Penn Cove Water Festival

The Penn Cove Water Festival is an annual revival of the historic Coupeville Water Festival. It brings families together to enjoy Native American canoe racing, entertainment, crafts and culture. and by giving them a chance to learn about, appreciate, and protect our environment.

The Water Festival is always a great photo opportunity. Here here are few shots from 2018.

Looking toward the wharf from the boat launch area.
Two canoes competing in a race.
Great view of Mount Baker as seen from the boat launch area.
They had races for children.
Can’t get too much Mount Baker!


Coupeville – Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run

We experience many joys living on Whidbey Island. One is waking up on a beautiful Saturday morning and deciding what outdoor thing to do. So, we decided on a Coupeville-Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run. The Coupeville Ferry Terminal is about 5 minutes from our house. Moreover, we just park our car near the terminal and walk on. Then, 35 minutes later we are walking in downtown Townsend, planning our day.

Coupeville-Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run Scenery

The ferry ride is the most beautiful aspect. Look toward Port Townsend and one sees the Olympic Mountains. Look back toward Coupeville and you get glimpses of the Cascades. Mount Baker loomed large on this sunny day.

Coupeville - Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run
Amazing view of the Olympic Mountains hovering over Port Townsend as we approach on the ferry.
Coupeville - Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run
As we approach Port Townsend, we look back toward Whidbey Island and Mount Baker. I thought the Hyundai cargo ship added some perspective and interest.

Port Townsend’s Victorian Architecture

Victorian architecture is Port Townsend’s signature. Houses and office buildings reflect Victorian influences. Consequently, part of downtown wandering included gazing at the buildings.

Coupeville - Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run
I like this vertical view on the downtown Port Townsend buildings. And, the warm color scheme provides a nice contrast to the deep blue sky.
Coupeville - Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run
This is a typical Victorian style office building in Port Townsend. Moreover, the blue sky contributes to the blue building color scheme.

Port Townsend is home to one of the best tea shops in the Seattle area, Pippa’s Real Tea.

Coupeville - Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run
Pippa’s has aroma jars for all their teas. So, one can sniff away.

We had lunch at the Owl Sprit Cafe, fulfilling our the “lunch” part of our Coupeville-Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run. Tt is a pleasant place to grab a quick bite. I don’t know why it is “Sprit” instead of “Spirit.” (I wanted to note that so no one thought I had a typo!)

Coupeville - Port Townsend Ferry Lunch Run
Image of Mount Baker peeking through the Port Townsend marina buildings.

Other Whidbey Island Posts

Check out some of my other Whidbey Island posts for ideas on short, fun things to do.

Embrace Island Winter Days

Whidbey Island is a tourist destination in warmer weather. However, one should embrace island winter days. Days like this have their own beauty. I think of quietness. But, I also feel an edge to nature. It is as if nature is imposing itself more forcefully.

Dinah and I were visiting possible publicity photo shoot locations for the new singing group she is organizing – the Saratoga Sirens. Dinah derived the name from the mythological sirens, combined with Saratoga, the name of the passage on the eastern side of Whidbey Island.

Locations included Long Point, Libbey Beach, and Fort Ebey State Park.

Wind Helps Us Embrace Island Winter Days

Wind makes a winter day feel raw. However, it creates more natural drama when it comes to water. Today was breezy. Moreover, the Whidbey Island surf is typically on the calm side. But, today we had some exciting surf. A sneaker wave even caught me while taking a photograph. Casualties included wet pants legs and shoes. But, my camera stayed dry!

Embrace Island Winter Days
Long Point features great access for a photo shoot. However, the only real visual feature is driftwood.

Surfers Enhanced the Day

Today’s surprise find – two surfers at Fort Ebey. This is not a common site on Whidbey Island.

Embrace Island Winter Days
I ran into two surfers while at Fort Ebey State Park. This one is wearing a 5 mm wet suit. Brr!
Embrace Island Winter Days
Enough wave action to make it interesting with the Olympic Mountains in the background.
Embrace Island Winter Days
One surfer getting up on a wave.
Embrace Island Winter Days

Finally, after visiting our winter island locations, we decided Fort Ebey is the best location for the photo shoot. See the spot below. Next up, plan the publicity photo shoot.

