lies the Skardu Valley, surrounded by the majestic Karakoram Mountains and interspersed with rivers flowing with such force that it makes one wonder why the rest of the country is crying itself hoarse over water scarcity. Skardu, the capital of Baltistan is perched 2,438 meters above sea level. I boarded from Gilgit and set off to the Skardu Valley on a route that was death-defying and heart-attack inducing. Though it’s less than 200 km, the journey takes close to 8 hours by public transport. 8 hours of a cool ride in the mountains for 500 rupees. Tickets can be bought in advance or on the day, but you risk finding the bus already full. I was lucky I took the last free place.

I stayed alone on this trip. I was surrounded by people I didn’t know. Nobody asked to marry me, no police calls, not even a crying baby, just car motor br br br and silence. There were very beautiful landscapes and terrifying views looking down from my window, seeing just a few centimeters of a grave road and deep down a river. All the passengers kept calm, it was a good sign so I tried to keep calm too and to avoid looking down. On a way we passed by few wooden bridges. Sometimes they looked like they were in the last moments of their lives and would fell down just by touching them. But they kept standing and had no intention of falling down at all. For sure, the intelligence guys found out about me going to Skardu. I felt like I was spied on, like a piece of shitty, stinky mafia trying to escape. I wished they had come at least once to look into my eyes, to ask how I am and to say “darling, you look wonderful tonight”. But no, they kept ringing my phone, which had to die sooner or later from their calls.

During the lunch break, some passengers offered me help by being my translator, or in buying food. I managed to accomplish the buying process by myself, it’s so easy here. 1kg of black grapes costs 50 rupees. People never cheated here. I didn’t speak Urdu and was alone. They could easily have asked for more but it never happened during my entire 3 week trip. Sometimes they even gave me more than I paid for. People on the bus offered me cakes, sweets, fruits and never wanted to accept my regale.

At a check point they asked for my permit. Damn. I had it but as it was sent me by mail and I had no internet to download it. I had nothing to show. Talking a lot and pretending to know all the rules and requirements made them let me go. Who wants to deal with a hyper talkative woman who proved her rights and can make a drama? Modest military guys just didn’t want to interrupt the sounds of nature by letting me talk a lot. Soon I was free to go. The strategy worked!

Late in the evening we arrived in Skardu. I had no idea at all where to go and where to stay. I just knew that it was Farhad’s friend’s friend Ibrahim who I had to meet. I had just his phone number. The locals arranged everything fast for me. There was a policeman on the bus who took responsibility for delivering me into the right hands. Ibrahim came, I was delivered. The first thing after arriving in Skardu, was to go to Police station to register. For one night Amar, Ibrahim’s friend hosted me at his hotel. I really preferred to stay with a local family, so Amar proposed for me to stay with his family in a village close to Skardu town. He took the responsibility on himself for dealing with these intelligent guys. He was ready to say that I’m staying at his hotel, while I was staying in a village not far from Skardu. It was all in aim to avoid their calls, asking why I am staying with locals again or why I was somewhere else. They called him a few times, I knew this, but he never bothered me with it. Finally it was calm and I didn’t hear about them or from them for a week.

In the village I immediately became friends with all the family. I had sisters, brothers, cousins, parents, grandparents …. Here 10-20 people usually live under 1 roof. In my case we were about 20. People live here on the ground using just carpets and mattresses as their furniture. A few people sleep in the same room. I was staying with 2 girls.

Unfortunately not everybody spoke English, so it was a bit complicated to communicate. Some guys especially had to suffer a bit (my luck) as they couldn’t express their thoughts clear to me and about me :).

Soon I realized that I was staying in a house of a real Pakistan hero. That man was the youngest and the only still living fighter for Pakistani independence in 1947. He was super talkative and energetic. His eyes were full of life. He burned with need to share his story. My girlfriend spoke better English than the others so she had to translate. It was hard for her to keep up with all the details of fast speaking man. Finally he decided to explain everything directly to me in Urdu. He was sketching on paper, improvising. It was a real performance demonstrating Pakistani history starting from 1947 till nowadays, in a maximum short version.

The village was magnificent, cut inside by lots channels. It was super green. Outside the village was a desert, from other side the mountains a river. Incredible, all in one. Inhabitants are often seen outside their houses at the channels washing their clothes, dishes or preparing lunch while talking to their neighbors. In my family one boy was adopted but brought up like the real family member. There was a 1 year kid too and it took me few hours to understand who his parents were. Everybody took care of him, played with him or kept him busy.  It was a child of everybody.  It was especially hard to guess who was his father was, as everybody behaved like his father. I finally found out it was none of them. The real one was in Saudi Arabia for work. I was impressed with such tight family connection and such warmth.

In the evening we went to see a fish farm near the airport. Yes, fish in the mountains, and a lot of them! The locals use mountain water to create natural basins for fish breeding.

