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Pakistan is home to a civilization dating back at least 5,000 years (one of the oldest in the world) but is actually one of the world's younger nations (1947). The current political unrest seems to cloud most people's impression of the country, but there is much more to the 2nd largest Muslim country in the world than "Islamofascism".

Pakistan’s visually stunning north boasts the highest concentration of high peaks and glaciers in the world. The people get a bad rap due to a few bad apples, but are actually some of the friendliest I have encountered in over a dozen countries in the region I have visited.

Please read on for a closer look at this fascinating nation and its stunning scenery.

(Cross-posted @ The Laughing Planet.)
All photos by the diarist.

May I suggest as a soundtrack for this diary a long classical Qawwali song by the world renowned Pakistani artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan:

Fast facts:

   * Population: 172,800,048 (July 2008 est.)
   * Religions: Muslim 95% (Sunni 75%, Shia 20%)
   * Ethnic groups: Punjabi 44.68%, Pathan 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhagirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28%
   * GDP - per capita: $2,600

pakistan_map

The entire country covers an area larger than the combined land areas of France and the United Kingdom, or twice the size of California. The green area of this map roughly represents the area I visited and is the reason I specify only northern Pakistan in the title. It would be analogous to visiting the U.S., but only west of the Rockies.

npakmap

The lowlands make up a much larger portion of the country, but in the summer they are sweltering hot. The Hindu Kush & Karakoram ranges collide to form this dramatic topography. Even the last edges of the Himalaya crunch into this region, hence geological tumult of the 3 highest mountain ranges in the world. There are an estimated 108 peaks above 7,000 meters (23,000 ft) in elevation. In fact, there are so many peaks over 6,000 meters that many of them remain to this day unnamed.

The map above shows my route overland during my 2 months in Pakistan in 2004. I came over the Karakoram Highway from China, a road that has been hailed as a potential member of the "7 modern wonders of the world" club. The pink star marks Shimshal Valley, the yellow is Karimabad, and the red marks the Kalash valleys near Chitral. Virtually the entire trip followed narrow, winding roads, as one would surmise from this topo map.

Criket-Chitral-Pakistan

Current Events

It sometimes feels like news out of Iraq or Afghanistan: Almost never good. Just this week there was an attack on the cricket team visiting from Sri Lanka that killed six policemen and injured 7 players and officials.

Young cricket players in Chitral, NWFP

"This was an organized attack . . . You cannot stop these things anywhere in the world," Salmaan Taseer, the Pakistani governor of Punjab, told reporters. "They are trying to damage Pakistan."

But is this statement accurate?
Few places in the world have ceded entire districts to armed militants in a tense cease-fire as the government has been forced to do in Swat Valley. Other than in the middle east, there have been very few high-profile leaders assassinated in the world over recent decades. The August 2003 attack on the Canal Hotel in Iraq that killed Sérgio Vieira de Mello and the February 2005 bombing in Beirut that killed former Prime Minister of Lebanon of Rafik Hariri come to mind. But in Pakistan we have seen numerous failed attacks, and one tragically successful one in 2007 that killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Another recent news item was the February freeing of Abdul Qadeer Khan, one of the most successful nuclear proliferators in history.

Some reports are beginning to surface about the prospect that Pakistan may be a "failed state." The Mumbai attacks have raised tensions with India once again. Videos showing the Lahore gunmen casually walking away from the crime scene suggests is was an inside job.

The future of Pakistan and some say the entire region may lie in the hands of Richard Holbrooke, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan appointed by President Obama. He has had some success as a diplomat in the past, but surely this will be his biggest challenge to date. He was considered a leading candidate for the Secretary of State slot in either a Hillary or Obama cabinet. Holbrooke's appointment shows the importance the President places on this region.

passumen

The Obama administration has talked at length about Pakistan. Here is the brief policy they list on their website:

Pakistan: Obama and Biden will increase nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.