Embrace Island Winter Days
Driftwood creates great visual interest when combined with water and a cliff. This is our favorite photo shoot location of the day.

I leave you with a quote by Andrew Wyeth:

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.

Interesting Pacific Northwest Places

For other interesting Pacific Northwest places, see my related posts:

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.

DIY Wine Aroma Experiment

I enjoy wine. But, I often struggle discerning the wine taste and aroma subtleties. I read all those sophisticated tasting notes and wonder why I do not get all that. So, I investigated buying a wine aroma kit so I can practice and learn. However, those costs hundreds of dollars. Consequently, I created my own DIY Wine Aroma Experiment.

Wine and Travel

What does this have to do with a travel blog? I enjoy connecting all types of experiences with travel. Most world regions produce wine. So, by better understanding wine and its various geographic origins, I gain insights into various world locations.

DIY Wine Aroma Experiment Inspiration

As I mentioned, ready-made kits cost hundreds of dollars. I did some online research. And, I found this Wine Spectator article on DIY kits. It served as inspiration. So, I conducted a quick pantry inventory and made a grocery list for the missing items.

White Wine DIY Aroma Experiment

For the white wine, I used a local 2014 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Pinot Gris as a base. I put 2 ounces of wine in each glass.

I made pragmatic ingredient choices – nothing artisan-like. Consequently, I chose a grapefruit, a lemon, crushed blades of grass from the lawn, nutmeg, vanilla, honey, a peach fruit cup,  a can of pears, Smokey Joe, and a can of pineapples. I wanted to use melon. However, it is out of season for melons. Then, for each I mixed a few drops or a teaspoon, depending on the ingredient, in the glasses of pinot gris. I let the glass sit for a few minutes.

Next, I swirled the wine in each glass and starting sniffing the aromas. Notably, I easily determined the aroma for each ingredient. I even mixed up the order of glasses. Still, I easily detected the aromas. My initial conclusion – this is easy when the aroma is singular and strong.

Red Wine DIY Aroma Experiment

For the red wine, I used a local 2014 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot as a base. Again, I put 2 ounces of wine in each glass.

As with the white wine, I made pragmatic ingredient choices. So, this time, I chose strawberries, strawberry jam, vanilla, cherries, black pepper, a green pepper, peppermint syrup, coffee, cocoa, Smokey Joe, and tobacco.

DIY Wine Aroma Experiment
Red Wine DIY Aroma Experiment

Also, like the white wine experiment, I easily detected the aromas.

Did it Help?

I cautiously conclude my DIY Wine Aroma Experiment improved my wine appreciation skills. However, I am definitely not ready to be a sommelier.

If you like food-related blog posts, please check out my post on roadside food.

For travel content, feel free to follow my travel Twitter feed.

Pacific Northwest Fall Color

In the United States, mention Fall Color and most think of New England. However, Pacific Northwest Fall Color is a worthy alternative.

For this post, two locations presented ample color viewing options. So, I used Bellevue and Whidbey Island as my logic locations. I work in Bellevue and live on Whidbey Island. And, look beyond leaves to see Fall colors. Scroll down to see more color finds.

Pacific Northwest Fall Color – Bellevue

Bellevue has beautiful downtown landscaping. I shot the following photos as I walked to the downtown Transit Center. (I am a bus commuter.)

Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Brilliant yellow tree with the Microsoft Building behind it.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Blazing red in front of Bellevue City Center.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Lovely shaped tree with yellow leaves in front of Skyline Building.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
More red next to Skyline Building.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Looking up toward the Microsoft offices.

Pacific Northwest Fall Color – Meerkerk Gardens

Meerkerk Gardens near Freeland showcases rhododendrons. However, even when out of blooming season, Meerkerk offers Fall beauty. Consequently, Dinah and I made a quick stop on our way to Langley.

Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Monkey Puzzle tree cones.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
View from the Meerkerk Gardens gazebo area looking toward Camano Island.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Red with forest backdrop.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
I took this photo in aperture mode with a shallow depth of field.

Pacific Northwest Fall Color – Langley

After visiting Meerkerk, Dinah and I stopped for lunch in Langley. While walking around, I saw the Halloween broom display on Langley’s downtown sidewalk. Also, I noticed a glass shop operating out of the old Langley Firehouse. Notably, Fall color is not just for trees!

Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Halloween broom display.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
Colorful glass for sale out of old firehouse.
Pacific Northwest Fall Color
I like the fish.

Take Time to Observe Fall Beauty

If you live an area with Fall color, slow down. And, observe beauty. You might see colorful leaves. Or, notice painted brooms. And, see seasonal art. Take a moment and renew your soul. Fall is perfect for that. Albert Camus wrote: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Most importantly, enjoy the season!

Interesting Pacific Northwest Places

For other interesting Pacific Northwest places, see my related posts:

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.

Roadside Food Builds Memories

During our recent trip to Pakistan, we often stopped for roadside food. Roadside food builds memories. I enjoy stopping for roadside food. However, as an American with a digestive system unaccustomed to unfamiliar bacteria, food safety is key. So, before I go on, safety tip – we only purchase whole items or thoroughly cooked items. And, for fruit, we wash it with bottled water. Now, for the fun stuff.

Roadside Food Builds Memories Through Meeting People

My favorite part of roadside food is meeting people. We meet the food vendors. Moreover, we almost always meet other people that happen to be nearby. Often, children gather to greet us.

Roadside Food Builds Memories
Checking out bananas near Haripur, Pakistan
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Bananas come from farther south in Pakistan
Roadside Food Builds Memories
We stopped for roasted corn near Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Roadside Food Builds Memories
He was roasting corn in hot sand
Roadside Food Builds Memories
You can see the fire underneath the sand
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Moments before I started eating!
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Pakistan’s northern areas have countless orchards. We stopped for apples on the way from Hunza Valley to Khunjerab Pass.
Roadside Food Builds Memories
We met these children when we stopped for apples.
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Walnuts everywhere near Hunza Valley.
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Boys selling walnuts near Kaghan Valley.

Roadside Food Builds Memories by Forcing Us to Stop Driving and Look Around

Temptation compels us to keep driving to meet deadlines. But, stopping for roadside food forces us to slow down and look around. Moreover, we take time to interact with our surroundings. Look at the scenery. Take some photos. And, talk to someone.

Roadside Food Builds Memories
Freshwater springs can found in most of the mountainous areas. Here, Amir collects cold mountain water for our trip.
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Seemingly every food stand had Lay’s Potato Chip display racks. This is at Babusar Pass.
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Snacks and soft drinks at Babusar Pass – 13,691 feet in elevation.

Roadside Food Builds Memories Through Fellowship

We often travel with companions. So, stopping for food let’s us get to know each other. Breaking bread is a great way to create fellowship.

Roadside Food Builds Memories
Relaxing at the Moon Restaurant near Baser
Roadside Food Builds Memories
I saw many mountain stream cafes. You can stop for a tea and a bite to eat while cooling your feet in mountain stream water.

Roadside Food Connects Us to the Land

Roadside food invariably reflects the local land. So, look beyond just the fruit or the nuts. You can often see the orchards that produced the food.

Roadside Food Builds Memories
Beautiful orchards. We stopped here on the way from Hunza Valley to Gilgit.
Roadside Food Builds Memories
Moments before a chomp!

For more on our Northern Areas adventure, see my Northern Areas Adventure Highlights post.

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.

Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor

One appreciates Wagah at many levels. This is the site of the daily flag ceremony at the Pakistan-India border. Pakistan Rangers and India Border Security Forces lower both Pakistan’s and India’s flags, two hours before sunset. We attended this ceremony on September 24th.  I found it fascinating. Moreover, I refer to it as Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor.

Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor

The border ceremony is a metaphor. The ceremony represents the partition’s tragic history, cautious cooperation, and ongoing tensions. However, the ceremony is also just plain fun! One easily overlooks the negative connotations to simply enjoy the experience.

