I was particularly excited and curious to make this journey. An important route thru Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang and last, but not least, Pakistan, the Land of Pure.
But the greatest thrill was to return for the third time to the intriguing city of Peshawar.
It would have been a journey of magnificent landscapes, passes almost inacessible with peaks set against a deep blue sky, boundless steppes. And the Karakoram highway, a 750km long road between the peaks and the highest mountains in the world. The Nanga Parbat, the Khunjerab pass with its spectacular road, one of the most impervious spots of the ancient silk road.
Off we go then! Leaving Italy towards Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan to visit Qoqand in the enchanting rich Ferghana Valley and Andjan, birth place of Babur the first Mogul Emperor. From Andjan our journey takes us to Osh and then Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgizstan, situated between Kazakhstan and the Tien Shan chain mountains.
Our journey proceeds thru spectacular places which skirt the Pamir mountains, the roof of the world. We stop in Naryn for the night and we sleep the 4 of us in a typical yurta tent. What an exciting and cold experience!
The next morning, after a typical local breakfast, we start our drive on a road flanked with plateaus and snowy mountains to reach Kashgar in the Takla Makan desert. Kashgar’s history spans over 2000 years and its importance comes from its strategic position.
Its Sunday market it’s spectacular, an experience that only Kashgar can offer. A fascinating mix of ethnic groups such as Kirghiz, Chinese, Kurds, Turk Mongolian in its typical costumes and caps. Here you can buy almost everything from sheep to horses, food and any kind of fancy goods. Trade remains a bygone style where the entire community gathers at the world’s liveliest market.
As we proceed towards the Karakul lake at 3700 mt the scenery is incredible and we can admire the great amphitheatre of the Kongur chain mountains and the breathtaking Muz Tagh Ata (7569 mt) glacier.
We arrive at the border city of Taxkorgan in the Cinese Xinjiang Uygur. After customs formalities, which take quite a long time, we leave Taxkorgan and thru the Khunjerab pass (4700 mt) we finally reach Karimabad in PAKISTAN! Here we meet Mehrab Khan (uncommon name for this country!!!!!!) our Paki guide, with the 2 Land Rover waiting for us. Our Pakistani Adventure starts!!
We first visit the Hunza Valley with its small characteristics villages surrounded by huge glaciers. We proceed towards Skardu Valley and Shyok Valley to visit Kaplu and the famous Baltoro glacier. Then back towards Gilgit passing by the majestic Nanga Parbat. Thru the beautiful scenarios of the Shandur Pass we enter Chitral Valley with the great panoramas of Hindu Raj and Hindu Kush. We stop 2 days in Chitral and visit Bamburet and Birir villages where we meet with the Kafiri Kalash people who seem to be descendent from Alexander the Great. Women and girls are dressed in their colourful local dresses, their hair is blonde and they have beautiful blue eyes! These people still maintain their culture, traditions and animistic beliefs. It’s with great sorrow that we leave these beautiful places and the lovely people! But our journey is close to its end. Down the Lowari Pass and we arrive in Peshawar.
Peshawar, a striking, animated city, an important commercial crossroads of Central Asia. The ancient part of the city, more crowded and fascinating, it’s a labyrinth of narrow roads, shops and the extraordinary bazaar full with all kind of things. I spent most of my time at the Afghan bazaar buying all sort of things from old tea pots, to tea trays, jars, carpets, always assisted by Mehrab, our guide, who tried to negotiate the best price for me! I was fascinated by the Afghan vendors!
Goodbye Peshawar, I wonder if I will see you again!!!!
A quick stop on the road at Darra to have a look at a weapon shop and then off to Islamabad airport. Lahore is waiting to say goodbye to us with its splendour. We have just enough time to visit again the Mogul fort, the Badshahi and Wazir Khan mosques and the Shalimar Gardens.
This is a journey I will never forget and I promised to myself that, sooner or later, I will return to Pakistan, a country that has a special place in my heart!