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Brad’s Travel Diary

Friday, 16 Sep 2005

Location: Lahore, Pakistan

MapWell, I am now just days away from getting to the end of the initial journey I planned...on Tuesday I'm going to be crossing the border to India, thus completing the route from Turkey to India! I'm planning on finding a nice hostel were I can chillout for a week or so - I've been on the move for two months non stop now and I'm starting to get quite tired, I really feel like a need a beak.

The trek was really amazing, although unfortunaly a little tainted by my guides attitude. He found out the morning of the trek that his nephew was having his wedding party in two days (while he'd be on the trek) and so tried to find someone else to take me. Unfortunatly the guy he found couldn't even speak English, so I said (after having just paid him $200US) that it wasn't good enough, he'd have to some or forfiet the job...accordingly he was pretty whingy for the trip. Aside from this minor blemish though, the trek was phenomenal! In the first day we climbed up the the base camp for Mt Rakaposhi (7788m). The walk was pretty hard work until about five hours after setting off we came over the top of a ridge to be presented with a truly awesome view of Mt Rakaposhi, Mt Diran (7257m) and the massive Rakaposhi glacier, falling down from the mountain, past our feet and down into the valley below. We spent the night at the base camp (about 3500m), where I experience some mild altitude sickness- nothing serious, it just makes it difficult to do anything, just walking the the tent is a major effort!. The second day we walked across the glacier to the Mt Diran base camp. Walking across the glacier was easier than I though, but it was still very slippery in places and a little crevassed. The weirdest thing was the amazing barreness of the landscape - a glacier is perhaps one of the few utterly lifeless places on earth. We arrived at the base camp to find an expedition just about to leave to tackle the peak. The were saying that more people have fallen off and died on this peak than have made it to the top! You won't catch me doing any mountineering any time soon! We walked back across the glacier to the base camp (after being caught in the storm) and spent the night there. It's really great setup, there's actually a guy who lives up there, hires out tents and sleeping bags, cooks hot meals, and even milks the local mountain goats for milk tea! It was really amazing staying the night there, the stars are so clear and every so often an avalanche comes tumbling down the mountain into the valley beside us (don't worry mum, we were definatly out of the avalanche zone!) The last day was just a matter of descending from the base camp back to the village below. We got back by lunchtime, and I ditched my guide and continued north to the Hunza Valley.

This part of the world is truly amazing. I can't even begin to give it a deserving description (I'll post some photos as soon as I find a computer with Windows ME). The wild Indus river thrashes deep at the bottom of the valley, surrounded by massive mountains, all above 6000m and with glaciers tumbling down from the snow covered peaks. Any patch of land that is on an angle less than about 60 degrees is used, I'm quite amazed that people don't step out of their houses and roll down the mountain into the river! The people here are quite differnt to, owing to the fat that many of these places were their own independant kingdoms until the formation of Pakistan about fifty years ago. That afternoon I visited an old fort at the foot of the mountain close to the village (Karimabad) where I was staying.

Starting to runout of time with my visa, I decided to attack a huge trek the next day - it's really a two or three day treck, but my time was getting short so I decided to have a go. Climbing up from the village, after two hours I came to another hut offereing food and lodgings as the foot of a really steep glacier. The goal of the trek was the Han pass, at 4600m, over two thousand metres above the village! After climbing directly up from the hut for four hours, I reached the pass exhausted. The view was totally worth it though - I could see twelve glaciers, and had great views of Rakaposhi and Diran from another angle as well as incredible views down the valley. It only took me about three hours to get back to the village, partly owing to the fact that it was so steep coming down I ended up running half the way! I was pretty impressed with myself - four thousand metres elevation change in one day! Although I certainly felt it for at least the next week...

Next stop was Peshawar, a city right on the edge of the tribal areas and the border with Afganistan! I was really curious to see somthing which I'd heard of turing my travels - the gun factories at a village nearby - Darra Adem Khel. Conveniently, I met some Aussies at the hotel who were planning to go the next day, so the next day we all jumped on a bus and headed out there. It was pretty crazy - we were met by a policemen who said it's really too dangerous for forigners but if we gave him 300 rupees he'd take us on a tour. Every shop in this village is a gun shop, and out the back of every house are tiny workshops where men make replicas of Kalashnikovs, M16s and all sorts of guns pretty much just with a lathe and drill press! The craftmanship is pretty amazing, although I'm sure they could put it to better uses...anyway, we were all offered (at a pretty heafty price) to go out into the fields and fire a few rounds. I was pretty nervous walking out into the testing fields with gunfire going off all around us - people testing out their latest toys. The Aussies had a go of the Kalashinkov and a shotgun, although I declined, even when offered a free shot, as these are instuments of death after all.

The next day I took a tour with some Japanese (there are so many Japanese backpackers here!) to the famous Khyber pass, the gateway between central Asia and and the subcontinent - and also the border between Pakistan and Afganistan. It was pretty cool, although not as spectacular as I though. It was pretty awesome however to stand on the border with Afganistan, and one of the Japanese guys was even continuing on to Kabul - pretty crazy, although apparantly most of north Afganistan is fairly safe for tourists now. We got back in the early afternoon and I headed off to Rawalpindi to pick up my Indian visa.

The next day, after getting my visa no worries in the morning, I travelled to Lahore in order to make for the Sufi celebrations I'd heard were on the following night. Unfortunatly I picked the wrong bus and the four hour journey turned into a seven hour one, and I got to Lahore late that evening.

The following morning I woke up quite sick, so I spent most of the morning in bed resting with a high fever and cough...just what I needed. Every Thursday in Lahore there are big Sufi (Islamic mystics) 'preformances'. We arrived for the first session at two, it was an amazing afternoon of Qwaali (a particular Pakistani style) singing, with dozens of bands and singers performing. There were also a few sufis dancing. One guy was really intense, he jumped up and down on his knees till theu were covered in blood, and licked the floor in between acts - pretty weird. Having to sit cross-legged on the floor the whole time and not feeling crash hot, I left to the hostel to rest for the night session. We left again at nine, and went to this tiny shrine crammed with people (mostly wasted). We stayed until two in the morning, listening to some incredible drumming and watching the sufis dance and spin in exctacy.

Not surprisingly I'm not feeling so great today, very tired and quite sick. Amazingly there is a doctor who works at the hostel, he said it was just a throat thing (I was a little worried it might be malaria) and I whould rest and gargle with salt water. So that's all I've been doing, along with reading a copy of the latest Harry Potter I manged to pick up ($3 - oh yeah!).