Choosing a photographer
Vintage Photo Books

you are at : [Travel Journals 2004 ]

No 1
No 2
No 3
No 4
No 5
No 6
No 7
No 8
No 9
No 10
No 11
No 12
No 13
No 14
No 15
No 16

In the North of Pakistan....

Wandering around the shops, I walked into one that sold material and antique necklaces, and there was a very attractive Pakistan the girl there, I though well-dressed with beautiful shoes, face uncovered of course, and she was busy making some decisions as to what she would have, was using a calculator and a pad to do her calculations, I asked my guide when we were leaving about her in the made the comment that she was dressed in normal Lahore clothing, but said because of what she was looking at she properly came from a rich family, and would want to be treated like a equal, in other words she may not do what he said!

There was however a little bit of improvement in him, as he tonight asked me how would I suggest he find a lady to marry, I said that your parents are going to choose one for you! He said no I've been thinking about that and I changed my mind.

I need to change another hundred dollar bill, so we wandered around town, the guide has known about this all day he finely the lead me to shopkeeper who offered 200 rupee is less than the official exchange rate for that amount. My guide made a rather smart comment that we should have done this, this morning, I said that okay that's 200 rupee less I will be able to pay you. That captured his interest immediately and so we were walking again and found one that offered 50 rupee is less, but changed his mind to a hundred rupees less when it came to the crunch. I was sick of it by this and took the dough.

Schooling is not compulsory here, and looking at all of the young children not in school it would appear as if there is going to be a large and educated group always in this country until they make some radical changes.

I had half thought of buying some carpet up here where it should be extremely cheap, I saw and that would be big enough for what I wanted but the price was NZ$2800, I'm sure for that price I will get a wonderful piece from one for many Turkish type rug shops scattered throughout New Zealand, it will certainly be a lot shorter distance to carry it.

I went into an Internet café to clear my e-mails, while I was there I took a look at the last six web sites my cafe computer had logged on to, and they were all heavy porn sites, by looking at their obvious names. Yes it is very similar to the prohibition times in America.

Sunday 16 May, Gilgit to Hunza
Breakfast was interesting, I had ordered fried potatoes, two fried eggs, toast and a cup of tea. They were treated as separate dishes or separate meals coming at all different times. I got sick of waiting for the eggs so I just made to with the large plate of fried pieces of potato, very large pieces of potato, some green pieces of potato, some pieces of potato that were badly bruised.

The butter to put onto the toast, had been melted and put into a small egg cup.

Thought, well that last I will see of this place, and I was sitting in my room, waiting for the driver, and a tall gentleman came and gave me a business card, I said thank you very much and continued to sit in my room, a few minutes later he came back to tell me that the regional manager for Pakistan tourist development Corporation wants to meet with me, I decided to grant him an audience, he was an extremely nice gentleman had been in this position since 1968, was originally from Hunza, his surname was Khan, as part of large family of the Aga Khan, who is from this area, and is the leader of a branch of the muslin religion.

He told me he was a leading authority on the history of the area, had written a book in the native language and was about to translated into English, that the people in this particular area originally came from Persia, he showed me his very light skin, which was about the same colour as mine, and mentioned also at Alexander the Great had been through this particular area.

He showed me around the hotel, and of course he had his staff running opening the rooms, and when I say running I mean running, boy could he gets his staff moving, I don't think some of them have moved so fast in their life, all since he had been their last.

He found out I was flying back to Islamabad, and said leave your ticket here and we will get it reconfirmed, which placed me in quite a spot because I was not going to be back at this hotel, but he was so nice and gracious I thought another night here it will not kill me.

Just goes to show what being extremely nice to the person does and how it pays off.

It is quite interesting his attitude towards his children, four of them girls and one boy. All the girls have got extremely high degrees, or are studying for doctorates in various subjects, and a son who is obviously the youngest evidently will be doing the same. It does look like some women in this country are allowed to use their brains, and to get equal opportunity.