353452102

bus

Comic relief in a tense region

The locals buses & delivery trucks are ornately painted and decorated.
magicbus
>>>
>>>>(Truck [at right] photo source)
>>>
Perhaps this detail is addressed as an attempt to please Allah as the roads are treacherous & death lurks around every turn.
.

.


Shimshal Valley

jeep

The visit to Shimshal Valley was one that almost didn’t happen. In the past a 4-day trek was required to reach the village (although locals have been known to do it in ONE), but now all that’s required is a little luck surrounding a certain orange jeep.

The road into the valley, which had been completed just 8 months earlier, is an attraction itself clinging to sheer rock cliffs in spots and rumbling over the end of immense rock slides in others.

shimwoman3

It is actually quite difficult to get a photograph of a woman in Pakistan. Their husbands often object. The women are very suspicious of foreigners. And the saddest reason, the fear that any picture taken might be used for lewd purposes at a later date. Fortunately for me, the people were willing to let me get a couple shots of the colorful attire used by Shimshali females.

shimwoman

shimshalgirls

goat

This captivating local girl helps her family tend the goats they take to the hills during the summer months. She had the most amazing green eyes that brought to mind the famous and recently reprised
National Geographic cover of the woman from Afghanistan.

This herd of over 100 goats get milked twice a day and they all have names!

shimman

shimschool

This Shimshali man dons the hat worn by northern Pakistani men in even the hottest months. The men of Shimshal have the reputation of being the finest porters & mountaineers in Asia along with the better-known Sherpas of Nepal.

A future Nobel Peace Prize laureate?

The book "Three Cups of Tea" & the Central Asia Institute, or CAI, has done lots of incredible work in just under a decade. While our government has been bombing a torturing the people in Muslim areas, Greg Mortenson has been building schools for them. Here is a post I wrote about Three Cups of Tea a few months back.

There are myriad ways we can influence the Islamic world besides bombing them. "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace." - Michael Franti

My food & lodging in the village were provided at the students’ family home as there was too little tourism to date to support the building of a guesthouse. One is in the works for next year’s tourist season but I’m grateful to have made it as early in the fledgling stages of tourism as I did.

Yazgel-Tent-Karakoram

This is the view I awoke to after spending the night camped out on the edge of Yazgel Glacier.

pals

This picture eloquently illustrates that glaciers are, in effect, frozen rivers. The residents of the valley (such as my 2 guides) practice the rarer "Ismaeli" sect of Islam and hence are mostly removed from the sectarian strife between Shia & Sunni Muslims.

This anecdote from my visit might be considered an amusing insight to some.

An estimated 4 billion people worldwide saw the opening ceremony & other parts of that summer’s Athens Olympics. The people of the world’s 5th most populous country weren’t among them. polo
Try as I might, I caught not one moment of Olympic coverage on TV - not even any highlights - as the interests of the locals dictate the programming. Their message is loud and clear: We don’t give a damn. Pakistan did send a few athletes to Greece, but failed to capture even a bronze in any of the events. That means this nation of 170 million+ had to look up the medal board at such powerhouses as Eritrea, Mongolia, Syria, and Trinidad & Tobago. (To their defense, Pakistan’s arch-rival India, with a population over 5 times its size, managed only one medal.)

No, Pakistanis are more concerned about games with names that sound like an insect (cricket), vegetable (squash), or designer brand (polo).

karim1


Hunza Valley: Where worlds collide

The town of Karimabad in the heart of Hunza is one of the most strikingly beautiful towns one could ever hope to visit.

Stunning steep mountains formed where the Indo-Pak & Australasian plates meet are the youngest on Earth. Abundant freshwater springs may be the reason people here have been known to commonly live beyond 100 years.

Hunza-Women-Karimabad The best apricots I’ve ever tasted, likely another factor in the robust health of the populace, were being harvested during my visit.

baltit
The now defunct Baltit Fort towers over the valley.

masonry

Exquisite stone masonry gives an 18th-century feel to some neighborhoods. It also clues one in to why the massive earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 caused so much death and destruction.
352895817

minapinglacier

Minapin Glacier, wedged between two 7000-meter+ giants, Diran and Rakaposhi, has some nice alpine forests nearby to provide a pleasant break from the largely barren arid terrain that covers much of northern Pakistan. Dispelling my idea of what glaciers look like- a fairly smooth large slab of ice- sharp dramatic shards often protrude up and deep fissures drop down into a chilly dark abyss.

