Written by baroudeur2004 on 22 Sep, 2007
Nowadays is maybe not the right time to go and visit Darra Adam Khel, especially with the terrorist threat. Darra Adam Khel is a gun workshop village 30km south of Peshawar in a tribal zone administrated by the Affridi tribe (Pashtos). To go there from…Read More
Nowadays is maybe not the right time to go and visit Darra Adam Khel, especially with the terrorist threat. Darra Adam Khel is a gun workshop village 30km south of Peshawar in a tribal zone administrated by the Affridi tribe (Pashtos). To go there from Peshawar, there are two options: you can go by bus (ask the bus to Kohat and get out at the entrance of the village), but you will risk being sent back by kashadards, the local tribal police. Permits are not delivered anymore by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in Peshawar because of security reasons, and theoretically, you are not allowed to go there. However, there is another option: going there illegally with a guide and a driver (ask for them at your hotel if you are not approached by a guide). You should go through the checkpoints without problems if you say you are going to Kohat. At first sight, Darra Adam Khel looks like any other village in Pakistan, but if you look closer, you will see gun shops and behind the main street gun workshops. Your guide will give a bribe to khasadars and you will be able to visit the village escorted by two guards. At first, I was offered delicious tea from a huge samovar and I was shown three different types of guns (Kalashnikovs and pistols) that I could manipulate. It is said that a gun maker in Darra can duplicate a gun that he has never seen previously in ten days (three days for the further copies). 400 to 700 guns are made in Darra every day and sold to smugglers or Afghan warriors. I was authorized to take as many pictures as I wanted; the gun makers were quite friendly and were proud of their skills. Also I could hear some gunshots near me: guns being tried before being sold. I was also proposed to try some of the guns for an extra price (not cheap, though; prices are barely negotiable). If you decide to try the guns, you will be taken into a backyard in the village where you will be able to shot on a rocky hill; you will also be given some explanations on how to hold a gun. Only for the very adventurous, this excursion is not really recommended right now because of the problems in the tribal areas (in 2005, it was safer). Close
Written by baroudeur2004 on 23 Sep, 2007
In Mingora bus station, when asking for the bus going to Gilgit, I am indicated a minibus next to me. I put my luggage on the roof, and I get up. I have very little space for the legs and I know that the ride…Read More
In Mingora bus station, when asking for the bus going to Gilgit, I am indicated a minibus next to me. I put my luggage on the roof, and I get up. I have very little space for the legs and I know that the ride will be long, very long… All that I hope for, is that the road will be in good state… After half an hour of waiting, the minibus is finally full and can leave.The driver stops to refill the tank and to re-inflate the tyres then the minibus enters on a partially battered road. I just hope that it will not be like this for the whole journey, because the suspension is bad and I sometimes knock myself against the window or the ceiling. After ten kilometers, the state of the road gradually improves and we drive at ease during half an hour in Swat valley, northwards. The valley starts narrowing, and I can contemplate the changing landscape at ease. The mountains gradually become higher and at a given moment, the driver turns eastwards to take a mountain road. The scenery is splendid, but the road deteriorates more and more as we slow down more and more too. I am beginning to get fed up of this minibus and I am looking forward to arriving in Besham. I just know that after a 2,000m high pass, I will be half way between Mingora and Besham.After a checking point on the pass where I have to leave my name and address (for security reasons), the road deteriorates further and it is now a rocky road. The landscape becomes gradually more and more mountainous, the valley narrower and narrower; there is just enough space for two vehicles to cross each other. There is no parapet and fortunately we are driving near the mountain slope for the major part of the way until Besham. Time passes slowly, and I am fed up of this bus because I am forced to firmly hold myself on the seat if I do not want to be knocked out. At one given moment, the minibus stops: there is a traffic-jam. According to what I can understand, rocks crumbled down and a tractor is awaited to evacuate the rocks. At 12:30, I arrive completely exhausted in Besham, and I know that there is still a long way left to Gilgit. I do not want to