Back from Islamabad this afternoon. Another really amazing couple of days (and I have the pictures to prove it!).
The trip started off a little rocky. I got to the Lahore airport in plenty of time and knew something was wrong when the marquee showed all the flights were delayed and no one was allowed inside the airport terminal. A delay in itself is not so much of an issue here during monsoon season (they can't always fly). However, not going in (the heat index was well over 110) and after a couple of hours and no flights going out I knew something was out of the ordinary. I finally went into a restaurant where I met a nice gal (Pakistani-American) from California named Ghizala. She and her husband (on their way to Karachi) took me under their wing and we finally found out that the head of the airline union had been killed in Karachi so the entire airline was on strike. A nice airline employee told me I probably was not going to be flying anywhere so I called friends, asked for advice and they said to come back and they sent the driver to pick me up.
Right before the driver arrived there a news crew told us that the strike was over and the flights were set to go in 15 more minutes. They wanted to interview me about what a foreigner thought of the delays, but I said "No, thank you!" Cancelled the driver, called the people picking me up in Islamabad, waited two more hours (15 minutes my foot!) and after a nearly 5 hour delay, the plane went out. Again, I was fortunate and met a nice young woman named Marium (traveling to Islamabad with her cutie pie little boy) and she helped me figure out buses, finding my ride, etc. Thank goodness for the kindness of friends and strangers! I would have never made it out! I had just about decided this was going to be more trouble than I wanted to deal with, but what the heck-I needed a little challenge.
My friends had already left home for Islamabad so poor things, they had to wait on me. I felt really bad, but was so glad to see Safir (the driver) and Mr. Aslam upon arriving! I didn't see much of Islamabad, but that can wait for another visit. The trip to the house should have been about 2 hours, but as luck would have it-part of the road had washed out a few days before and their was a traffic jam that was locked up for nearly an hour. Finally made it to the house and was so very happy to see Maryam.
The Aslam's summer home is in a little town called Bhurban that is part of the hill station on the foothills of the Indian Kush. This is the lower level of the Himalayas and the view from their home is breathtaking. The day after I arrived they took me on the most glorious tour.
This is the house I stayed in (still a work in progress) They have to shutter it up in the winter because they get about 5-6 feet of snow. They are adding gardens to the front and a path. We talked about all kinds of plans for this pretty house with a spectacular view.
I only stayed two nights but the first morning we trudged all over to get a look at things. The young lady below moved her goat off the path for us and wanted us to have tea with her. Most of the local people have to go down to a spring and get water as it is scarce. Some of the more wealthy families bring in water or have wells. This child was so sweet and her generosity touched my heart. The locals keep goats, donkeys, cows and chickens. Very rural, peaceful and with a much slower pace of living.
|This young girl offered us tea.|
|We walked all along this path and the view was lovely. The two days I was there this path was never empty. People were walking up and down to work, school, for water, herding animals-you name it.|
|The road rose slowly but then we came around a corner and were suddenly in the clouds. Lahore had been so hot and the air here was crisp and cool. The car windows were down and this cool air was a welcome change from yesterday's swelter!|
|Roadside attraction. These are every couple of hundred feet.|
|None of these pictures do this area justice. You can vaguely make out the valley but that is actually the top of another small mountain. Looking down was amazing.|
|There were monkeys near just about every corn vendor. Of course, the first time I saw them I was yelling "MONKEY!" and my friends were cracking up. After a couple of miles, I came to realize there were monkeys everywhere!|
After a nice dinner at my hosts home, we all went to bed early. The next day we had planned on driving to Islamabad and visiting a museum on our way to the airport, but the chance to go to another mountain village (Murree) sounded better (I can visit museums in the city next year and who knows when I will ever come back to this area?)
|Roadside cows on the way to Murree. We passed through a ton of small gali and these cows were everywhere. Sometimes they get in the middle of the road and just refuse to move.|
|Once we arrived in Murree we went to the local bazaar to look around, see the sights and shop. This is like an outside salad bar.|
|This area is famous for dried nuts and fruits. This was a vendor in the bazaar selling nuts. He had us sample everything and was really friendly and helpful.|
|The trucks here are decorated in the most amazing patterns. I will probably blog on these later, but this kind of gives you an idea of how elaborate the decorations are. This was a truck door.|
|Many of these little Gali have churches and convent schools. These are highly respected and a remnant of colonial rule.|
Tomorrow I want to grade papers, wash clothes and get ready for class on Thursday.