Restless Lands: Frontiers of Pakistan and Northern India
About this blog
Our fascination with the Old Silk Road routes began in 2007 with a trip to Tibet, central and far west China (Travelpod publication "The Distant Chinas - 2007"). The seduction, mystique and extraordinary history of these old trading routes continued to lure us further west along the lesser travelled ancient trading routes of Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East (Travelpod publications "Painted Faces of the Silk Road - 2009" and "Secret Threads of the Old Silk Road - 2011"). The amazing history and the extraordinary travels and feats of the great Tamerlame, Genghis Khan, the Mughals and Marco Polo were inspirational also for our further travels to this region.
Renowned Australian author Christopher Kremmer and his fabulously interesting and informative book The Carpet Wars was another great motivation to follow further Silk Road routes and to explore the wonderful world of regional hand woven carpets. In an "out of the blue" email to him, Christopher personally responded to us and has continued to encourage us with our travels to some of the most fascinating (if rather politically sensitive) places in the world. We extend our thanks for his support and continued contact. We will always remember his line of "..and (if you do decide to travel..) I know you will have the times of your lives".
This year my husband Alan and I travelled the old trading routes through the little tourist trodden frontiers of northern Pakistan and India, marvelling at the grandeur of the great Himalaya and exploring the many hidden and intriguing fertile valleys of the evocative Indus River.
These are indeed Restless Lands; a legacy of the turbulent present and past political and sectarian conflict, the geographically precarious seismological nature of the youngest and fastest growing mountains in the world and the resilient nature of the ever moving nomadic people of these regions.
Thursday morning June 4th 2009, location Tashkorgan, a lonely Tajik township and the last base in the Chinese militarised zone before the Karakoram Highway winds its way across the eerie 4,700 m Khunjerab Pass (literal meaning "Valley of Blood") from western China through the mighty Karakoram Ranges and into Pakistan.
"Say you guys" purred our newly found Canadian friend Heather "You just must, must go to Ladakh on your next travels. You'd LOVE it!
We had met Heather and her husband Romas, and friend Barbara the night before in Tashkorgan. Romas was the Military Attaché for Canada and he and Heather were based at the time in Islamabad, Pakistan. Barbara was an aid worker who was later based in Afghanistan.
It was our first trip into Pakistan and we were both somewhat apprehensive about our coming travels. Our excited conversations with Heather, Romas and Barbara did not exactly allay our fears but we thoroughly enjoyed their company and gladly devoured their advice on safe (or lack of) travel in Pakistan. "Say you guys..... YOU think you are worried. We god damned well live there..." laughed Heather.
Ahh Ladakh.... It was the inspiration for our 2012 travels. The name of this very northern Indian province flanking the Himalaya had resonated with us ever since this chance meeting in Tashkorgan. We had never forgotten Heather's advice and this year decided it was time to travel to this little known part of northern India. Our visit to Ladakh provided us also with an opportunity to visit the well documented beautiful but politically volatile region of Kashmir and the northern areas of India, a country we were yet to visit.
To my delight, Ladakh was another excuse to visit our now beloved Pakistan, the fascinating but often infuriatingly frustrating country of which we have grown so very fond. Pakistan in our words has "really got under our skin". In fact, this was to be our third visit and we plan to return in 2013.
As usual we travelled to and from via China, a country we love and which has continued to serve as a most convenient base for our travels.
Our travels this year took us firstly to Pakistan, travelling huge rugged distances by mostly 4WD vehicles north from Islamabad through the Karghan Valley of the Kyber-Pakhunkhwa Province (formerly North West Frontier Province) over the stunning Babusar Pass, then through the glorious alpine Deosai Plains to the Skardu Area of Gilgit Baltistan Province. From Skardu we visited historical Shiga before travelling on to fabulous Kaplu, a fort and township close to the Line of Control with India before travelling back south via Islamabad to the vibrant city of Lahore.
From Lahore we crossed the land border into India to the Sikh city of Amritsar and then north to beautiful Srinagar in Kashmir and onto the extraordinarily stark but stunning province of Ladakh. Our travels then took us south to the province of Himachal Pradesh including the lovely mountainous townships of Manali and Shimla, before heading further south to Delhi and then on to the historical cities and glorious ancient architecture of Agra and Jaipur.
We transversed a huge diversity of lands, climbed to astonishingly high altitudes of nearly 5,800 m, experienced extremes of temperatures from a chilly minus 5 degrees C to a blistering 48 degrees C, explored a plethora of religions and experienced the friendliness of a wonderful array of different peoples and cultures.
Our entire trip to the restless frontiers of the Indo Pak sub-continent was a wonderful and fascinating experience. The trip was yet another series of adventures in the extraordinary travels we have undertaken in this lesser travelled part of the world.
We are in still in contact with Heather and are extremely grateful to her for her wonderful advice about Ladakh.
And yes, Christopher Kremmer we HAVE HAD the times of our lives!
My husband and I (aged 74 and 59 years respectively) travelled as we usually do as a private tour for just the two of us, and where necessary, using local travel agents and their guides and drivers.
We were more than happy with all the travel agents we contracted. These companies provided an excellent service with absolute integrity and most importantly, safe and comfortable travel. All were totally professional and we would highly recommend them.
We have used the fabulous services of China Travel Service, North Pakistan Adventure and Silk Road Adventure on many of our previous tours to China and Pakistan. We have formed a wonderful personal association and friendship with all of these agents and of their experienced and friendly staff. Contact details for our travel agents for this trip were:
China Travel Service, Sydney, Australia: China visas and air travel to and from China. Travel Consultant: Mr David Hu Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.chinatravel.com.au
Silk Road Adventures, Urumqi and Kashgar, China: Accommodation in Urumqi, far west China. Travel Consultants: Mr Abdullah Khaliq (Urumqi Office) and Mr Abdul Rahman (Kashgar Office) Email: email@example.com Web: firstname.lastname@example.org
North Pakistan Adventure, Islamabad, Pakistan: Organisation of all travel in Pakistan and co-ordination of border crossing into India. Travel Consultant: Mr Ishaq Ali Email: email@example.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: north-pakistan.com
Himalayan Frontiers, Manali, India: Organisation of all travel in India and coordination of border crossing from Pakistan into India. Travel Consultant: Mr Gopi Chand Email: email@example.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.himalayanfrontiers.com