[My 3 months in Pakistan #3] Northern areas + 40 pictures

MatkoDurko @matkodurko
· May 2018 · 9 min read · Pakistan · #story

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3 summers ago, I've decided to go for an university internship somewhere aboad. The country of my choice ended up being Pakistan - country I've heard of only as a terrorist paradise before. It all happened in summer 2014 and changed me more than I'd ever expect.

Hello people! As we've finally made it to the country after 3 posts (:D), now my choice is free to talk about all those amazing moments I've experienced there. And the first choise HAS to be - Northern Areas. Part of the country all Pakistanis are most proud of. It's not just a home of the deadliest mountain in the world Nanga Parbat or the second highest mountain in the world K2, but it's the purest and for me also the most humbling part of the country. Let's get into it!

Itinerary

The trip was planned for 4 days. We wanted to leave at 5am but I've already learned that following schedule is not the biggest skill of Pakistanis so I've counted on 7am. We've left 6:30 so basically we were 30 minutes ahead of time :D Plan for the upcoming days was:

  • Day 1 - reach Muzaffarabad and do a tiny trek above the town
  • Day 2 - reach Naran-Kaghan Valley and visit Saif Ul Malook lake
  • Day 3 - roam around Naran-Kaghan Valley (and get foodpoisoned like a pro :D )
  • Day 4 - Way back home (and vomit stops every 15 minutes :D )

The evening before, I couldn't contain my excitement so I've drawn a picture of Himalayas in my diary :)

Landscape and countryside

Drive to Muzaffarabad was just 140 kilometers so I thought we'll be there in max 3 hours. Well, I didn't count with what the landscape of Pakistan looks like. Those 140 kilometers took us full 8 hours! But honestly, I could sit in that car forever because the surroundings and countryside were just beautiful. Take a look!

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Chinese border is getting closer

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Traffic jams. These shepherd were often already weeks on the way, walking to the nearest big city to sell their goats.Walking by feet, sleeping on the ground...

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Last village before Muzaffarabad..

Muzaffarabad reached

After those grueling 8 hours on the bumpy roads in the old van with our "crazy Chaha" (translation: crazy uncle driver), we wanted to get out into the nature. Muzaffarabad is relatively small town in the middle of Himalayan hillsides so getting to the nature wasn't a big problem. I've never really been a nature loving maniac. Simply said, I'm a town boy who likes computers. But that nature there was just something else..It was just..different.

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One of the strongest moments of those 3 months

As we wanted to go down to Muzaffarabad, we've came across a small hut. A man was standing outside and smiling at us. Me and Borja (Spaniard) broke from group and approached him. He didn't understand a word but he showed us around his house and proudly tought us how to milk a cow. It was amazing, we were talking just with a sign language. But that man was..pure. He was smiling all the time. Later the rest of group came and Ma'm Aesha, our awesome internship coordinater translated some.

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I even got a private lesson :)

The man introduced us to his wife. They have been living in that hut 20 years and farthest away they've been was Muzaffarabad - town reachable in 30 minutes by feet. We got invited inside the house - no electricity, no heating, no water supply. Main source of light is a torch and they cook on fire. It was just so humbling to see all this. They cooked us a typical pakistani black tea with fresh milk and sugar. I'm not exagerating now, but it was the best tea I had in Pakistan. That fresh milk was just so tasty.

Eventually, we said goodbye to these pure people. I'll remember this afternoon probably forever. It was first time in my life when I've met people who had literally nothing and despite their situation, they shared with us everything.

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The woman was very shy and didn't talk much. But her smile was worth hundred words :)

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The man looked at us till we've lost him from sight. Sometimes I think this "encounter" was as crazy for him as it was for me.

Tired after the whole day, we've finally came to our tiny hotel. Before sleep we've decided to play a boardgame LUDO. I always thought it's typical just for my country (Slovakia), but as I've quickly realized, they know it in Pakistan, UK, Spain, Oman and also Turkey :)

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Muzaffarabad -> Kaghan Valley

Next day, next 6 hours in the van. But the country was changing in front of our eyes. Less and less trees and more and more hollow rocks. People were getting more...tough. Their faces were saying it all, the life is hard in this part of the world. Many of them were living in the simple tents. Yet, they didn't look sad :)

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Everything was just big..

