When I first heard that the Karakoram Highway was considered by many people as the 8th wonder of the world, I must say that I was skeptical. How can a road be that interesting?
It was on the way to Hunza that I realized how magnificent it was. Obviously, not because of the pavement.
Planning a trip to Pakistan is not an easy task, but traveling around the country is a piece of cake!
When you want to go to Europe, Southeast Asia, or even America, you can find tons of information online on where to stay, what to visit, and how to get there. Choosing Pakistan as a destination might be a challenge to get info like that, which only improves the upcoming experience and increases the excitement.
The little material available online, including groups of travelers exchanging pieces of advice, mostly tells the same thing: Pakistan is the land of hospitality, divine food, and unbelievable landscapes. That’s mainly what caught my attention and made me decide to see it with my own eyes.
To me, traveling is always about changing your perspective about a culture by immersing yourself in it. Going to Pakistan, which most of the time is wrongly portrayed by the media, was an adventure against prejudice. There, I met the kindest people in the world and felt safer than in my own hometown.
Thirty minutes after arriving in Lahore I was already being welcomed by everyone who would see me with my big backpack. Everyone kept staring at me and when I would notice, they would give me epic smiles.
Walking in the narrow streets of old Lahore meant being stopped for Chai every 50 meters and being asked to take selfies, just like a celebrity! People were so kind all the time, offering me to try the food and to guide me around. I even got my own group of students who showed me the city.
The next days allowed me to bury myself in the most delicious food I could taste and experience more about the local culture. I loved visiting the fort, the mosques, and the border with India, but I must say that the utterly amazing experience is to be around them, always spreading.
Thinking about the 30 countries I’ve been to, I can put Pakistan on the top of the list in terms of safety. I never felt unsafe in the country, and I always walked around everywhere independently. I could feel extremely comfortable whenever I was.
The buses from city to city are excellent and the urban transportation includes many options as Uber, taxis, and good public buses. From Lahore, I got a wonderful bus to Islamabad and was curious to exchange a chaotic city for a peaceful, and kind of empty, one. Islamabad is a capital ordered to be like that. With fancy cafés and blocks of buildings, it shows a different side of the country.
I arrived in Gilgit coming on a 16 hours bus journey from Islamabad and, expecting to see the mountains, I was surprised when I got wet from the moment I stepped out of the bus station. It was raining. Since I only had one night in the city, it was frustrating that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beauty I was promised from day one. This experience made my encounter with Hunza Valley more valuable than ever.
One interesting thing I learned on the way to Hunza is that the clock runs in a different way around there. I was never sure for how many hours I was on the road, as my attempt to capture all the landscape details would make me lose track of the time.
Once in Karimabad, even though my legs were going up the hill, my head was always facing the extensive land of natural elegance and my eyes would fill with the most insanely beautiful colors. Seeing Hunza in October is a fascinating experience, as the orange leaves of autumn are showing up within a green background still present surrounded by frozen peaks.
Going up on the KKH to the Attabad Lake would keep my breath away at every corner. The blue water of that lake contrasting with the mountains would once again fill my eyes with beauty. It’s such a marvelous place created by a disaster. It was formed in 2010 by a landslide dam, blocking the flow of the Hunza River.
The next days were getting colder and by the end of I reached the Khunjerab Pass, the border with China. It was -12 ºC, most of the road was covered with snow and my fingers were frozen. It is the highest in the world, with 4880 meters. I only allowed myself to stay there for 20 minutes and head back to, where they are famous for having the best apricot cake in the world, besides the perfectly aligned mountain cones.
Furthermore, it was in the Ghulkin village where I stayed with a family, who welcomed me with open hearts. They provided me with a great place to stay and cooked the most delicious traditional meals that I could taste. The smell of the eggs being fried in the apricot oil still fills my memories, sitting in the kitchen with the kids, getting close to the fireplace in order to keep warm. On the next days, they showed me the surroundings, including Ghulkin and Passu Glacier, Hussaini Hanging Bridge, and Borith Lake.
Traveling to Pakistan allowed me to set my mind free and accept the love I was being given. The country provided me more than I was expecting. My eyes couldn’t believe the landscapes they were capturing and my soul couldn’t smile enough with the whole experience.
Hunza has infinite colors, changing at every second, sunlight, and angle. The valley tastes like the reddest organic apple you can find in the trees. Pakistan is wild, is hospitable, and is translucent love.
Camillo de Souza is a 27-year old, traveler Brazilian. As of December 2018, he has been to more than 30 countries. He says he “left my heart in Pakistan”.