Skip to main content

Pakistan 2010

Pakistan 1

Speaking of Pakistan, we have had an absolutely incredible three weeks here.. From the moment Rob and I set down in Islamabad we have been treated like royalty. First we meet with Sajjad who is the president of the Pakistan Association for Free Flyers in Rawalpindi and he went out of his way to look after us in every regard for our flying and transport to Chitral in the NW of Pakistan. Within two days we had recovered our tandem gear from the airport, got over our jetlag, meet all the local Islamabad pilots, dined (but not wined- we did have some whiskey one night) , meet up with various politicians and dignitaries and were generally blown away with it all. What a start!

Then from Islamabad/ Rawalpindi (the twin cities of Pakistan) we headed off on a very long bus ride (17 hours), over some amazing mountain terrain to enter the Hindu Kush area and our destination, Chitral, the large city of the Chitral Valley (also known as the Kalash area) which borders with Afghanistan. It is a totally peaceful valley and the Chitralis are a very friendly and helpful people who go out of their way to greet you…definitely feels like being a celeb with all the hand shaking that takes place! Again Rob and I were completely blown away by the locals and their attitude to us. Our paragliding hosts in Chitral, are Farhad (who is a true royal Prince of the valley) and Saifullah Jan. Both have been extremely helpful and kind.

And so the paragliding began. We’ve had 9 incredible flights so far, our first flight from the relic summer palace high above Chitral (2500m) saw us flying up to 5000m above the city (1500m) with the incredible Hindu Kush mountains as our backdrop. We were fully loaded with bivy gear, oxygen for high altitude, an incredible amount of warm clothing and of course our camera and video gear. Getting ready was an epic in its self, let alone flying with all the extra weight. What a great first flight…60 km, we were ecstatic!

The flying has just got better and better, we’ve had back to back 100 km and 120 km (135Km for Rob) flights flying above 6000m (highest altitude for me has been 6530m—seriously cold- fortunately my hands have been pretty good with my merino inners, down mitts and gortex outers), over some seriously beautiful terrain, full on glaciers, snow fields and mountain tops. THIS IS IT in terms of flying… Pakistan has it all. We’ve also had some major retrieves as well, like two days to get back to Chitral, so landing out is only half of the adventure, the other half is getting back. As well we’ve had some scary moments, like flying across a seriously high pass completely covered in snow and ice in order to take a short cut through to an adjacent valley, with virtually no way out (except by climbing down) if we had landed high up, or flying around Tirich Mir, the 7700m giant peak 20 kms from Chitral. This isn’t easy flying with +8m/s thermals the norm…..fairly full on flying as expected, but totally exhilarating!

So we’ve connected up with 2 other pilots here, Mukrim from Bosnia (now living in Canada) and Demitri (from the Ukraine), turns out that we are the ONLY foreign pilots in Pakistan at this time and may well be the only ones here over the summer… seems amazing that more pilots aren’t here now. It’s pretty awesome that we are flying together,

So ours plans are to remain in Chitral for another week or so and then make our way through to Gilgit, then north up the Hunza Valley on the KKH to Karimabad which will be our next base, all pretty exciting.

Cheers for now…
Grey

Hi Everyone, sorry again for

Hi Everyone, sorry again for the mass email but it seems the easiest way to fill you in with all that’s been happening here in Pakistan. There aren't enough superlatives to describe our time here!! It has simply been AMAZING.

What is absolutely clear while we've been here is that the world media's fixation on the troubles (and I don’t deny that there are problems) here have had a devastating effect on the economy and the tourist numbers which are incredible low this year. There may only be several hundred western tourists in the country if that! For our month in Chitral we meet a grand total of 8 foreigners! Now we are in Karimabad in the Hunza Valley which normally is a tourist hub with many hotels, restaurants and tourist shops all of which are pretty much shut now due to a dire lack of foreigners. Basically there aren’t any visitors!

