November, and the weather in the Gilgit valley turns cold. Now is my favourite time of year in Northern Pakistan: sweaters are required inside, but not yet heaters; the sun is just the right strength and tea is taken outside, still in a sweater, soaking up the rays and the blue mountain sky.
Yesterday was a local holiday, some kind of Gilgit independence day (I didn’t quite gather from what, people don’t seem to know entirely), but this day off work leant itself nicely to a day trip to the Naltar valley, a high, alpine valley about 2 hours' drive from Gilgit. A friend from work (a young Pakistani with a commerce degree working in the accounts section of AKRSP) and two of his friends hired a jeep for the day (the fare was $34). This was a new experience for me, hanging out with Pakistani men my age. And it turned out to be a good one.
The valley is beautiful, though overforresting of the huge pines on the valley’s slopes mares the view. Snow had fallen not far up the valley’s sides. The four of us set out to climb up to the snowlines, following the edge of a terraced and cultivated bowl (now brown and smooth after harvest) with great views back of the fields, a temporary settlement of stone huts and, behind that a sheer rock face rising 3 or 4000ft. At the highest point of our short hike Rakaposhi was visible, it’s knife edge southern ridge shear against the intense blue of the sky. The afternoon shadows were already engulfing out position though it was only 14h30 and it was cold. We wound our way back through the big trees and encountered some black-haired yaks grazing on the way.
One thing I’ve noticed about Pakistanis’ picture taking habits is that they are much more interested in taking pictures of each other than the scenery or anything else. My friend had borrowed someone’s camera-phone and he and one of his friends snaped incensently on the way down, posing in every concievable location-against tree, atop a charred stump, on the edge of a terrace. It was comical. And my friend kept taking pictures of himself with his hat at different angles. The other guy and I walked some ways ahead and discussed the perception of Islam in the world today and the circumstances under which a Moslem is allowed the take the life of another person – a fascinating conversation that our language barrier limited somewhat.
Many of you have commented on my blog, both on the website itself and in e-mails. Thanks for that. These comments motivate me to keep posting and lead me to believe that this blog is reasonably valuable way to communicate what’s happening out here.