After that excitement it was into the car and on North to Hunza, checked the hotel that was out on the boonies, had dinner, rice and chicken, but the chicken was not cooked, and with the way I've seen the chicken meat being handled since I've been here that was totally unacceptable, so lunch therefore consisted of rice.

It was then off to see the 600 year old Fort which was on one or highest spots in the area, which was okay, except one had to walk the last 500 feet up a very steep road, I realised at that point I was a flat Earth person.

It was an incredible view from the top, once I managed to get there, and get my eyes back into focus so again a good collection of photographs.

It was then on to a village, which was made to sound exciting, but it was just a group of houses, scattered, without any activity, so I ended back at the hotel at about 2 p.m., still reasonably exhausted from the 500 foot climb up what was almost a mountain.

So I spent some time putting together the nine pictures into a panorama and doing some Photoshop work on the edges which were not quite straight due to not using a tripod, it's amazing how time goes by when you using Photoshop.

Monday 17 May, Hunza
I went to have a shower this morning, and discovered the water was quite brown, it was as brown as the river which made me assume they collected the water from that source. Considering the circumstances I decided not have a shower as I came to the conclusion that I may be dirtier when I finished than when I started. I showed this to the guide, and he spoke to management, and they made the comment that all hotels have the same colour water. They obviously have never heard of filtration or settlement tanks.

For once breakfast was uneventful, when I came out the boys were ready to go, they decided we go up to Sost today, the other destination could have had slips on the road and it would not have been repaired quite as quickly as the Karakoram Highway which the military keep opening all the time.

Driving north through the mountains we driving through a very unstable environment with signs of slips on both sides of the river, the Highway side had four slips on the way to Sost, we had to negotiate, one was interesting and so much that it was in effect a small glacier blocking the road. I assume the water flowing from the snow was so cold that formed into ice and built up to this quite large blockage to form in effect a glacier of miniature proportions.

Some of the rocks that were ready to roll onto the Highway were the size of a good-sized truck, with a decent flow of water, which would happen often, or an earthquake, one of which I believe was felt two weeks ago and that would in effect close the Highway for some considerable time, because it would not only be one slip that many, that's how unstable I see most of the Highway to be.

The guide was telling me that the driver and is about to find a second wife, his words were that his first wife is very old and it is her suggestion that he get another wife. The story evolves that the driver, who is 38, married his wife some time ago as a widow, she is now at the very old age of 50, and according to muslin tradition he is considering marrying a younger wife. He will of course have to keep them both, but if they are good muslin woman they will do as they are told.

However back to the travels, the arrangement was we were driving to Sost, and then we are going to get permission to drive on North to the Chinese border. We stopped at Sost for the boys to have their cup of tea, after that, the guide told me the driver had said this was as far as the agreement for the travel went, he was technically not allowed to go any further, however if I paid for the fuel he would. As I could not imagine the scenery dramatically changing, I said we will go back. SEE MAP OF AREA

We stopped about 20 minutes later for another cup of tea as evidently the first one had bad milk, and as they told me what they were doing, I questioned as to whether this was in the agreement, of course no reply, I said I walk on, they said stay on the road, I said is that in the agreement? I go for a walk looking for photographs normally, which I do while they have a cup of tea, I said to the guide don't worry "what is and is not in the agreement" cuts both ways. So I walked on to quite a distance getting a few photographs and eventually they caught up to me.

Then they decided to take me to an old Fort, which was not on the itinerary, I did not comment. That happen to be closed for renovations but we did walk through a little village around it and again I managed to get some good photographs. Driving back towards the hotel the guide directed the driver right instead left, and we did a major detour around the village of Hunza, so far in fact that it would have at least been the distance we have gone towards the Chinese border. I believe they were trying to make up for their lack of judgement back at Sost.

to top right....


