K2- Karachi to Rawalpindi/ Islamabad

K2 is the 2nd highest mountain in the world, it straddles the border between Pakistan, China and India. It’s part of the Karakoram range of mountains, and it has the highest concentration of peaks over 8000m asl. Walking and driving through it is magical, it feels like the home of the giants. It’s a land full of glaciers including the Baltoro Glacier, which is the 3rd longest glacier outside the polar regions.

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Photo Credit: Alireza Teimoury

* I never worked for this company, but Ela (the girl) did, and it’s the only picture I have of myself in-front of K2. It’s the peak right in the centre.

To get there from Karachi, we took the Daewoo Express, a bus that can be booked and caught off MA Jinnah Road. You should book it a few days in advance.

Daewoo Offices

 

Obviously taken with my crap phone camera

Obviously taken with my crap phone camera

A rickshaw from somewhere around the city centre to the Daewoo office should cost you around Rs.100, or you could walk which is always interesting. If you a foreigner in Karachi, you learn to ignore the stares,assuming you don’t look Pakistani. I think the stares aren’t sinister at all, mostly curiosity and possibly a number of annoyingly persistent salesmen trying to get you to buy leather jackets or whatever. Being female might complicate your life a bit more, but a duppata over your head and conservative (Pakistani-standard) clothing is encouraged. I’d say it would be easier for you to go with someone else, but not dangerous if you want to brave it alone (most people will try to convince you it is). On the way to Daewoo, you might happen upon Empress Market- an interesting mess. It’s an open air market, with lots of blood and gore from the fresh meat on sale. Empress Market must probably be really interesting to visit during Eid al-Adha.

www.urbanpk.com

Empress Market – http://www.urbanpk.com

 

Sidebar: There are 2 Eid festivals, but this particular one is done to honour the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of submission to Allah. Yes, it’s the story about Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac on the mountain.  Even if you are used to slaughtering animals, it’s a bit strange because it’s literally done right on the street. street, so if you have a sensitive stomach/heart, you might want to stay in.

The preparations towards Eid are really interesting though, because like a week before the festival, decorated goats and cows start showing up outside people’s homes. The animals are well-treated and pampered to symbolize how much Ibrahim loved his son, it’s probably the happiest day of their otherwise boring lives (the goats). Sometimes the kids of the household get attached to their pets, and have a hard time accepting their fate on Eid.

Anyway, back to Daewoo and getting to Islamabad. Daewoo have a website, it seems updated now, so the numbers should work. Though you will still need to get there and book it yourself. There are other bus companies that do the trip as well, and their offices are not too far from Daewoo if you want to compare prices or miss your bus or just want to take a chaotic bus for fun- some of them did look really chaotic (that can be fun 😉 )

Daewoo however is a really professional mild bus service. It’s a 24 hour ride from Karachi to Islamabad, but the bus is very comfortable with a change of drivers every 8hours. You also get water and a few snacks throughout the journey, setting you back around Rs.3,800 (at least in 2012)  one-way. The bus also has AC, definitely essential because you will probably make the journey in summer/close to summer. I remember stopping over in Moro, where the heat was so stifling that the air from my nose actually felt cool.There are proper service stops throughout the route, with clean toilets and places to buy food. The road is  also quite good by any standards.

The bus actually stops in Rawlapindi, not Islamabad, but it’s only a few minutes away by cab – around Rs.300 since rickshaws aren’t allowed to enter Islamabad. I can’t say much about hotels in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, but I’m pretty sure it’s easy to get a good clean cheap one. But we were on a really tight budget, so we couchsurfed, which is a really easy thing to do in Pakistan since foreigners are so welcome.

I always prefer road trips to flying, but if you do choose to fly then your best (or I think only bet) is PIA who somehow sometimes manage to misplace luggage even on internal flights. A return flight is around Rs. 12,000 – 16000.

Photo Credit: Alireza Teimoury

Photo Credit: Alireza Teimoury

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