And yet the people of Northern Pakistan are brilliant, friendly, hospitable, cheerful, pleasant (see the superlatives just don’t stop). Everywhere we have ended up has been incredible. To give you a simple example; yesterday was a bit overcast so Rob and I decided to hire a jeep and driver and visit the Hopar valley, tramp across its glacier and make our way through to the next valley and tramp up along the Miar glacier so we could see the massive mountains at the head of the valley. Three hours into the walk we were invited into a shepherd’s hut and kindly served a lovely cup of fresh milk tea and some food. Just a small example of the hospitality we’ve experienced throughout our time here.

Today marks the end of week 7 and I see that it has been a month since my last email to you. My last email was composed in the city of Chitral not far from the Afgan border. We had some incredible flights and even more amazing returns. Mukrim (our Bosnain/Canadian friend) had the longest period away. After two days of flying with a night of vol bivouac he took a full week to return!! Transport was apparently in very short supply! And believe me that got the wind up us for sure. The longest return Rob and I had was 2 days (by jeep/bus) and that was serious agony. Don’t get me started about the local transport and the Pakistan roads here, suffice to say that you a need to bring along a very, very thick cushion to mange the bone (as in ass) shattering journey! Unfortunately I didn’t have the cushion and my derriere, much reduced due to illness, was literally broken!!

Sadly towards the end of our time in Chitral we all got sick and with sickness came serious loss of weight, lethargy, sleepiness, and a desire to do nothing. It was time to go, we had done all the flying we could in every direction, and we were in fact flown out and ready to move on.

We gathered our gear, said our farewells and prepared for the energy sapping 2-day journey to our next destination which was Yasin Valley, well east of Chitral. Our good friend Farhad (royal family of Chitral) kindly put us in touch with his cousin (another Royal) who lived there. And of course after arriving we were treated most royally! After a day of rest we were ready for the flying in this stunning valley. It was hike and fly but fortunately our hosts organised porters to take our bags up the 400 metres to a takeoff we had spotted the day before. The takeoff worked brilliantly and in no time we were hoovered to cloud base. Epic flying continued and upon landing we were instant celebs!! Everyone wanted to touch us and shake our hands, it was all too much! Yasin was a secret jem for flying and we managed many great flights. No one had taken off from our site so we proudly declared ourselves pioneers!

In the meantime we had been invited to participate at the Shandur Pass Polo Festival, the highest Polo match on earth, paragliding overhead and thrilling the crowds with our amazing acrobatics (not). It was a great time indeed, first the polo was awesome, flying great, and there was lots of entertainment. We were again treated like royalty, served great food and hosted by all the Pakistani pilots from all over Pakistan- it was great to get to know them! On the last day I had a great xc flight back to Yasin an 85km flight. By now it seems we are well acclimatised and 6500m+ height doesn’t seem to affect any of us…strange. The best thing about this particular flight was I didn’t have to travel on the dreaded road!

We all managed to meet together again in Karimabad on July 11, festival time here for the Ismalis. This was the day in 1957 when the Aga Khan (religious leader) was inaugurated as leader, taking over from his Grandfather. The Aga Khan foundation is amazing in providing medical facilities, schools, road works and a host of other projects and programmes within Pakistan. The festival was incredible for the fact that in the evening many hundreds of fires were lit in the mountains at the back of Karimabad and then burning tyres (yes burning tyres!) were released at 8pm and allowed to roll down the incredibly steep slopes…what a sight!! (not too good for the environment I suspect!). On the day Rob who had already been in Karimabad for a few days had a great flight over Ladyfinger and Hunza peak and around Ultar (all immediately behind Karimabad and breathtakingly beautiful) … he was very excited and we were very jealous! Hopefully in the next day or so we shall all have a similar flight…once the weather improves! Then the big flight around Rakeposhi, which dominates the southern horizon at 7788m, is next!!

All my best to you for now… next mail out will be from India!!

Highlights

Rob’s tandem world height record 7455m !! (Chitral)
My best height 6705m (Yasin)
total fly time for me 63 hrs

You can read more about Grey and Robs trip ...

You can read more about Grey and Robs trip to Pakistan on Robs blog here