take one of those minibuses any more and I await a coach coming from Islamabad at Karachi Hotel. I am told that there is a bus coming from Islamabad at 2pm and that I have time to eat something. I order dhal rice with a Coke and I chat a little bit with a political sciences professor. The bus arrives at 1:15pm and its passengers get down for lunch. There are still seats in the bus, and I get in. The bus is somewhat comfortable and has A/C. I am reassured because I do not want to spend 10 more hours under the same travel conditions as this morning. At 1:40pm, the bus leaves. We drive along the Indus River, crossing tiny villages in small valleys (which were formerly independent micro-republics). Karakoram Highway does not deserve its name. It certainly does not look like a highway but more like a mountain road (in good state, phew!). The landscape changes again. From Mingora to Besham, the mountains were green, and I could see tea plantations, farms, holiday villas, etc. After Besham the mountains gradually become rockier and the peaks increasingly higher. We are entering the Indukush mountains and right after them, it is the Himalaya mountains.At 6pm, we stop close to an affluent of the Indus River. A mountain river flows into the main river with a deafening noise. A man offers to host me and two other fellow travellers in Gilgit. The bus must repair a flat tire and change the water, and repair takes a certain time, during which I get to know the other passengers. There is a deaf person among them, and I try to briefly communicate with him. His Sign Language lacks structure (many useless redundancies, according to my analysis - I am a Sign Language researcher by the way). I have lots of trouble to follow him, but after a short while, I manage to communicate with him. Close
Written by baroudeur2004 on 21 Sep, 2007
After the crossing of the Iranian-Pakistani border, I had to wait for several hours in Taftan, a deadly boring dusty village full of smugglers. There are several cafeterias where I could eat and drink. However, I did not have much choice, compared to Iranian restaurants.My…Read More
After the crossing of the Iranian-Pakistani border, I had to wait for several hours in Taftan, a deadly boring dusty village full of smugglers. There are several cafeterias where I could eat and drink. However, I did not have much choice, compared to Iranian restaurants.My first taste of Pakistan was a glass full of milky tea, but which tasted more like hot water with milk and sugar. I guess I was the main attraction of the village that day because everyone had a laugh seeing me full of dust and sweat. After my tea, I ate the national Pakistani meal: dhal with rice. I did not know then that it would be my everyday meal for three weeks until I left Pakistan. Taftan was also the place where I got my first diarrhea in two weeks. Luckily it stopped after my visit to the local dirty toilets…My bus was normally leaving at 4pm and was next to the customs checkpoint…I had arrived in Taftan at 10am. Six hours in nowhere! The most boring wait of my life! Do not expect buses to leave on time, especially in the Indian subcontinent! My bus left one hour late because of a problem with heavy luggage on its roof and also a small problem with the motor battery. Also do not expect to see tourists in Taftan. Everyone was staring at me and saying hello. I had to answer at least one thousand times to the Indian subcontinent number one question: ‘wherrrrrre arrrre you frrrrom?’My most unusual experience in a bus happened there. The bus, crowded with Pashtos and Balutches was riding at full speed on an empty road, sometimes crossing coloured lorries (also called 'wagons' in Pakistan) when it suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere, in the Baluchistan desert and every man got off while the women stayed inside. It was sunset time, the time for the most important prayer of that day! Every man outside grabbed sand and washed their hands, arms and feet with it, then removed their turban and put it on the sandy ground and started praying Allah then got back on the bus.Although the Quran says that people do not have to pray while travelling on long distances, these guys were so religious that they could not afford to miss their prayer and postpone it on the next day. After a dinner break in a desert pothole, I managed to feel asleep even though I had very little space to relax my legs. I was woken up around 5am by a sudden brake. The same scenario was repeating itself: in the middle of nowhere, people were getting out of the bus for their morning prayer. That stop was longer than the last ones, because many people needed to piss, or smoke their first cigarette of the day while getting to know their travel mates. I arrived in Quetta (see my review) in a state of exhaustion at 9am, 24 hours after I had crossed the border. I was not mentally prepared for such a cultural shock that I needed three days to go past that initial shock and start enjoying Pakistan. Close
