Sunday, September 10, 2006


Finally I didn't need to force myself to eat breakfast!

I went for a bit of a walk around the district of Gilgit that contained my guesthouse. It was hot, hotter than I remember since July in Central Asia. It sat in a tight valley sided by high steep brown hills. The high mountains of the Karakorums & Himalayas were hidden from view. I can only imagine how it must roast in high summer.

Impressive also was that the Law was armed to the teeth. There were soldiers & policemen everywhere toting automatic weapons. At various points in the town barriers were set up allowing the military to control movement from one part of town to another. These places often had bunkers with heavy machine guns. I even saw a fortified gun emplacement on the roof top of a high building in the centre of town. Gilgit & the area around was mixed Shia & Sunni. I'd read that there had been some serious sectarian violence some years ago. The security forces were taking no chances. Even with all the guns around the atmosphere wasn't heavy. Typical for the Pakistan that I'd seen so far it was relaxed & friendly. Foreign tourists weren't drawn into their fights.

Unlike up the Karakorum Highway where the Ismaeli branch of Shia Islam dominated I sensed a stronger conservatism. Up there many women were seen out & about, some even unveiled. They would even even respond to a wave & a smile. Down here relatively few women could be seen on the streets & those that could were veiled with little more that the eyes visible.

In the afternoon I went to the local ground to see a polo match with a few people from the guesthouse. Though it was just a practice match the action was fast & furious, & great fun to watch. Polo is a dangerous game & not just for those playing. At one point a spectator got hit by a mis-hit ball. There was a stand where the spectators were partially protected by a wire screen but we knew this would get the way of photography so went to the unprotected common area. At one point I needed to duck to avoid being hit by a flying ball.

In October & November tournaments are held all around the Northern Areas of Pakistan with notable ones in Gilgit & Chitral, where teams vie for the honour of representing their region in the Shandur Cup tournament. This tournament is held every July at the highest point on the road between Gilgit & Chitral, the 3700m Shandur Pass. This is reputedly the highest polo ground in the World.

I cycled 0 km

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