Kashmir

skardu


Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream
I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed

-Led Zeppelin: "Kashmir"

SapuraLake
This is a rarity in the rugged topography of the region: A lake. Sapura Lake in the foothills above the town of Skardu welcomes those descending from the towering high plains of the Deosai Plateau, "the Tibet of Pakistan".

An area Bill Clinton in 1998 called "the most dangerous place on Earth" falls partially under Pakistani control. And this isn't even anywhere near the tumult in Afghanistan.

Various talks and confidence-building measures cautiously have begun to diffuse tensions over Kashmir, particularly since the October 2005 earthquake in the region; Kashmir nevertheless remains the site of the world's largest and most militarized territorial dispute with portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas).

toothbrush This guy was kind enough to demonstrate how one uses the "toothbrushes" he sells, which are in fact small tree branches with the ends softened by a knife.

My arrival in the town of Skardu coincided with the National Pakistani Independence Day celebration.  Hundreds of men and boys and a small girl or two took to the streets chanting and waving Pakistani flags. Yes, this was a bit unnerving for an American in post-Sept 11th Pakistan. What would happen as the jingoism reaches a fever pitch?

Then again...

Hey what is that arrow pointing at? Is that....no. That isn't. It couldn't be.
On the flag? Mickey Mouse? Emblazoned on the Pakistani flag!?!
mickey

mickey1

Why, yes. It indeed is Mickey Mouse emblazoned on the Pakistani flag. This proved to me once again that the U.S. has done a remarkable job of marketing itself to the world via Hollywood & the like.


Northwest Frontier Province

This region has long harkened images of terrorist training camps and the like due to the understandable bias of the western media. When I visited in 2004, Swat Valley was still a place where American tourists were welcome, if not common.

manandson

This man and his son might be perceived as citizens of virtually any country in Europe, North or South America were it not for the distinctive Pakistani Salwaar Kamiz.

Since then, most of the Swat Valley was overrun by Islamist militant leader Maulana Fazlullah & the Taliban insurgency.

The Pakistani government announced on February 16, 2009 that it would allow Taliban's version of Sharia law in the Malakand region. In return, Fazlullah's followers agreed to observe a ceasefire negotiated by Sufi Muhammad.

Other places I enjoyed, such as the city of Peshawer, have been subjected to numerous bombings in crowded public places. Islamabad has had to impose martial law on various areas repeatedly, yet has continued to lose control. Unfortunately I cannot find my digital files which have pictures of burqa-clad women and other images from this region. I did have the unpleasant opportunity to try on the burqa head-piece, and I can tell you it is very unpleasant, especially in such a fiery-hot climate.

birdboy

Pakistani food resembles Indian food but with beef. But sometimes you might be surprised.


Funny you mention it, because it also tastes like ass

The cuisine in Madyan, Swat Valley was particularly poor. I jumped at a chance to eat kebabs instead of a ladle of mystery meat stew. "Gimme FIVE!" Not until a few bites in did I inquire about the kind of meat it was. "Chicken," someone says. "I believe you call it the buttocks." I didn’t want to know any more as the taste alone had already brought me close to gagging. I try to never waste food, but this time I quietly paid and walked away without finishing my barbecued chicken anus.


Kalash: Inland island cultural refuge

kalash1

One highlight of any trip to NW Pakistan is a visit to the Kalash Valleys. A small pocket of 3000 people remain from what was once a much larger culture. Near the middle of a Muslim part of the world around the size of Australia, these people have managed to preserve their unique pagan lifestyle against the odds. Their name translates as "black infidels" due to the color of their traditional clothing and "heretical" beliefs in the eyes of Islam.