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
The approach. Pakistan has a huge flag in front of the assembly area!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Ready for yet more security checkpoints. We had protocol. So, we made it in faster than most.

Border Ceremony Video Highlights – 6 minutes 30 seconds


For a quick look at the ceremony, check out this video. Amir (our guide) and I shot this six and a half minute video using my Samsung phone.

Pre-ceremony Reminds Me of a Sporting Event

The pre-ceremony reminded me of a sporting event. American football comes to mind.

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Dinah and I wave our small Pakistan flags.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Cheering crowds.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Pre-ceremony entertainment. The man holding the flag was dancing with only one leg.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Pakistani Rangers preparing for the ceremony.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Billboard of India’s Border Security Force (BSF) on the India side.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Big head dress!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
This Ranger assisted us with protocol seating.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
More preparation.

Ceremony Highlights

The ceremony starts with a flourish. Rangers march out toward the border gate. India’s BSF troops do the same. Especially impressive, the high steps. I wince thinking about it!

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Ceremony underway. Note the cheerleader in the background.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Impressive footwork.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Just witnessing the high steps makes me wince!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
The Rangers include women.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Over his head!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Yes, we had our own cheerleader.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Ranger moving through his routine.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
This shot’s focus is on the India-side crowd. Look at their varied expressions.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Simultaneously lowering both countries’ flags.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Staged interaction between the two countries.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Pakistan Rangers taunting India.

The ceremony ends with the simultaneous lowering of each country’s flag.

Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor and the Partition

India and Pakistan have a complex relationship. It began with the Partition.

First, consider the British Raj. The British ruled India from 1858 to 1947. After World War II, Britain was weary and ready to end its colonial presence in India. Partition planning began whereby Pakistan was to become an independent country. Boundary planning intended to provide Pakistan as a Muslim country with Hindus and Sikhs remaining in India.

Unfortunately, the British rushed the border definition decision. Sir Cyril Radcliffe had just five weeks to define a border boundary between the countries. Moreover, the decision was casual. And, it was secret. People only found out about the border boundary two days after partition.

Chaos and violence ensued. Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes to move into either Pakistan or India, based on their religion. Countless died. I have extended family members with heartbreaking familial stories. For example, a family member only taking their house key with them as they fled. They assumed an ultimate resolution to the situation. It never happened. Another family member volunteered to clean and make burial preparations for dead bodies arriving at the Lahore train station. I am sure many stories are the same on the India side of the border.

Epilogue for Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Note the Indian BSF soldier holding a weapon behind me. He was on the Indian side of the border.

I don’t judge the tensions. I have many family, friends, and colleagues on both sides of the border. First of all, Pakistan is a new country. It is only 70 years old this year. It started with only what the British left. Pakistan had no industry. At the beginning, government workers did not even have pencils. Moreover, profound theology differences exist between Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. To me, this seems more than just the American Methodists versus Presbyterians. Profound belief differences exist around the nature of deity, food, animals, and many other aspects of society.

Beyond these internal challenges, geopolitical forces did and continue to bring external pressure. Early on, the United States and Soviet Union struggled to gain the upper hand in influence on both countries. Since 9/11, the United States exerts severe pressure on Pakistan to contain terrorists. Notably, Pakistan saw its tourism industry devastated. Most of all, if any American thinks Pakistan does not try, think again. Security checkpoints abound. For example, every Pakistani carries a national identify card. (I received a tour of the identity card IT kiosk in one town. Impressive!) Furthermore, Pakistan absorbed countless Afghani immigrants. And, Pakistan prevented the Soviet Union from reaching a warm-water port.

In comparison, look at the United States. We currently struggle with Red versus Blue. Republicans versus Democrats. We even fought a Civil War over slavery. As I write this post, the United States just had its worst mass shooting in history. I hope Americans remain humble and appreciate the tremendous sacrifices and obstacles both Pakistan and India did and still face.

To Read More

For more on Pakistan, see my Pakistan Northern Areas blog post and Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase blog post.