The border crossing Mirjaveh (Iran) - Taftan (Pakistan) was undoubtedly the most shocking experience I ever had, culturally speaking. Mirjaveh is a small but relatively clean border town on the Iranian side and it has only one huge guesthouse with empty corridors, probably the most…Read More
The border crossing Mirjaveh (Iran) - Taftan (Pakistan) was undoubtedly the most shocking experience I ever had, culturally speaking. Mirjaveh is a small but relatively clean border town on the Iranian side and it has only one huge guesthouse with empty corridors, probably the most empty guesthouse I have ever seen in my whole travelling experience. It is safer than Zahedan, though and it was my last overnight stop in Iran before crossing the Pakistani border. The Iranian-Pakistani border is supposedly open from 7am. The hotel receptionist had warned me to wait until 9am before leaving the guesthouse but I wanted to take the first bus departing to Quetta, Pakistan. I ignored his advice and looked for a taxi to drive me to the border. I was indicated the town exit where I could find a car to drive me to the border.Cars outside Mirjaveh are scarce and those going to the border even rarer. I had to wait for more than 40 minutes before someone agreed to drive me to the border for 40.000 IR (4 euros). I knew it was a huge amount of money for an Iranian, but since I had no other choice, I jumped on the occasion. When I arrived at the border gate, I noticed it was still closed. A Pakistani guy was already waiting and told me it would open soon. I realised that “soon” in his language meant at least one hour when the gates opened a little bit after 9am. Once I had crossed the gates, I still had to walk 400 more metres until the Iranian customs, still closed.Several Iranian and Pakistani families were already standing in front of the customs office; they had apparently spent the whole night waiting for the border to open.Around 9 :30am, the customs desks finally opened and everyone rushed to get his passport stamped; no discipline at all. I quietly gave my passport to the customs officer and he grabbed it before the others, and stamped it. I guess I got a tourist favour. Everyone around me started to complain about the fact that I was the last to arrive at the border but the first to go through customs! I got out of the customs office by a back door and an Iranian soldier gave me a big smile and wished me bon voyage without checking my luggage. An iron gate separates Iran from Pakistan. It was with big emotions that I left the Iran I loved so much. I left Iran to enter the Indian subcontinent. As soon as I crossed the iron gate, I noticed that everything had changed: organisation is much more chaotic, a crowd of people are waiting on the Pakistani side to get their passport stamped; a guard was trying to rule the crowd without much success. Being a “foreigner”, I was authorized to wait for my turn on a seat away from the sun. I had to wait for about half an hour before getting my passport stamped. Three men are responsible for writing down the entries and exits and there is no computer to register my entry into Pakistan. A man asked me “What are you going to visit in Pakistan?” I started to recite the list of the places I had intended to visit, omitting Kashmir and Peshawar. My passport was then stamped without the validity of my visa being verified. I learnt later that tourists are allowed to enter Pakistan by foot without visa. Once my passport got stamped, several people started trying to sell me bus tickets and extort me some dollars. I bought a ticket for a bus that only left 6 hours later. After exiting the Pakistani customs area, I entered Pakistan. The chaotic atmosphere then disappeared and I noticed a small dusty village, Taftan, about 500m away.Taftan houses and streets are awfully dusty, there is dry mud everywhere and roads are in such a poor state that I wondered how people could drive here. I knew then that I had left the more or less orderly Middle-East for the indescribable chaos of South Asia. Close
Written by Overlander on 11 Sep, 2001
The people of Swat do not have an easy life. The large majority is illiterate, there is very little economic activity in the region, and additional strain has been placed on the area by the influx of many Afghan refugees since the guerilla war against…Read More
The people of Swat do not have an easy life. The large majority is illiterate, there is very little economic activity in the region, and additional strain has been placed on the area by the influx of many Afghan refugees since the guerilla war against the Russians began and ended and the subsequent Taleban-sponsored civil war.
