Fourteen days, twelve different locations and my cannon camera at the ready, at first thought beliefs had spawned plenty of fears about Pakistan travel, owing to political instability and terrorist attacks. However, taking all necessary and relevant safety provisions it became quickly apparent that the country is not that of disquietude, but a hidden gem, boasting many of the worlds hidden treasures and mountain scenery that is beyond anyone's wildest imagination.
With weeks in planning, my burgeon schedule began to unfold, from arrival to departure the experience was led by the Wild Frontiers travel company promising ‘an adventure filled with experiences as warm and welcoming as the plentiful cups of sweet green tea, whether wandering the bazaars of Lahore, haggling with Pathans over a Kashmiri shawl, or walking through the pine scented forests of the Hindu Kush’.
Each location we visited was a maze of cultural exploration, from sharing lunches with local Kalasha girls in Chitral, some of whom have not seen tourists in 20 years, to unearthing old forts and stopping in Ayun passing over the 3,800-metre Shandur Pass, to participate in a polo match held at the highest polo field in the world.
With a raw and basic element of my travels, I began to forget what life’s luxuries meant to existence, with a variety of hotel stops, 11 in-fact, each with their own charm and elegance, a personal favourite was the Islamabad Serena Hotel, fit for a Royal Prince, the walls adorned with sparkling white marble and 24 carat gold etched carvings of religious figureheads. Gardens aplenty with the most exotic flowers and landscaping have ever seen, in the middle of a bustling metropolis of Pakistani culture. Outside of the densely populated cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, the real wonders of the world were finally in vision, albeit luxury travel is not on the cards, I took to a convoy of 1970s Jeeps in a group of 12, first passing through the alpine Swat Valley and onward to a centuries-old trading trail, which once formed part of the famed Silk Road, the Karakoram Highway is the world's highest altitude paved international road. Its 1,200 kilometers slice through the mighty Karakoram Range, passing through the most remarkable mountain scenery.
Through rugged terrain and explorative dynamism, our trail unwillingly drew to a close, from the culture and infectious energy of the cities to its breath-taking mountains and valleys, Pakistan is the perfect destination for anyone looking to venture off the beaten track, packed with an adventurous spirit and an open mind, the wonders of its compelling charm will have you hooked.
To date, memories of my trip still make me smile, with inclination to book an immediate return, it ticked off many of my bucket list desires and superseded every presumptive expectation.