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase

History abounds in Lahore. Lahore’s Mughal Empire history showcase excels as windows to the past. It’s history-rich sites connects us to ancient times.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase Locations

All sites are within the Lahore metropolitan area. Access is straight forward. Traffic can be bad during rush hours. However, even then patience suffices.

Mughal Empire History  Quick-Look

I dare not delve into detailed Mughal Empire history. However, a few key facts provide a quick-look perspective:

  • The empire started in the 1500s
  • It reached its peak in the 1600s
  • It started quickly declining in the 1700s and dissolved by 1857
  • At its height of power, the empire controlled almost 25% of the world’s GDP
  • Notably, Shah Jahan, one of Mughal’s emperors, commissioned the Taj Mahal construction

For more insight and details, see Mughal Empire history.

Iconic Badshahi Mosque Leads List of Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase sites

Badshahi Mosque is iconic. Emperor Aurangzeb commissioned the construction in 1671. Construction finished in just two years.

Interestingly, Badshahi was the world largest mosque for 313 years. Today, it is the second largest mosque in Pakistan.

One enters Badshahi through its distinctive red sandstone entrance. As with any mosque, one removes their shoes prior to entering. Since I was still walking on a sprained ankle, I welcomed the comfort of wandering through the mosque in my socks!

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Badshahi’s distinctive red sandstone entrance. Note the marble plaque above the entrance. It lists the mosque’s full name  “Masjid Abul Zafar Muhy-ud-Din Mohammad Alamgir Badshah Ghazi”.

The courtyard is large and can hold up to 100,000 worshipers.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Badshahi’s large courtyard accommodates 100,000.

As with the entrance, the Prayer Hall entrance has a red sandstone with white marble inlay.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Prayer Hall entrance. Note the marble inlay.

The outer walls have large minarets while main building has four smaller minarets.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
View of the Prayer Hall and one of the small minarets.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Long distance view of the mosque from the nearby fort. Observe both the larger and smaller minarets.

To read more, see Badshahi Mosque.

Ornate Wazir Khan Mosque

Shah Jahan commisioned the Wazir Khan Mosque in 1634. Construction completed in 1641.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Wazir Khan Mosque courtyard.

The exterior is embellished with kashi-kari tile work.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Exterior showing kashi-kari tile work.

I am not Muslim. However,  these two young men, below, invited me to sit with them in the Prayer Hall. So, I did. They spoke very little English. And, I do not speak Urdu. However, we enjoyed some time just being together. In the photo below, he is showing me photos of his children. We all have some things in common!

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
I sat with these two young men in the mosque. We did not speak the same language but we understood each other.

Wazir Khan is adjacent to the Kashmiri Bazaar. Combining the two into a sightseeing trip makes sense.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
My nose buzzed with the smell of peppers and spices at the nearby bazaar.

To read more, see Wazir Khan Mosque.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase- Lahore Fort

Lahore Fort is a sprawling site covering almost 50 acres. Several Mughal Emperors contributed to its construction. However, we only had time to see a few highlights. One can spend days here. But, Lahore’s climate is warm and humid – 90 to 100 deg F and greater than 50% humidity. So, we wilted quickly in the heat. As a result, that limited the time we wanted to spend wandering the fort grounds.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Lahore Fort’s famous Alamgiri Gate as viewed from Badshahi Mosque.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Lahore Fort’s Alamgiri gate.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Amir, our guide, explaining the fort’s history to my wife.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Jahangir’s Quadrangle.

My fort visit involved countless selfie requests. I enjoy interacting with everyone. So, I usually try and say yes. However, our guide sometimes wanted us to keep moving to stay on schedule.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Large group selfie! One man seemed to be their teacher. He wanted me to convey to the U.S. that Pakistanis are not terrorists!
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Selfies sometimes occur in rounds whereby we have to use each person’s camera.

To read more, see Lahore Fort.

Shahi Hamman Bath

Shahi Hamman is a Persion-style bath built in 1635. The bath served as a waqf to financially support the Wazir Khan mosque. Modern day Iranian baths seem to be on the decline.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Frescoes in the main dome.
Lahore's Mughal Empire Sites
Restored portion of the bath. The underground tunnels carried heat to warm the water and baths.

