Before our race down south, we actually spent a wonderful two weeks in Pakistan’s Northern Areas. First of all, we’ve been riding the Karakoram Highway, one of the most spectacular roads in the world. The KKH runs for twelve hundred kilometres from Kashgar in China to Islamabad, and every day is an adventure.
The Karakorams are also a prime trekking destination, with some of the most awe-inspiring mountain scenery I’ve ever seen. Most of the eight thousand metre peaks are found here, including the K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to see it, as the trek to the basecamp takes two weeks. We did go on several day-hikes as well as a few longer treks. The most unforgettable being the trek to the basecamps of Rakaposhi (7788m) and Diran (7266m), on which we crossed the impressive Minapin Glacier with the help of our guide Hasan.
We stayed a while in the magical Hunza Valley, which is quite different from the rest of Pakistan. People are Ismaili here, a school of Islam far less radical than Sunnism, and are extremely friendly. Ever since 9/11 tourism has been on the decline, although in this region there has been no attack against foreigners in more than forty years. Until two weeks ago, when nine trekkers were killed around Nanga Parbat. In Karimabad, where we were staying at the time, people were genuinely sad about what happened, embarrassed even. And they’re afraid, afraid that the trickle of mountaineers and trekkers still visiting the Northern Areas will now also stop.