Late after dinner in a mini car, listening to waka waka, with 8 people (no idea how we all packed inside) we went to Skardu for an ice cream. I always had to sit at the front of a car, to have better views and be comfortable. They never let me change place.

Some locals told me that here Punjabi and Patan guys have a not so favorable reputation in comparison with others as they tend to be more open for flirting. They can’t resist giving a compliment or to have a conversation with any interesting looking girl towards them.

Going back to Skardu, the people kept being super hospitable. They never let me pay and called me the boss, who has to decide how else they could help me.

In the morning with 3 girls and 5 guys we went to visit the first organic village called “Non Sooq” and to have a trek. This village, situated on the bank of mighty Indus River possesses all the natural elements. The way of living and foods are completely natural. No chemicals are used to grow crops, vegetables, pulses and fruits. The use of any artificial fertilizer or insecticides is totally prohibited by the government authorities. It is one of the most attractive and amazing spots to visit in Pakistan. The houses are made totally of mud. The road that leads to the organic village is full of trekking pleasure.

The village seemed empty. We hardly saw any other people there. Then I found 2 kids playing alone on a carpet. I decided to give them two toys, but I didn’t expect that it would bring the kids to hysteria. They started to cry and shout like if I was cutting them alive. They never saw any toy before and it scared them a lot. All of the village ran towards us. Now I saw that it was not as empty as it seemed before. We left after my friends explained to the locals what was going on.

We decided to go back to our village by another more complicated way, continuing our walk along the river. The guys were kind and always helped the girls. They were super attentive and always around. If any girl needed some help, 2 guys were immediately at her side. They didn’t let girls carry any bags either. The beginning of out trek started on a sloped hill covered by sand and stones, bringing us down each time we made a wrong step. After passing by a muddy beach we had to climb on the rocks. I couldn’t manage to pass this step without the guys help. It was sweet to see them pushing me up the rocks. When I was finally up, I realized that I just could have passed it another way without the big effort. But guys were happy to help and respected my choice in SILENCE… other girls were smarter than me. The guys never showed any hint of being annoyed by helping the girls. On a sunny beach we took a break to have snacks and enjoy the beautiful views surrounding us. On the right we had the river with views to the mountains, which were glittering different shades of grey-brown. On the left we had rocky mountains with some vegetation at their foot. In front of us we had a desert and our village. Behind the desert was a lake, hairy with different types of grass and bushes. It seemed like a perfect home for the many fishes living in it.

The family treated me as their family member. It was really funny all the time, jokes, songs and dances. The locals were not afraid to make fun of themselves and to entertain others. I was lucky to meet such great locals.

I tried to buy some food for the family but they didn’t like that idea, so I bought sweets and other snacks for them while they weren’t looking. Once time I bought a huge cake which I had to cut by myself (according to traditions, I bought, I feed everyone) and share with everybody. One piece I took to the grandfather, the oldest person in a family, who was staying in his room. Nobody touched the cake until I was back, even the kids. It seemed more like birthday celebration than just a simple treat. We had fun, such easy going people. For sure, selfies were a must.

I had the honour to be invited to lunch with 2 other families too, this way little by little I was expanding my presence and became like an official inhabitant of this cute village. I still couldn’t get used to their natural kindness. I had never received such hospitality in my life before. People ready to share their last, in aim to make their guest feel good, without looking for any profit.

The next day I was a bit sick. I had to avoid eating meat that my body doesn’t accept and like so much. The family was worried and wanted to call a doctor, but there was no need. They insisted that I have to eat something so I mentioned a cucumber, and they didn’t have it. Perfect. In reality I didn’t want it so much but in the evening Amar came and took me with my entourage to town to buy a cucumber! I had to eat even 2 huge ones as they really tried to help me and remembered that from the morning when I mentionned it. The next time I will have to be more careful what I ask for 🙂

I gave one woman a compliment that she had a beautiful Chadra, and she immediately gave it to me as a gift (I still use it at home). I really didn’t mean it, it was just a compliment. Later I tried to avoid giving compliments about items as the locals were immediately giving them to me. The same happened in Islamabad when looking at a hat I said that it has a nice design and they gave it to me immediately, even though it was my friend’s father’s favorite one. One girl gave me a ring so I won’t forget about her, but I still remember her even without looking at it 🙂

The next morning with Amar, Ibrahim and other extreme holiday lovers, I went to the Deosai Plains. (Girls were not let go as their parents didn’t want to join a group with lots of men). Which are accessible via a dirt road that cuts an uphill route through the mountains. One can see melting glaciers and streams of ice-cold water gushing down the mountain and falling into the valley below. But when one reaches Deosai, all previous sights are forgotten. Blooms of every color dot the plains and low-hanging clouds seem to kiss the ground, as marmots (a type of squirrel) race around until they spot humans, then they scamper back to their burrows. Deosai is also home to 70 bears, according to the last census of their species.