To read more, see Shahi Hamman.

Richly Decorated Tomb of Jahangir

Jahangir was the fourth Mughal Emperor. He ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. Most noteworthy, his name means ‘conqueror of the world’. Political, economic, and architectural achievements characterized Jahangir’s reign. Also, he applied Islamic law in a progressive fashion, allowing people to retain their own laws and customs when it made sense. For example, he allowed Muslims and Hindus to retain their own laws with respect to marriage.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Entrance to Jahangir’s Tomb.

The exterior is extensively decorated with pietra dura, an inlay technique using polished, colorful stones.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Entrance into the main courtyard.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Main landscaped courtyard.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Looking from the tomb back toward the entrance.

Inexplicably, the tomb area had no lighting. So, we used our cell phone flashlights. Consequently, I shot the photo below with a flash.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Jahangir’s Tomb.

Note the intricate inlay work. The inlay consists of actual colored stones.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
One of the tomb’s external corridors.

To read more, see Tomb of Jahangir.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase Legacy

The Mughal Empire leaves the world quite the architectural legacy. However, can we or should we learn anything from the empire? Theories abound on the reason for the Empire’s rapid decline starting in the early 1700s. Probably, several factors played a role. Political feuds, runaway expenses, external threats, and inability to change accelerated the decline. Perhaps, our lesson – we should not take our successes for granted.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History showcase provides a treasure-trove of architecture and history.

For more on Pakistan, see my Pakistan Northern Areas blog post.

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights

Pakistan’s tourism appeal reaches its zenith here. One phrase comes to mind when describing Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights – primal beauty. Pakistan’s Northern Areas showcases some of the most primal and raw beauty in the world.

Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview

So, after much planning, our journey begins. First of all, we traveled by large van. Rather than trying this on our own, we used a guide and driver. Moreover, this is an out and back trip. Our journey started and ended in Islamabad. We went as far as Khunjerab Pass on the Pakistan-China border.

This post only touches highlights. Consequently, I organized highlights into categories reflecting my memories:

  • Gazing at jaw-dropping scenery
  • Meeting beautiful children along the way
  • Visiting a Hunza Valley School
  • Meeting fellow travelers
  • Navigating challenging roads
  • Having fun
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Northern areas route. However, ignore the time estimate. The drive requires much more time.

Pakistan Vacation Underway

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights -Scenery is the Star

Highlights abound. However, scenery is the ultimate star in this journey.

Rakaposhi Peak

Rakaposhi Peak reaches 7,788m. Consequently, it is the 27th highest peak in the world. Also, Rakaposhi is the only mountain on earth that plummets directly, for almost 6000 meters, to its base.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Rakaposhi, 27th highest peak in the world.

Most noteworthy, after 20 years of attempts, a British-Pakistan expedition conquered the mountain in 1958. Moreover, Captain Sher Khan (later Colonel) lead a successful 1979 Pakistan-Polish expedition. Khan was the first Pakistani to summit the mountain.

Hoper Glacier

We reached Hoper Glacier by 4-wheel drive. In contrast to some glaciers, Hoper is fast moving and deep. Most importantly, a lovely village and valley provide context.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Hoper Glacier
Passu Cathedral

There are so many tall mountains! Over 60 moutain peaks top 7400 m.  Consequently, uniqueness matters. Tupopdan, commonly known as “Passu Cathedral”, reaches 6,106 m. It lies to the north of the village Passu.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Hunza River looking toward Passu Cathedral

Passu’s cathedral-like cones provide mountain drama.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Passu Cathedral with its distinctive cones
Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat anchors the western Himalayan Range. This huge mountain is not a single peak. Rather, it is a series of ridges culminating in an ice crest at 8,126 m. Notably, Nanga Parbat is the 9th highest peak in the world. It is the second highest in Pakistan after K2.

The name Nanga Parbat is Kashmiri for ‘naked mountain’ because its slopes have no vegetation.