From bottom left

We passed by many schoolchildren on the way back to the hotel, it looked like school was out, and these poor little girls of kindergarten age, with every portion of their body covered no matter how hot the weather became, in looking at them through Western eyes, I felt very sorry for them and was extremely glad that my grandchildren were not born in this country.

Some of the older girls say 15 years of age, looked like they were trying to rebel a little bit, by walking along without their head being covered, walking with girl friends who had their head tightly covered. It was interesting to note some of the young woman when they saw a car full of men all of a sudden adjusted their head wear to conform to the religious specifications. Others obviously did not give a damn.

I find it reasonably distressing the way in which the woman are treated and the place that the average woman (in the north of Pakistan) has in this society and how they seem to be regarded as merely a chattel, to be used and disposed of as required.

Back at the hotel the sky had clouded over, the wind had come up, and the dust had started to become windborne. Not exactly exciting weather for trying to do photographs of people, which in this country is not terribly inspiring, the men almost all look the same with their beards and nightshirt type clothing and the women are off limits for the camera.

Tuesday 18 May Hunza
This morning was another nice clear day, I'm still in the hotel with the brown water, so as I have not yet reached that colour I'm probably better off to stay unwashed.

I was reluctant to have the discussion with the restaurant boy as to what I would have for breakfast has the choice was almost a zero, I had been having fried eggs and toast, but I'm not quite sure what they fried the eggs in as I had his slight upset stomach for most of the morning. Of course the butter looked so suspect, and having already eaten dairy products that I should not have in Nepal several years ago, I decided it was better off to be a "well" coward.

Quite frankly this trip to Hunza has been a total disappointment, the photographs they show you in advertising literature are nothing like what you actually see, or should I say nothing like what I have seen, which means I have been taken to the wrong areas, or my guide, that's his only been a tourist to this area in the past, had no clue as to where to take me. At least he speaks the lingo and could have, if he had wished, questioned the locals as to where to go but that may have been too much trouble.

So this morning I decided to go back to Gilgit and catch a plane out early. So I told the boys this and the reason why, with as much charm as I could muster in the situation, and so after a lot of red tape at the hotel, the debate over the extra used nights accommodation, the food bill and everything else they could think of, I paid some money and we were away.

It was a very silent three-hour trip back to Gilgit, I'm not sure at the guide knew how to take this infidel who believed that the women of Pakistan should be given some sort of freedom. Fortunately silence doesn't worry me, if he had wanted to get at me he would have been better off to have a continual line of chatter, totally inconsequential chatter, that would have driven me to distraction.

Eventually we arrived in Gilgit, went to the hotel where I had left the ticket, collected the ticket, dealt with the manager who charmed me when I stayed there on the way north, then headed off for the P I A office where I was told that the flight had been closed for today in spite of their still being an hour before departure, the flight tomorrow was full, and I was confirmed on the following day, and spite of their comments when I booked for the ticket, that this did not happen until 24 hours before the flight.

So I thought I'll throw the cat in amongst the pigeons, I said in that case please give me a refund, that was the easier thing I have achieved during my visit to Pakistan.

So I went out and told the boys the good news that I'd be accompanying them to Islamabad, they were very silent. Nevertheless we got underway, first I bought a large bottle of diet Pepsi, of which I managed to drink half of that before the temperature of liquid exceeded 20° later in the day.

We drove through familiar territory south, I stop them about three times for photos that I missed going north, we saw plenty of women working in the fields, plenty of men and walking the roads, standing on the roads talking, sitting on the side of the roads watching the traffic making sure there was not an Indian invasion.

We saw plenty of men piled on the tops of Suzuki sized trucks, so many that it was hard to see the truck, and the truck was tearing along at a great pace, I was expecting to see people lying on the side of the road that forum off this type of transport as it went round the corner but they certainly must hold on tight.

I asked the guide, why are the men not working? His reply was most of them have land in that's where they get their income! I guess that's why I saw all the women working in the fields, it's wonderful that they can work without supervision, it's a real credit to men for training them so well.

