I may not have had adventures as exciting as elsewhere (e.g. Laos), but as a country, Pakistan is definitely the best country of them all.
I'd been told. I'd seen some pictures. But I didn't believe it until I saw it (experienced it is more like it) myself. Northern Pakistan is the most beautiful, awe-inspiring place I've ever seen, handily beating out Nepal and Himalayan India.
The mountains and valleys are so steep they are IN YOUR FACE; the glaciers come up to the roadside. Pakistan has the highest concentration of tall peaks in the world, with 121 higher than 7,000 meters (22,966 feet). Anyway, it is truly beautiful and blah blah blah go look at the pictures if you really care.
OK, so it's a bit of a culture shock dropping in on your first really Muslim country. In the beginning, it seems that one of the women must have gone to the restroom, all the others went with her (of course), and they never came back. Meanwhile, the men are attending the world's largest pajayma party.
But it only takes a few hours to fall in love. In a way, it can be almost as difficult to get somewhere as it is in India, but for a completely different reason. You can't walk a block without someone coming up to you, shaking your hand, and introducing himself. And if you're not invited to sit down for tea or come stay at someone's house at least once an hour, it probably means you are in serious need of a shower. And these are the big city people! When was the last time you were in, say, Dallas or Chicago and got invited to tea 8 times and offered a place to stay 3 times in a single day? The mountain and village people are also not to be outdone... OK, I'll shut up now.
Funny that in the country in which I felt most safe, a pickpocket tried to tag me. I had just reached into my pocket to get some cash while waiting in line for entrance to Lahore Fort. Someone bumps me, putting pressure only where the pocket is, then immediately turns around and heads back out of the fort entrance. I knew he tried for my cash, but didn't think he got anything. I followed him out of the entrance, and watched him from a distance of about 50 feet.
Several people simply noticed that I looked distressed, and came up to me and asked if I was OK. I mentioned that the guy had bumped me, and left hurridly. They have me point to him, but by me pointing to him looking concerned, I have now allerted all the people near him, who converge on him, drag him back where I am, and empty his pockets to make sure he didn't get anything! It wouldn't have suprised me if they'd turned him upside down and shook him. Like I'd thought, he didn't get anything, and they let him go. But once again, where else but Pak can you just LOOK concerned and have 10 people rush to your aid?
For those that care, I've put up statistics from my trip, such as how much I spent per day (average of $17.75/day, INCLUDING airfare from the US and back), number of digital pictures taken (over 3,800), etc. I've also put up "tops" lists covering my best and worst experiences, adventures, recommendations, and whatnot. One fact that floored me is that the website got over 25,000 page views in these first 8 months it was up. Zoiks!
It was worth it. For a price tag of under $4,500, I spent 8 months through 9 countries (and 4 hospitals), learning a lot about other places, and little about myself. Plus, I got a bunch of new cool scars.
This will be the last of these emails, as I'm sure no one (myself included) wants to hear me whine about Silicon Valley traffic or highlights from Mrs. C's latest Tacky Party. Climbing pictures from Thailand will be posted in a few weeks, so check back then if you care to see them.
Special thanks go out yet again to those who helped me out BIGTIME during my little staph infection / Malaysian hosptial imprisonment, especially my parents. As you can guess, that episode makes #1 on the list of sucky experiences.
Keep in touch, and those of you in the San Francisco area can expect lots of mooching and grovelling for free food until I come up with my next crazy scheme.
The following web pages have been updated or added to www.kenzemach.com since my last email:
Page Revised 11/16/00