Although the men dress like Muslim Pakistanis, the women embellish their black robes with colorful spangles and often have tattooed faces. I was fortunate to have talked with the tribe’s chief to have arrived in time for the Utchal festival celebrating the wheat and barley harvests. Mirth and merriment abound while drumming, chanting and a circular dance procession go on late into the night and resume the following day.

kalashbaby

"Sunscreen" has been applied to this young child's face. Yes, it's mud.

The landscape is also special with 1000-year-old cedar trees littering the surrounding hills. Not far upstream one finds the border with Afghanistan on the other side of which many Kalash were - mostly forcibly - converted to Islam by the Muslims of Nuristan.

animism

Animist Idolatry. The people of the village try to gain acceptance by explaining that their belief system does not differ greatly from Islam. They claim to believe in one God despite cosmogony that suggests otherwise. (Wikipedia flatly calls them as "polytheistic")

headdress

Alcotourism

The highlight of many Pakistanis’ visit to the Kalash Valleys is the chance to leer at women exposing themselves. Well, their heads and necks anyway. They still wear long dresses with long sleeves, but Kalasha women don’t don headscarves like 99% of Pakistani women. But an even bigger draw for many is the opportunity to get drunk. Muslim countries of course enforce a total ban of all alcoholic beverage, so the availability of liquor in this non-Muslim region is a big deal. Sure, their Islamic beliefs still forbid them to drink, but that doesn’t stop them or even slow them down. Sloshed Muslims aren’t hard to spot throughout the day and night. Although it may sound funny the reality is that it’s rather sad. Full-grown men behaving like stupid, obnoxious teenagers is not a pretty sight. Some Muslims who live in the area have the telltale swollen red proboscis of full-blown alcoholics whose only relief will be an early death.

Kalash tribe Pakistan
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Asalaam Aleykum & Shukria for reading
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The details about people who have, in theory, agreed to participate in this series, and links to the diaries already published (with a few more portraits from Pakistan mixed in).

List of Past & Future DKos Travel Board Diaries (the last 3 of which have made the Diary Rescue:

USA

mechanic

Alabama
  left my heart
Arizona
  Phoenix - Leftcandid
California
  Northern CA - SallyCat
  Northern Orange County - Seneca Doane
  Sacramento - tgypsy
  San Diego - SDChelle (can offer advice)
  Southern - Jbeaudill
Colorado
  Lakewood/Denver  - carver
DC area
  lulu57
Florida
  Oceanview  - ObamOcala
  Panhandle area - panicbean

blackglaciers2

Hawaii
  Big Island - Purple Priestess
  jlms qkw
Indiana
  Southern part of state - kathryn1812
Maine - Cartoon Messiah
  Coastal Islands - ksingh
Massachusetts
  oceanview
  Boston - tnichlsn
Minnesota
  Minneapolis - parryander
Missouri
  St. Louis - GoldnI
Montana
  Big Sky Country Part 1 -  Ed in Montana
New Jersey - Blue Jersey Mom
New Mexico -  linc
  Santa Fe and north - claude
  Albuquerque – votingformydaughtersfuture
  Southern – 4 corners
New York
  New York City -  plf515, LarryinNYC, DrSteveB
North Carolina
  Charlotte - eeff
  Chapel Hill - chunyang
Oklahoma - karesse

minapinglacierboy

Oregon
  Portland – arenosa,
  Portland – Hardhat Democrat
  coastal - Jbeaudill
Pennsylvania
  Pittsburgh - Pandora's Box, housesella
  Lancaster - spedwybabs
  Central PA, Harrisburg - wishingwell
South Carolina
  Charleston – CamillesDad1
Tennessee
  Great Smoky Mountains – RantNRaven
  Nashville – fiddlegirl
  Chattanooga – Sandy on Signal
Texas
  Dallas-Fort Worth – drchelo
  West – 4 corners
Utah
  Salt Lake City – jlms qkw
Vermont
  North-central  - 4freedom
Virgin Islands  Caneel
Washington
  Leavenworth - marlakay
I-90, WI-MN border - 1864 House

