Where do I begin with Pakistan, the diverse landscape, the wonderful people or the risk to my safety?
The people have been so kind, helpful and caring, from Taftan in the southwest to the northern mountains. Whether they are the police, people who work in hotels or the hundreds of people who stop me in the streets. I haven’t detected any stress, annoyance, negative behaviour or attitude anywhere, everybody seemed to genuinely want to help me in any way they could.
Everyone in Pakistan gives the impression they know everything and have total knowledge, I never heard anyone say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m unsure’, this means I have conflicting information to make decisions on as I get differing opinions on safety, routes etc. I can ask two people a question and I get two different answers, everyone believes they know which is right so I take many peoples opinions and hope for the best.
I have only good feelings towards those that I have met but I must say that 99.9% of the people have been men, I only briefly spoke to two women. I find this strange and my conclusion can only be that whilst the men are happy, kind and helpful I have no idea if this is true for the women. It feels like a ‘mans mans world’.
The vast majority of men are practicing Muslims so travelling in Ramadan is a challenge as is travelling in the summer months. I understand travelling in April or May is better with cooler temperatures and food & drink available throughout the day.
With deserts in the south and fantastic mountains in the north the landscape is diverse. It was great to experience desert life but there is no way I could live in such a dry, arid place. The desert towns feel very poor and the odd city doesn’t have any western influences which are evident elsewhere. Then you head north to the cooler mountains and it’s so beautiful with wonderful valleys, snow capped mountains and occasionally irrigated farmland. Travelling the KKH (Karakoram Highway) is one of the best experiences I’ve had and will stay with me forever, arriving at the Chinese border gave me such a sense of achievement.
Pakistan feels poor everywhere except Islamabad which is the capital city and has the government buildings and some western shopping centres, I didn’t enjoy it here as like many cities designed and built in the 1950’s / 60’s it is designed around the car with major roads linking maybe 10 or more districts without a centre. There wasn’t a community feeling or sense of identity.
Bureaucracy is evident everywhere and there are so many people involved in government paperwork moving it from one desk to another progress with anything from authorisation to move about the country to the postal service is extremely slow! If computers were introduced to Pakistan and the majority of people started to create wealth in business or manufacturing I could see a way into a prosperous modern world for Pakistan but I didn’t get the feeling it will happy any time soon.
I am not going to recommend anyone travels to Pakistan currently as there is a security risk throughout the country with different conflicts in different areas be they religious, tribal or political. This results is the police guarding you in the majority of the country 24 hours / day, on many occasions there were 10 armed guards either accompanying me or standing guard outside the hotel, add to this the additional bureaucracy and it can wear you down. That said I have had a wonderful time in Pakistan and when there is no longer a security risk I recommend you visit.
The people of Pakistan told me regularly how pleased they are that in spite of the western press we are coming and experiencing Pakistan for ourselves.
I will always remember my travels here.