Amar and Ibrahim organized this trip for 120 Punjabis and Pashto tourists, and as they had a free place in their car, they took me with them for free. We arrived first. We had lots of work to do. To put up the huge tents, to arrange “kitchen” stuff, prepare the electricity supply for the evening…. During the day I enjoyed the beauty of this territory. I was the only girl there, which is why my tent, which I shared with my friends, was put outside the camp zone. To keep distance from 120 guys who hadn’t talked to any girl for few days already.

I didn’t expect it to be so cold there. It was about 0 degrees during the night. Before the tourists arrived I was already in a backseat of a car, lying comfortably on the sleeping bags. The car was placed so well that I could see everything without being seen. Sometimes I felt like I was in a war zone, seeing so many long bearded, traditionally dressed guys around. Some were cooking, some preparing sleeping areas. They put on light, switched on a microphone (yes, they brought a microphone here too) and it was a real concert for 70 bears and other creatures living in this valley. They were playing some instruments too. Then I saw some guys looking inside each car. They were looking for me. They had heard that there was a girl, so they wanted to see her. But nobody knew where I was exactly and didn’t see me covered by sleeping bags. My car doors were locked too, though 3 times they tried to open it to check. They were not aggressive, just curious, and probably wouldn’t happen anything bad if I would be out. Then suddenly one Punjabi and one Pashto started to fight. They fought for food. Pashtons accused the Punjabis of giving them less food than to the others. Some others joined them in the fight, and all it happened just 2 meters away from my car window. Sometimes they hit my car too. I felt like taking part in it. Kick one ass, then another, but I was the only one taking it cutely surrounded by warm, soft sleeping bags so that just the eyes were visible.

I don’t know more details about this fight, such as who kicked whose ass. They all looked the same, but it lasted not so long. Others came to stop it immediately. They were talking a lot. It became boring and I slowly dived fully in my soft pleasures, I was sleeping.

They partied at least until midnight. At 8 am they were already gone and the campsite was empty. Just a few guys left, the guys I went with. It took us a few hours to arrange the camp and pick up all the trash.

There was rainy, windy weather in Skardu and there was a chance that the flight could be cancelled, as it often happens. I could have risked it but I was too afraid of getting stuck and not being on time to Islamabad, that I joined Amar the same evening, going by car to the capital. Amar was travelling with another driver and we took one other traveler too. The long road was more tiring but I was sure that I will be at the town in time. We wasted 5 hours waiting.  There is part of a road between Gilgit and Islamabad which is opened only from 5.00 till 16.00. This road is open just for locals who provide documents proving that they live there. They close this road to protect the travelers. A few years ago a group of tourists were robbed and some were killed one evening on this road. So to avoid possible further accidents they close it in the night. We were late, we arrived at midnight. I had no choice but to put my sleeping bag by the road in front of a police station and sleep there.

My driver was a crazy one, but his confidence kept me calm. He is a professional driver on extreme tourist trips, driving in the rivers, snow and mountains. It took us 17 hours of fast driving from Skardu to Rawalpindi. For sure, I still think the 100 Euros that he took from me for this trip which he was taking anyway was a robbery.

For female travelers it is recommended to put on a shawl in Pakistan and to wear a long tunic or blouse. It is not necessary or expected for you to wear this on your head at all times, however it’s better to avoid unwanted attention.  In the Skardu region or in Hunza it seemed that nobody cared how I was dressed, so I wore a t-shirt and large pants, sometimes also a shawl to better adapt to the surroundings.

Pakistan is a country rich by its culture, art, nature and hospital people. Accidents happen here too. The biggest one I had during this trip was when I bit my tongue while eating apples from a private garden at Borith Lake.

But be careful, being a guest is very different from staying here longer and trying to collaborate with locals!!! My second trips experience showed that kind, smiling faces very often can bring lots of troubles and dramas. So enjoy being just a traveler minding your own business. So far, Hunza and Skardu habitants were the most kind and cool locals I have met in Pakistan.

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Diana Vaneta

Just another wonderful day. In my stories you won't find lots of descriptions of visited and seen beauties. Usually such information is easy to find on the internet. For me, the most important is how visiting places and meeting people made me feel. The real beauty of a country can hardly be described by words. In order to preserve privacy, all the names of persons in my stories are changed. And unfortunately my destinations are not intended for lazy, comfort-searching tourists. My priority is to explore countries which are considered ‘dangerous', complicated or out of the average lists of tourist destinations and mainly involve places, which there is little or no information about. You would ask, why? My answer is, because usually in those countries people tend to be the most incredibly welcoming, friendly, respectful, helpful. Every time I leave them, I leave a piece of me with my newfound family.

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