Especially relevant, early disasters gave Nanga Parbat the nickname Killer Mountain. 12 climbers and 18 sherpas had died there by 1937. A joint Austrian-German expedition conquered the mountain in 1953. Moreover, Herman Buhl made the final successful ascent on July 3rd in a grueling solo climb without oxygen.

On July 13, 1989 Colonel Sher Khan became the first Pakistani to summit the mountain.

Meeting children along the way

Meeting children is crucial to our Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights. While we both met children, Dinah especially bonded. We often just stopped on the side of the road to say hello.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah greeting school boys on the side of the road
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah more easily approached girls. As a man, I had to be careful to focus on the boys.
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
These young men joined Amir at Hoper Glacier. However, they exhibited more reserve than others.
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah is greeting children of parents that pan for gold along the river. These particular children are especially poor.
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
I saw these girls going to school on top of a wall near our gas station.

Visiting a Hunza Valley School

What a special day! After my sore ankle climb up (in the dark) and down from the Eagle’s Nest (with big thanks to our guide Amir for holding my hand and Aized for shining phone flashlight on a good path for me), we had a quick breakfast. Then, a big highlight! We visited Hasegawa Memorial Public School in Karimabad, Hunza.

First, we attended assembly. They sang the Pakistan National Anthem. The Principal discussed the schools goals and principles. The assembly sang. Then, they invited Dinah and I on stage. A group of children performed a traditional dance for us. However, Dinah and I were not getting away that easily. They invited Dinah and I to perform the traditional dance for them!! Yikes! We did. I then offered a few words from the U.S. Then, Dinah took the microphone and spontaneously decided to sing “Whatever a Wonderful World”, a cappella. The children cheered and screamed for us and Dinah.

After all this we met and had tea with the Principal and visited a classroom.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Morning school assembly to begin the day

They invited us to perform the traditional dance for the children.

Dinah and I attempted the traditional dance in front of the school children at Hunza. We were not good. But, the kids enjoyed it. Plus, I was doing this on a day-old sprained ankle. However, I doubt that contributed to my lack of skill. Nadia and Amir (our guide) joined to help rescue our performance.

Dinah sang “What a Wonderful World’ as a gift for the children.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Dinah singing “What a Wonderful World” to the children as a gift.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Classroom children performing a traditional dance for us.

Meeting Fellow Travelers

Scenery, meeting children, and visiting the school seems wonderful. However, we relished meeting fellow travelers.

I felt lazy! We flagged down Nedo and Swinde on the road from Hunza to Gilgit. They had biked from Switzerland through China! Swinde is a photojournalist and writes a blog.

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights
Nedo and Swinde biking from Switzerland through China to Pakistan
Travelers from Karachi who wanted us to remind the U.S. that Pakistan is a beautiful place to visit.

We left copies of our passports and visas at innumerable checkpoints. This individual next to me checked us in and out of the Gilgit-Baltistan region. He remembered us when we returned our visitor card today. He told me to tell everyone how nice Pakistan is to visit and that he will never forget this day.

Gilgit security checkpoint

Navigating challenging roads

Roads create Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. We experienced hairpin curves. Our drived dodged landslides. We drove around animals. And, we created two-way roads out of one lane roads. Also, we even had traffic jams from Pakistan-China trade transport.

Road leading down from Babasur Pass.
Truck traffic jam on a one-lane road!
Dodging sheep headed to market.
Waiting for a landslide to clear
Yes, this is typical! Landslides routinely demolish guard rails.
Road to Hoper Glacier

Health Adventures

I added my health to our Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. First, I have a well-know sensitivity to altitude. I walked from the parking lot to the Pakistan-China arch at Khunjerab Pass (15,397 feet). Dizziness crept up on me. I thought I could make it back to the parking lot. However, my traveling companions and Pakistan security officers thought otherwise. So, I got to sit in the security vehicle and then hitched a motorcycle ride back to the parking lot.

The second health adventure involved spraining my ankle. I stepped off into soft sand. And, down I went. My ankle is still sore. However, I never slowed down. Our guide found me a hiking stick. I kept to our itinerary!

