Swenson’s trek through Pakistan begins with 15 hour van ride over rough terrain

Pictured above is one of the drivers in the jeep. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF SABRINA SWENSON

 


(Editor’s Note: Sabrina Swenson, a 1986 graduate of Postville High School, is the daughter of Erma Swenson and the late Marlin Swenson. A world traveler, Sabrina is sharing her experiences of her recent trip to Pakistan. This is the first of a three-part series.)

Pakistan was created in 1947 as an independent homeland for Indian Muslims. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a constitution in 1956, officially becoming The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. After an ethnic civil war in 1971, East Pakistan seceded from the union to become Bangladesh. In 1973 Pakistan adopted a new constitution. Pakistan has the sixth-largest armed forces in the world and is also a nuclear power as well as a declared nuclear-weapons state, the only nation in the Muslim world to have that status. Located in South Asia, Pakistan is surrounded by Iran, Afghanistan, China and India.

My trip began with a flight into Islamabad, the capital. In order to get a visa for Pakistan, if you’re headed to the North of the country to Hunza valley, a guide is mandatory. As such, I arrived in the wee hours of the morning, to find a huge herd of people waiting for their loved ones. There were only two of these people holding signs with foreigners names on them. Mine was one of them. The guide and I immediately set off to the guesthouse. As we pulled up, there was no sign that it was, indeed, a guesthouse. A man inside opened the door to a courtyard and I could see the entrance. Still, no sign that it was a guesthouse. It simply looked like someone’s home. This was on purpose. Not wanting to draw any attention, we stayed in this nondescript locale. The majority of Pakistani people are lovely, however, terrorism in the country certainly exists. After a good sleep I woke the next morning and had breakfast in the common area. I met the two other travelers that had also signed up for the journey. We headed to the airport shortly afterwards for our flight. The first stop, the village of Chitral. Apparently cancellations are plentiful in and out of the remote Chitral valley as the mountainous region often has heavy fog. In fact, the area is cut off from the rest of Pakistan for three or more months of the year due to heavy snow. We got to the airport and all the way to the gate. It looked promising, alas, it was not meant to be. Heavy rains began and we sat around a while before they finally cancelled the flight. The guide had anticipated a long drive, since cancellations are so prevalent, and so, we boarded a van for the long journey. The drive was approximately 15 hours and I originally wondered why we were in an ordinary van for such a drive on a rough and challenging road. I thought a 4 x 4 would be a better option, however, I was not making transportation decisions that day.

To read the rest of Part I pick up the November 28 edition of the Postville Herald.