pathan2


Other countries

Belgium - Cartoon Messiah
Cambodia - LaughingPlanet
Canada
  Alberta – TexMex
  Montreal - dragOn
  Thunder Bay - Howth of Murth
  Vancouver - Purple Priestess (can give information)
China
  Shanghai – mweens
  Sichuan – LaughingPlanet
  Yunnan - LaughingPlanet
Colombia
  Bogata - bogbud
Costa Rica - Alice Olson
Croatia - seenos

pathanman1

England
  London – shazzbot
  North England – Cartoon Messiah
France
  Lyon - melanchthon
Germany - lizah
India
  Northern States - LaughingPlanet
Indonesia
  Sumatra - LaughingPlanet
Italy
  Rome - lizah
Japan
  Tokyo – YoyogiBear
Korea - LaughingPlanet
Laos - LaughingPlanet
Mexico
  Cancun, playa del Carmen, Tulum - davidseth
  Colonial Mexico - TKWow
  Jalisco  (SW Mexico) – mango
Pakistan
  Northern Areas- LaughingPlanet
Scotland - linc
  Edinburgh - SDChelle
Spain  - Cartoon Messiah
Thailand - anniesamui
  Bangkok – Shunpike
Tibet - LaughingPlanet
Wales - linc

If you are traveling, you may contact the person listed to see what they can do for you. They may be able to host a person, or have a meal, or just offer advice.  Note they are not obligated to do anything; these are just people who have told us what areas they live in or have expertise.  Also, any arrangements you make are between you and the person you write to.

If you care to volunteer for future weeks in this franchise, please contact me, LaughingPlanet or mention where in the comments below.
This series was started by plf515

I randomly blockquote from these earlier writings of mine from the road.

Previous dKos diaries I've written about Pakistan HERE and HERE.

Originally posted to The Laughing Planet on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:05 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  TiPakiStan (32+ / 0-)

    Things may have changed in the 5 years since I was there, but for me, hanging out on this span over icy-cold waters was one of the scariest moments I had in my two months in Pakistan.

    passubridgemonkey

    And if you think I'm just pretending that this bridge is freaky scary, look again. Locals who live on the other side are grateful to have it. They walk for miles with large loads on their backs and saunter across this "bridge" like it's nothing.

    passubr

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

    by LaughingPlanet on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:04:23 AM PDT

  •  pics (9+ / 0-)

    LP, I am having a busy Sunday here. Scrolled through quickly looking at the pictures. :) Have rec'd for the pictures alone! I promise I'll come back and read later.

  •  Nepal (10+ / 0-)

    Recently returned from Nepal where I did the 30 day Everest trek again after 25 years. Thankfully almost all of the "Indian Jones" style bridges over the roaring rivers have been replaced by steel structures. Made it feel a lot safer, which is nice as I took my 13 year old daughter with me.

    Love the Himalayas.

    I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

    by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:12:08 AM PDT

    •  tea houses or tents? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roses

      How was the tourist traffic? But if you were last there 25 years ago it was probably pretty sparse then -- hard to compare to just ten years ago.

      That's probably my favorite trek in Nepal, esp above Namche Bazaar.

      •  Teahouses (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        roonie, roses, parryander

        We walked in (from Jiri) and out (To Bhandar). It took us 32 days.

        There were a ton of changes. Now almost every tea house has some kind of electricity, even if it is a small solar panel charging a car battery to run one fluorescent light at night. We could get a double room every night ($1 or $2/night) , whereas last time we had mostly floors, dormitories and even outside on straw.

        There is a lot more tourist traffic above Namche. Below there may even be less than 25 years ago as most of the tourists now seem to be in their 50's and 60's on trips from Europe and fly in to Lukla, whereas before they were backpackers on long trips. (We arrived in Kathmandu the same day as the flight crashed in Lukla killing 18).

        Above Namche it is more developed. Lots more teahouse that can get packed out by groups in peak season. The groups are not much fun, and often try to push their customers to go to far too fast (which can be deadly at high altitudes).

