Wednesday, August 28

North Pakistan, Day One: Hitting The Road, Running

Ah, Islamabad. The last time I visited this city was way back in 1990 - although contrasting then and now in my mind didn't really highlight any difference. It was the first time that I discovered that Pakistan was more than Karachi, and it was possible to have clean streets and low(ish) crime in this subcontinent country. A naive view would be to say that people actually gave a poo here, but dig a little deeper and there are real reasons for the contrast.

Not that we had much time to do a more through analysis; from the airport we made a beeline to Shogran, where we were going to spend our first night.

We stopped in Abbotobad for lunch. This town was still clean, and perhaps even more affluent than Karachi, although in many ways that just emphasised the rich-poor divide up and down the country. Oddly I saw no women anywhere and was surprised when we were asked to use the family room for our mixed group of 4 people, where we had quite possibly the richest dhal I've ever tasted (I could feel a heart attack coming on as we ate - not a good sign for day one of the trip).

Our journey took us through Mansehra, Bisian and Balakot. I've mentioned before how as I get on it becomes more difficult for travel to impress me. But this drive alone had enough continuous views and panoramas that never got old. I was in awe.

We entered the Kaghan Valley, stopping off at the Makayla viewpoint on the way to our final destination via a mountain road to Shogran, the cliffs so sheer and the valleys so vast that it became difficult to make sense of the perspectives and scales of what we were seeing.

And so we found ourselves in a little mountain resort, settling in for what we expected to be a rewarding slog for the remainder of the trip.

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