In many smaller villages in the mountains, there is a severe problem with undernourishment, especially amongst children. Few people see more than a few grams of meat each month. Many survive on what little they can grow themselves, which, due to the short growing season, is precious little. According to the Pakistani nutritionists I met, some people survive on a diet of wild spinach with a few eggs being the only source of protein at all.
All that said, Swatis are friendly, hospitable, and quite willing to share however little they may have. I was charmed by the kids, especially those I met out in the hills. And as a photographer, I was mesmerized by the faces, both theirs and those of their elders. Close
Written by themymble on 08 Dec, 2002
As we came into land, I glued my nose to the plane window and took in a reddish brown landscape speckled here with green and there with small spots of standing water. It looked dry, and hot – we were told it was 23 degrees…Read More
As we came into land, I glued my nose to the plane window and took in a reddish brown landscape speckled here with green and there with small spots of standing water. It looked dry, and hot – we were told it was 23 degrees centigrade outside – and it was only 6am. There was also a layer of hazy smog lying over the city. Land of black bogies, I thought to myself.
The whole arrival thing happened quickly – one minute I was walking across hot tarmac; the next I was whiling away a short queue by comparing passport stamps with an American girl I’d met on the plane (she won by virtue of being a diplomat’s daughter); and then suddenly I was on the airport forecourt with a bag that was almost bigger than me, wondering what I should be doing to get a taxi to Flashman’s Hotel. (See separate accommodation entry.)
While I hesitated a religious service in a language I didn’t recognise came on the loudspeakers in the arrivals hall. I saw a man walk past carrying an enormous gun. I suddenly felt very far from home. Then a swirl of cheeky sparrows landed in front of me and somehow it all seemed a little less alien.
A woman dressed in black and white strode purposfully up to me. "Taxi?" she demanded. Before I had time to reply she picked up one handle of my bag and half led, half dragged me to her yellow cab, which was decorated inside with a generous display of plastic grapes.
Having ascertained that I did want to go to Flashman’s ("Not good hotel. Plenty better."… "But I’m meeting friends there."), she told me that she was the first woman taxi driver in Pakistan, and that a journalist from an English newspaper was coming to interview her. I was rather intrigued by this, but she turned the conversation to her weighty catalogue of health problems. I had no idea one person could have so much wrong with them.
We zoomed through town – instead of indicators, use your horn. When you overtake, use your horn. After not long at all, I found myself standing with my enormous bag on the forecourt of the concrete horror that is Flashman’s Hotel. "Reception is there," said the only lady taxi driver in all Pakistan. "I could take you to another hotel if you want."
How much is it to take me back to England, I wondered, as the eight hour night flight and a bad case of homesickness caught up with me.
Written by asad sabetpour on 30 Nov, 2010
It was 1964 if my memory is correct when I at 17 crossed iran to Pakistan by train via Mirjaveh, The first stop was Taftan and we had chaparty and butter. Train ride was day and a half to Quita with unlimited number of stops.…Read More
It was 1964 if my memory is correct when I at 17 crossed iran to Pakistan by train via Mirjaveh, The first stop was Taftan and we had chaparty and butter. Train ride was day and a half to Quita with unlimited number of stops. Food was good in train . I remember part of the rail was washed away and we had to wait hours before we could continue the trip. The locomotive was of course steam engine, slow and noisy. hard to bring back over 40 years but it was a very interesting experience. Remembering it with a mixture of sadness and happiness at the same time. years later I crossed Mirjaveh and Taftan again but this time was a bit different, this was a to be a long journey called exile,My hope is to cross it again, this time to enter Iran. Close