        Overall a fantastic experience and a great way to celebrate my 50th, not to mention a great bonding experience with my daughter.

        I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

        by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:40:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  sounds pretty nice 50th celebration! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          taonow

          How did the knees hold up?

          I'm suprised there were so many tourists, but that is good to hear. I know a year or so back the tourist trade had really dropped off in Nepal with the Maoist insurgency.

          Wow, had not heard about the Lukla crash. That is rare -- those Nepalese pilots are amongst the best.

          The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is startling awe-inspiring. And a helicopter ride from above Namche to Lukla is pretty spectacular too, esp with the locals on board, cured animal legs and all sticking out of their baskets, into one's face...ahhh,,,,those were the days....

          •  Pretty good (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            roonie

            I was actually quite surprised as my knees hurt less than when I was 25!

            I think the difference this time was that we hired a porter/guide to help with carrying gear for my daughter (and a bit of mine too). He made sure we did not go too fast, especially downhill (he kept a great pace). In my youthful days we bounded down the hills...which you regretted later.

            This time we actually had a day where we climbed about 800 meters (about 2500 ft) and then descended 2,000 meters (over 6000 feet) and the knees survived.

            I could feel the "age" though. Even so I may try again when I am 75!

            I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

            by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 10:34:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  oh yes, porters! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              taonow

              Smart of you -- I wouldn't have it any other way! For several reasons: one, it's HARD going up and down the himalayas! -- even when young; 2) it frees one up to really enjoy the trip; 3) it gives the locals some much needed income; 4) a good porter can act like a pseudo-guide and help one access the local flavor more.

              The Nepalese ex-pats ALL used porters. It was usually only the tourists who carried their packs.

              When I went to Nepal in my early 20's and hiked I also had more trouble with my knees, but I was carrying my pack then. Ha! I had to be carried down a mountain section on a porter's back when I was 20-something cuz my knees gave up!

              Typically, it was the young hotshot tourists who get into medical trouble/emergenices when I worked at a clinic there. They didn't realize how unforgiving the altitude and terrain could be, even on their young bods and pushing-the-edge spirits.

              •  Porters (0+ / 0-)

                Actually one of the main reasons I had a porter/guide was in case anything happened to me on the trek. I did not want my 13 year old to have to fend for herself.

                As it happened I got quite sick walking out (fever etc) and had to have her (and the guide) look after me for a bit. My daughter got sick too with tonsillitis, after coming down from Kala Pattar. Luckily there was a "rescue station" at Machermo that was staffed by foreign doctors (it is not fun to walk 2 days to get to a doctor). They had antibiotics and said she was the youngest foreign patient that they had had.

                I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

                by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 10:58:46 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  for being so remote (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  taonow

                  there is actually quite an amazing support network up there,,, considering: antibiotics, doctors, etc.

                  Did you go up to the Gokyo lakes?

                  Kala Patar!  What a great memory for you and your daughter. That view outta be etched in your mind,eh?

                  •  Yup (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    roonie

                    We did Gokyo and went up to the fifth lake. Accommodations were much better than last time!

                    For 25 years I have had a blown up picture of myself in front of Everest taken from Gokyo Ri as my "sanity" picture on the wall of my office wherever I worked.

                    This time we took the same shot with my daughter and I, so now I have two versions, 25 years apart, from the same spot.

                    I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

                    by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:21:55 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  beautiful! (0+ / 0-)

                      How special to be there with your daughter. Did she love it?

                      I was there too -- simply stunning. The whole region is so high, and I mean energetically, as well as obviously vertically!

                      I was probably last there in 1996 and the lodges were decent.

                      Did you go over the pass, Thorung La? (guessing from memmory) Or did you "back" out and go back around to the Everest base camp valley?

                      •  we (0+ / 0-)

                        We did Kala Pattar first. We were going to do the pass, but my daughter picked up a sore throat coming down from Kala Pattar making even the walk back to Labouche hard, so we decided to walk around (like I had done last time) through Phortse then up.