We went through lots of little villages on the way, they were marked by wooden lean to buildings which served as shops, often the man in the shop was resting, but I guess if you spoke to him gently he would wake up! The roads through these shops was full of potholes and work in progress, all sort of vehicles parked on each side of the road, leaving sufficient space for one vehicle to get through, of course there was all sorts of miscellaneous rubbish that became particularly bad when you reached these villages, but the men were extremely courageous and were busy walking through these shopping areas, greeting old friends, or sitting in groups deciding the next move that United Nations should take.

All way through the trip that I did to the north and back the army and the police were extremely evident, often standing on bridges with what looked like an AK-47, and more important places they were in behind sandbags with a automatic gun mounted on a swivel, in buildings there is usually a guard with an automatic shot gun, the total amount of firepower on display throughout the country is quite frightening. Add to this the situation of the lack of employment and lack of education for the majority of the male population, with nothing else to do but to sit and talk, listen to what their leaders have to say, and to work out dissatisfaction with their lot I believe the country is a powder keg just waiting for somebody to light the fuse.

We eventually arrived in Chilas where we stopped for lunch, well the boys got lunch, I attempted to, but whatever I wanted, was not available, so I made do with two cans of non alcoholic beer, which kept me going for the rest of the day, which was involved in hanging on for dear life as a driver drove through the incredible scenery of the Karakoram highway.

I considered staying at Chilas but as this was on me I had to negotiate with the owner as to what I was going to pay, he started off at 2580 rupees and came down to 1200 rupees, and quite frankly I got sick of the haggling, and decided to go on to the next destination which was the original plan.

We eventually arrived at Besham after a drive of 12 hours from Hunza, it was sort of good to stop moving, the only bad thing was the temperature there when we arrived at 8 p.m. I'm not sure what it was but must have been in the Thirties, and in the room I was allocated it was unbearably hot and the two fans on the ceiling were extremely successful in moving around the hot air, and I knew if I was going to get any sleep tonight was only going to be thanks to these supply of sleeping pills that I carry with me for such occasions.

Wednesday 19 May Besham
Well the sleeping pills a did the trick, I got a good night's sleep, the mineral water in the bottle this morning was a good 30° in temperature, the water coming out of the shower was clean but cold, compared to the temperature all around, yes Western ways make you soft.

Breakfast, the waiter recited the menu, I did not feel like greasy eggs, so I had an inspiration and had three boiled eggs, maybe not much of an inspiration to you, but for me who seldom eats boiled eggs, it was an inspiration.

Armed with a cold bottle of water I was ready for the 6 hour Drive to Islamabad. Again it was a nice silent Drive until we're about half an hour out of the destination, when all of a sudden the guide became talkative and started asking me all sorts of questions about New Zealand. Every time he made the comment how different it was in Pakistan I explained that what we had we called Freedom. He found it hard to understand that if you wanted three motorcars, and you could afford them, you did not need government permission to buy them. He found it hard to understand that basically there was no corruption amongst the police force. He found it hard to understand the Freedom that women have at all ages in the West.

Evidently his yearly salary is less than 1500 American dollars, I explained to him, or tried to, that whilst the salary is incredibly high, by his standards, in the West everything else is proportionally high so that if you are unskilled and find it hard to make ends meet in Pakistan there is a fairly good chance you would be in the same total situation in the West. I almost think it was beyond his comprehension.

When we arrived at Islamabad we drove directly to the airport and on the way we passed the military barracks which seemed to extend for kilometres, of course the military hardware that was on display was impressive. We drove through a narrow gateway into the airport passed a guard with machinegun in a pillbox, three armed guards on the gateway, into the airport with an incredible number of armed guards wandering around.

I presented a ticket to the guard at the entrance to the check in, and he was not prepared to let me in until I've been to bookings and had my ticket altered for today's flight.


Next Page

LIKE to receive my travel journals as they are written just click