Me sitting in the security vehicle.
It had been been a long time since I rode on the back of a motorcycle!

Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights – Simply Have Fun

Not everything needs adventure. Or, education. We often just relaxed, laughed, and had fun.

We saw innumerable suspension bridges. So, I decided to be silly at this one.
Wonderful decorated trucks and buses!
Demonstrating how to get in and out of the back seat of a jeep.
Had to touch the mountain water!
Mellow and happy after a long, busy day!

This is not the easiest trip. Yes, it is easier to sit by the pool at a major hotel chain. However, you will never experience something like this unless you jump out of your comfort zone. Go create your own Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. Hire a guide and a good driver. And, you will build memories for a lifetime.

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.

Pakistan Vacation Underway

After months of planning, we can declare our Pakistan vacation underway. We knew it was real when we bought airline tickets. Of course, I bought the tickets through Expedia. For a preview, see my blog post Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview.

First, we decided transportation to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Or, to most people, SeaTac. We looked at options like airport parking, Uber, or a private car. Consequently, we settled on the popular Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle. Great choice. We arrived at SeaTac in two hours.

Getting our Pakistan Vacation Underway with Emirates

This was my first time to fly on Emirates. I heard so many good things. Emirates met my built-up expectations. First of all, we had a non-stop from SeaTac to Dubai. And, then another non-stop to Islamabad. Having just two air legs saves time.

Pakistan Vacation Underway
Emirates airplane at SeaTac

I expect sparse amenities in economy class. However, Emirates provides a degree of luxury, even in economy. We had large touch screens. Music and video choices abounded. Also, we had live television for tennis and the hurricane news. Furthermore, we had excellent food choices. The menu below is from flight to Islamabad.

Pakistan Vacation Underway
My kind of meal choices, even in economy class

Easy First Day – Managing Jet Lag

International travel presents jet lag challenges. We arrived in Islamabad at 1:30 AM. We easily cleared customs. Then, we spent another hour retrieving our luggage. Finally, we made it outside where our son-in-law’s parents (Aized and Nadia) were waiting for us. Shower and bedtime at 4:00 AM. We slept to almost 10:00. Then, we start the time zone adjustment. I like staying up all day the first day. I almost made it. But, I did sneak a 30 minute afternoon nap.

Metro to the Mall

Dinah wanted to buy some clothes. So we headed to the new Centaurus Mall. Aized dropped the three of us off at the metro bus station while he drove on to the mall. We rode Islamabad’s new metro bus system to the mall. The buses drive in dedicated bus-only lanes.

Pakistan Vacation Underway
New Islamabad metro station

The mall is new for Dinah and I. In contrast, we shopped at small shops in 2012. I am not sure how I feel about this sign of progress.

Pakistan Vacation Underway
Islamabad’s new mall

I never took an escalator selfie!

Pakistan Vacation Underway
Escalator selfie

Walking from the metro bus station to the mall, I noticed dark clouds in the Margalla Hills. Results soon appeared. Consequently, we had to wait out a big thunderstorm. It reminded me of our Florida days.

Pakistan Vacation Underway
Leaving the mall parking lot.

We were feeling the jet lag. Dinah succumbed to a longer nap. However, I tried to avoid a nap by touring roof top solar panel system. Eventually, I sneaked a 30 minute nap.

Pakistan Vacation Underway
House top solar panel

Getting our Pakistan Vacation Underway with a BBQ

Pakistan Vacation UnderwayPakistan Vacation UnderwayI will never complain about a BBQ. So, this seems like a fitting first-day meal. Aized grilled chicken.



Furthermore, we had so much fun listening to fun YouTube music while grilling. Here are a couple of samples.

Movie Night

Pakistan Vacation Underway
Romancing the Stone

We did not want to go to sleep too early. So, next up. Movie night, with popcorn. We watched Romancing the Stone in Aized’s dedicated AV room. Big screen plus surround sound helped stave off jet lag.

Finally, bed time! We went to sleep around midnight. Not too bad for a first day!