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...and peaceful

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Homes of local farmers

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New and even nicer view every 10 minutes

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Saif Ul Malook lake

This lake is the pride of all Pakistanis. They've been talking about it over and over again. I wasn't really sure what can be such beautiful about "some" lake. But there indeed is something "mystical" about it. 3, 224 meters above the sea level, the lake is located above the tree line, and is one of the highest lakes in Pakistan. But for sure the most beautiful, as I was told from many sources.

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"Please sir, let me get naked, just for a minute!"

In general, temperatures were finally enjoyable. In Islamabad, we were daily enduring 40+ degrees and crazy air humidity causing that sweat was not evaporating from the body but just. Staying there. So of course I wanted to jump into that ice cold lake :) I've found a partner in crime in Olivia from UK, but there was a problem. She didn't have any extra clothes and even a half-naked woman in public is absulute no go in Pakistan. I've experienced the most absurd situation, where a girl was asking 2 men (security) to allow her to get naked and those didn't even consider it for a second. I mean..it was just too funny not to laugh. Where else in the world can you see such situation? She had to go in the Tshirt and trousers so I told her I'll do the same. But eventually she said "F it" and undressed her jeans. I checked the security guys. Both of them immediately looked away. I had to laugh again :)

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Finally some workout

Next day we've visited some other lakes and just roamed around the area. It was beautiful, but it lacked one thing - bridges :) Instead of bridges there were these suspension cages. Without my agreement on the topic, the group has elected me to be the "power behind the wheel".

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"Where are the interns?"...."Dunno, maybe medical centre again?"

Yeah, except for campus dorms, we've all spent quite a lot of time in the medical centre getting fluid nutrition :) Single week didn't pass without an intern getting food poisoned, so we felt there kind of like at home. Well, now it was my turn again. It probably happened on the third evening during dinner. The night was the worst night of my life. I've vomited cca 15 times and the same goes for that second action when our stomach doesn't work. Also, probably because I like to multitask, I had to do both of them at the same time several times. I pray to every god in the world to save me from such experience again!

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Picking my poison in the local restaurant...I can't believe that moment is really captured.

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Way back to Islamabad. Mommy Hussam took care of me :)

Couple of pics I somehow didn't manage to fit anywhere

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I hate this picture. I should have refused to take it. Kiddos wanted money and guys wanted a picture. They made a deal...I'll never take such pic again :/ Hope you will learn from it..

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My experience

Those tree months were probably the most important 3 months of my life so far. I've realized many of true life's values, met AMAZING beautiful people, saw some real hard life stories and but also a georgous country and its culture. I've also understood what real islamic religion is about and how massively misinterpeted it is in the western world.

What I've learnt summarized in 10 pictures

This part was in previous posts filled with 10 pictures which tell the biggest lecture I've learnt during my stay in Pakistan. Because I don't want to re-post those time and time again, I've exported that part to an image which you can see

HERE!

I hope that in these posts I'll be able to properly explain what I've experienced that summer so you all could get some value out of it.

  1. [My 3 months in Pakistan #0] Introduction
  2. [My 3 months in Pakistan #1] RAMADAN surprise
  3. [My 3 months in Pakistan #2] Lost in Islamabad and "terrorist" in the shower
  4. This one

Thanks for reading!
Martin

You can find my latest posts here:

  1. Ice cold shower CHALLENGE - rewards for EVERYONE !
  2. Introducing my partial weight UPVOTING TOOL for minnows with less than 500 SP :) Easy setup!
  3. [Book quotes reactions #3] - "Your bigger purpose doesn't make mine less important"
  4. How I've learned that orange on traffic lights means stop and not go faster!
  5. [Save some time with podcast bits #1] Joe Rogan Experience - Kevin Lee

Topics: STORYPHOTOGRAPHY

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