                        my blog on the trek is http://thodung.blogspot.com/

                        I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

                        by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 07:04:13 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

    •  Sounds great! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roses, parryander, trashablanca

      Nepal was also a tremendous country. I went about 2 months after this time in Pakistan. I must admit, the creature comforts of Thamel were rather alluring after so much time in more remote, less westernized areas.

      The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

      by LaughingPlanet on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:19:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thamel (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        roses, parryander, LaughingPlanet

        Thamel has changed a lot!!!!! Of course electricity is in short supply these days. When we were there you usually could count on 4 hours a day of "load sharing (no power)". I hear now it is up to 8 hours a day (pretty hard for restaurants to keep stuff fresh).

        I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

        by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:43:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  love it! (9+ / 0-)

    Thanks for your diary. I wasn't expecting a trip to the east, much less a trip to the Himals when I checked onto DK this am.

    I lived/worked 3+ years in Kathmandu in the 90's and sometimes really miss that part of the world. I always felt so cleansed by a couple weeks wandering in the high mountains.

    Thanks again for this -- hot listed.

    •  Hmmm...you sound like a good candidate (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roses, parryander, capelza

      for a possible dKos Travel Board diary about Nepal in the future...

      Just sayin...
      ;-)

      Glad you enjoyed, roonie. I wish more Americans would spend extended period time abroad like yourself.

      The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

      by LaughingPlanet on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:22:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yeah, I love the east Asian area (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        roses, taonow, parryander

        Luckily I traveled a lot of it when I was younger and could deal better with some of it's hardships.

        I never made it to Pakistan but -- geography-wise-- I suspect it's very similar to Nepal. Culturally, there are probably lots of differences -- esp with Thamel!

        I have spent a lot of time in India and Nepal, and less time in Thailand and Burma. Love them all.

        If I became un-employed I might take another extended trip to that region. I now have a friend married to a Bhutanese, living in Paro. Bhutan is definitely on my list, while the world is still travel-able. (I have a soft spot for the Buddhist countries...)

        •  Me too - Love east Asia. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          roonie, roses, LaughingPlanet

          Lived in Taiwan for a number of years and have traveled through the region quite a bit. Can't wait for the kids to head off to university so I can head off on the road with my wife again. I'd love to move back to Taiwan and get a small place in the mountains and then use it as a base for further exploration of Taiwan and Asia.

          I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

          by taonow on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:52:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  An outstanding diary (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roses, parryander, LaughingPlanet
  •  You're much braver than I am. (5+ / 0-)

    Maybe if someone offered me a ridiculous amount of money I could see traveling in that corner of the world.

    Great pictures and diary.

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:15:00 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, I suspected that perspective (6+ / 0-)

      And before I visited I felt a few similar reservations.

      But there are tourists from all over Europe, Canada, NZ & Oz there. It's mostly we Americans who are reluctant to brave the unknown. I think much of it has to do with our corporate media and its doom & gloom.

      Truth is you have a much higher chance of being shot in any American city than just about any "foreign" country in the world.

      Glad you enjoyed traveling there "vicariously" anyway.
      :-)

      The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

      by LaughingPlanet on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:32:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  when I left my cushy university job (5+ / 0-)

      in the mid 90's to live and work in Nepal people would exclaim how brave I was.

      I actually thought, "it's easy. It would be a lot harder to stay here doing this routine over and over."

      •  Nepal isn't unsafe, is it? (0+ / 0-)

        Unless there are Buddhist Taliban now .. .

        "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

        by Geekesque on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 11:48:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It depends what you mean by "safe" (0+ / 0-)

          I think the co-workers commenting how brave I was to uproot were mostly conveying their own projections of life outside the US.

          The past few years there was a civil war going on that did result in quite a few lives lost. They typically left tourists alone.

          No buddhist Taliban -- au contraire. Nepal is the second home of many Tibetan buddhists, who like all buddhists, are very tolerant and peace-loving.

          It was the Maoist insurgents who were the problem. Now I believe they are part of the government.

