Updated: Mar 8
Starting in 1987, I have visited Pakistan many times and each time I return, I like the country and its people even more. I first arrived by plane from Egypt, landing in Karachi. New found friends helped me buy a shalwar kameez, which is the perfect dress for the climate and gave a tour of the city.
From there, travelled north by train to Lahore passing through Multan. Then onwards to ancient Rawalpindi and modern Islamabad. The mountains of the Hindu Kush beckoned, so I travelled to Peshawar and found a flight to Chitral.
Here I found heaven on earth. I walked from Chitral to Ayun, and most of the way to Bumburet, one of the valleys of the Kalash people. There I witnessed their Spring Festival, experienced an earthquake and enjoyed living in their midst.
All too soon it was time to move on, so I set out for Gilgit. I walked about half of the way and was invited into the homes of some of the kindest, nicest people I have ever met. In Mastuj, the police invited me to stay with them as their guest. In return, I helped with the sergeant with his English homework.
Shandur Pass was cold and the winter's snow had not all melted. I spent a night in a cave with herders and in the morning set out on the long walk to Phander. There I found a jeep that was going to Gilgit. After a few weeks of rest and recuperation, the Karakoram Highway beckoned and carried through Hunza and over the Khunjerab Pass into China.
I returned around 20 years later to play a role in a World Bank funded project that took me from my base in Islamabad to Lahore and Abbottabad. This gave me a very different perspective, that strengthened my love of this amazing country.
In 2016, I paid another visit to Chitral, Gilgit and Hunza. This time, I did not walk over Shandur Pass. Instead, I sat in a jeep. The cave had gone, but the lake was as stunning as ever.
A Kalash woman, from the Rumbar valley