Welcome to Pakistan (Wagha Border, Pakistan)

Welcome to Pakistan from Tahir
(Wagha Border, Pakistan)

As I drove up to the huge, stern looking Pakistani border guard, I thought here we go. I said hello and I got a booming hello accompanied with a massive smile. Welcome to Pakistan, where are you from? I’m from New Zealand but I live in London. Ah, my brother lives in England. How are you?! And there began my introduction to the Pakistani way of life. Warm, friendly and polite with an aura of suspicion that is quickly washed away once you introduce yourself.

I passed through immigration and customs with ease. The only issue being when they asked me if I had any alcohol. Hmmm… honestly or fibbing, which approach to take? In the end it was a bit of both. Yes, I have some whisky. Please empty it was the request. The last of the Jack Daniels that I’d carried all the way from the nightclub in Hotan, China to Pakistan was duly tipped out. However since there was no search of my vehicle (customs were happy to take my word I wasn’t smuggling anything) the other bottle of whisky remained.

I waved farewell, exited customs and entered Pakistan. Whoop whoop. I was relived to cross into a new country with no problems, especially as Pakistan is generally in the news for all the wrong reasons these days. It was very fast and straightforward process to be fair. Tahir was waiting for me as planned. We jumped into Boris and headed for Lahore, just 20 kms away. On arrival I settled in at the Zafar residence. They were going to be my main hosts for the journey and as a result were taking great care that I made it through Pakistan safely.

Relaxing in Lahore (Pakistan)

Relaxing in Lahore
(Pakistan)

I wasn’t planning to spend long in Lahore. So the next day we visited the Iranian consulate to check the process, then sorted sim cards and dongles for communication purposes. Tahir was extremely helpful and escorted me as we went for a drive around Lahore for a quick look to help me get my bearings.

The next day Tahir and I headed for Islamabad. Our destination was Tariq’s house just outside the city. As we drove around the motorway we passed through the fertile lands of the Punjab. Hazy skies with low visibility hung over fields of rice, oranges and sugar cane, to name a few. The Punjab is the bread basket of Pakistan.

One of the first things that stood out about Pakistan after coming from India was the western feel of the place. The foreign multi-nationals are everywhere in Pakistan. Major brands such as Subway, KFC and all the international car manufacturers are prominent. Even the truck stops on the motorway reminded me of the M1 in England. Thankfully there was no Little Chef in sight.

Valley views (Islamabad, Pakistan)

Valley views from Tariq’s
(Islamabad, Pakistan)

Patio views (Islamabad, Pakistan)

Patio views from Tariq’s
(Islamabad, Pakistan)

We arrived in Islamabad in the early afternoon but it was another 30kms drive to Tariq’s place. There was a crowd waiting for us. Tariq, Muna, Sulman, Tosef and all the support staff were eagerly awaiting our arrival. It was quite a welcome. We had the obligatory viewing of Boris and then sat down to chat. The lads are all petrol heads and loved to chat about vehicles.

That evening Tariq and I go to know each other over a few drinks. Tariq and his family were old friends of Pete Kohler (from my expedition team) and had offered, well actually insisted on hosting me in Pakistan. Tariq was a fascinating character. He was widely travelled and seemed to be involved in a variety of projects. A couple were contracts manufacturing hand bags for Polly & Me and coffins for a customer in the Netherlands (www.grafkist.nl). However I feel that his real passion project is www.naizindagi.org. This organisation is focused on fighting the drug problem here in Pakistan. A challenging battle that is supported by foreign funding and that Nai Zindagi is having success with in Pakistan.

Tariq & me (Islamabad, Pakistan)

Tariq & me
(Islamabad, Pakistan)

During our discussions it was clear that the Zafar family felt a responsibility for me but they didn’t have all the connections in the areas I wished to go. This was of concern to Tariq. Fortunately though I’d made a great contact in Moin Khan, as we are both Jupiter’s Travellers with the Ted Simon Foundation. It was Moin’s contacts that were going to help look after me on my journey up the Karakoram Highway (KKH).

I was excited and couldn’t wait to head up the KKH. This was one of the sections of the trip that I was really looking forward too!!

8 Responses to “Pakistan – Finally Reaching Lahore & Islamabad”

  1. this is awesome i want more!!!

  2. Sensational post Jon, some much needed restoration of faith in stunning places like Pakistan. I very nearly made it to the north when I was there a few years ago, but didn’t quite for safety reasons. Can you get someone else to dance with you for the camera?

    • Cheers Elizabeth. They are a little more reserved when it comes to dancing here but I’ve got a couple of shots.

      Just wait for the next couple of posts. The KKH will blow you away with its beauty.

  3. Mansoor Azam says:

    Awesome

  4. Looking forward to the next posts Jon. I know you will not let us down 🙂

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