“Stones stay still. A learner, never.” — Elif Shafak
Have you ever traveled on the old Silk Road?
This road is significant because it connects the East with the West. This road comes all the way from China via Pakistan and into Europe. It’s an old trade route where all the goods from far places were delivered to “the Romans” or what we call Europe today.
This road is called ‘highway’ but it is far from actually being a highway or as we know it in the West. It’s a conventional road. The traffic flows in both directions you’ve got one lane for each direction. In certain areas, the road isn’t smooth and it is more of a dirt road rather than a ‘highway’. The road itself is bendy and windy, and it doesn’t seem to have an end.
It has spectacular views along the way it takes your breath away. I never thought nature can be this beautiful. I never thought this beauty existed in this world. I never thought I’d be lucky enough to see this. Nothing I’ve seen in Europe can come close to this. Nature, rivers, mountains, glaciers even sheep, architecture, and above all people!
Expectations vs Reality
I didn’t know what to expect once we set off on our trip to the North of Pakistan. My husband and I had been on various road trips in different countries like Morocco, Tanzania and Spain. Once we rented a car and drove from Marrakesh all the way to Merzouga desert. The road was similar to Karakoram highway but it cannot compete with it not even close.
I expected what we’ve known from before from our travels. After all, it’s just a road in a different country: the same pretty views and beautiful scenery. Like the driving, you might have done once somewhere.
The distance wasn’t far about 500km. We covered larger distances in Tanzania, Morocco, and Spain. However, nothing we’ve done to date can come close to our road trip on the old silk road. The reality was way off! It is like you go for an ice-cream and and get more than what you bargained for.
It was magical. For the very first time, I saw magic. It was right in front of me. The size of the mountains. The beauty of the rivers. The changing spectacular views along the road. Available activities like rafting, hiking and walks on glaciers. The towns we went through offered things I’ve never seen!
North of Pakistan was real magic - the world, I thought, never existed.
Every road trip comes with resting spots. The stops on the road were fascinating. I’ve had one of the best meals of my life in one of the cafes on the road. It’s always ‘a nothing looking place’ serves the food from the heart. We stopped at one place by the river it had fabulous views! The young men (boys) who run the restaurant cook everything fresh.
I mean fresh. They catch the fish in the river. Bring it to us. They weigh the fish. We agree on the price and off they go to cook it with some spices. They don’t have a fridge, hence, everything is fresh. The tea they make is a savior for many…! I cannot tolerate milk I cannot drink tea.
However, my husband is ‘hooked’ on that tea and you might be too if you tried it. Apparently it ‘sorts you out’ when you need a lift. The tea is made with spices, milk, water, and some magic. It’s a black tea mixed with spices cooked on a stove for five or so minutes. It’s considered if the tea takes too little time to make it’s not a good tea.
What can you learn on the old Silk Road?
I saw what real nature is. The mountains are half a sky. Can you imagine the feeling of standing on a road and half a sky is a mountain? Wow. It makes you feel so small and insignificant. Not in a bad way but in a good way. The questions that pop up: ‘Who are you?’ ‘What are you doing with your life?’ ‘Why are you here?’ ‘What are you going to do to help others?’
You learn to understand what humble means. I’ve realized I know nothing. I need to read a lot more. I need to learn a lot more. Everyone who goes to the North of Pakistan once always want to go back. It pulls you back like a magnet. It’s like Elif Shafak in her book The Architect’s Apprentice said:
‘Our job is to expand our knowledge. That’s why we are here.’
This road itself seems like any other road but it’s far from it. The things you see along the way it’s extraordinary like nothing else you’ve seen before. It made me want to help others more; not that I didn’t want to help others before.
We’ve driven through some villages and I saw kids who don’t even have a school to go to. Some places don’t even have a hospital. Some parents send kids to work instead of school. The poverty is real here. I don’t need to see it to know how lucky I am. It’s not luck either. It’s education, curiosity, and search for knowledge.
People here make everything. They sew. They create amazing woodwork anything you come up with they create it. They do amazing metalwork. They do amazing stone carvings. Their food is incredible. The scarves and clothes they make is spectacular. They’ve got sunshine in their faces.
Sometimes all you need to have is sunshine and good food, and instantly feel infinitely rich.
We are so fortunate we have everything in the West — the good and the bad. It’s for us to make up our minds about the good and the bad. We can travel the world (before and after coronavirus). You can make a change in the world too. Everyone should travel on the Karakoram highway. It’s the most breathtaking road!
It should be listed as one of the wonders of the world. If you ever get to travel on this road — you are the luckiest person in this world because you get to see real magic.
Love and Light!