In June and July 2019 I returned to Pakistan after an absense of fifteen years. I first went to the Karakoram in 1986, and returned to Pakistan every summer until 2001. I explored the Hidu Kush, Hindu Raj, the Punjab. I visited Multan, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi. It was always my favourite country to work in as a trekking guide, and many close and enduring friendships were forged during so many treks, biking trips and expeditions there. The country has suffered terribly in the events subsequent to 9/11, and the nascent adventure travel business which we at The Karakoram Experience helped get off the ground was all but extinguished.
I was last there in 2004, leading a trip up the Baltoro to K2 in the year of the 40th anniversary of the first ascent. Even then I felt some trepidation about going back, due to the political and security situation, but since that time I have married and had children. Parenthood certainly transforms the way one looks at life, and I felt less able to justify taking myself off to my old haunts for weeks or months. However, it was never really just about the scenery or the travelling, but about the people. Re-kindling old frienships. Meeting the sons and daughters of my old adventuring mates. I was not disappointed. The minute I stepped into the visa office in Manchester I knew I'd made the right decision. The minute I stepped off the plane in Islamabad I felt as if I'd never been away.
As always, I was completely humbled by the kindness and hospitality shown to me at every turn. Walking into the garden at the K2 Motel in Skardu, exhausted after a 37 hour road trip from Islamabad via Babusar, the first thing I saw was the white beard of my friend Anwar Ali, who had travelled all the way from Hushe to greet me. Tootsie Ali. Momeen Ali. President Paratha. Cook. Guide. Mentor. Dear friend. Salaam aliekum!