          It is the third world, so death is more in your face there, with earthquakes, vehicle wrecks, landslides, etc.

  •  Wonderful diary! Many thanks for sharing (5+ / 0-)

    your adventures with us.  It's enough to make one want to visit.  ;-)

    •  Even though they have...er...challenges (5+ / 0-)

      these days, I would bet most of the places mentioned in this diary would be warm and welcoming and safe. They were enjoying a steady increase in tourism ten years ago (as the beauty suggests it should).

      Then, since 2001, the numbers have fallen off the charts (below 10% of peak levels). I feel so bad for the good, honest & kind people there who suffer because of the fear fomented by the bad guys.

      I hope you go someday!

      The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

      by LaughingPlanet on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:25:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, what a beautiful and harsh terrain (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roses, parryander, LaughingPlanet

    .... the people must love it very much.

    "Toads of Glory, slugs of joy... as he trotted down the path before a dragon ate him"-Alex Hall/ Stop McClintock

    by AmericanRiverCanyon on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:25:06 AM PDT

    •  Hiya, ARC (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roses, parryander

      You should know about steep, harsh mountains!
      ;-)

      It's as if the Sierras were twice the height and had half the population.

      Not sure how much they love it or if they have been born into it and feel little option other than to make do. But then again, I've noticed most people have strong opinions about where they are from (and its food).
      [Disaffected suburban American youth notwithstanding]

      The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

      by LaughingPlanet on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:28:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  exquisite (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roses, LaughingPlanet

    thank you for a glorious journey.
    Wow.

    I hope someone does pick this series up - I am tapped out - Haiti can only be diaried about 2X per year...

    you would never get me across that bridge.
    well. maybe.

    "Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and legs collapse." - Al Gore

    by parryander on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:57:01 AM PDT

  •  Gorgeous diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roses, LaughingPlanet

    thanks for posting. Wow.

  •  Another beautiful and amazing diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandy on Signal, LaughingPlanet

    Thank you... and I don't think I would be able to cross that scary bridge. Yikes!

    I reject the false choice between securing this nation and wasting billions of taxpayers' dollars. - President Barack Obama

    by roses on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:58:33 AM PDT

  •  this diary and your others are just OUTSTANDING! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandy on Signal, LaughingPlanet

    did you take all these pics? i can't even pick a fav pic. the glaciers, buses, people --- all are just so beautiful.

    thanks!

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 10:29:43 AM PDT

  •  Warren Miller movie? (0+ / 0-)

    I think that a Warren Miller movie was filmed in this area?  I don't remember.

    Some young Westerners went skiing & snowboarding in an area that looked like this.  Some Pakistanis (maybe it was the Indian side of the border?) picked up the sport.

    Maybe Pakistan will win a medal in the Winter Olympics soon?

  •  Fascinating. Great job, laughing planet. (2+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this diary.  Both bridge photos (the walking bridge and the one with the jeep on it) are scary.  I don't know who built them, but I hope Pakistan gets some help with infrastructure soon, too.  

    The mountains are incredible.  I love this diary.  Thanks a million.

  •  So beautiful..thank you. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaughingPlanet

    I have been toying with the idea of doing a diary, my first, on the region.    

    But I could never do something like this.   Wow.  It is one of the places I have always wanted to to go to.

  •  great series and photos (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaughingPlanet
    in much younger days i read a national geographic magazine story about
    travelling the karakoram highway and decided i had to cross it one day

    what an adventure when i finally did !

    there were landslides that had to be crossed by foot and a truck brakedown
    that enabled me to sleep on a string bed near a roaring river

    wow ! what an incredible adventure !!        

  •  Thank You LP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaughingPlanet

    for this lovely diary. Amazing trek.

    "Even the poorest souls have wings, soaring above where despair sees a ceiling." Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

    by jmadlc55 on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:29:24 PM PDT

  •  BTW (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaughingPlanet

    I loved the idea of a soundtrack. Loved it!

    "Even the poorest souls have wings, soaring above where despair sees a ceiling." Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

    by jmadlc55 on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:30:32 PM PDT

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