Traveling by road has always brought out the best in me. The hum of the engine, the rumbling noise of the tires, and the passing scenery have a calming effect on my being. Ever since I was young, traveling by car to far off places was the ultimate in adventure. We have been on numerous trips, some for a short duration of a week others for longer. Some offroading adventures others by road upcountry. This present trip had been meticulously planned with some like-minded friends. The driving experience across the country up to the Chinese border on the Khunjerab pass would take us through the wilderness of Balochistan and the lush green Punjab plains. Our bunch has extensive experience in traveling by road, so this long distance of approximately 3000 Km one way would be fun. It is said that the more knowledge you have of the area you are going to visit, the more you will enjoy the trip. So I picked up travel guides and articles, books and all the material I could lay my hands on to prepare myself for this adventure. The more I read about the history, culture and countryside, the more I found myself in awe of this land of mine. How ignorant are we that we do not realize how much this land has to offer, in terms of history, adventure, sightseeing, and above all, happiness?

This travel bug in me has been transmitted as an inherent trait. My father used to travel the country by road when we were young. We drove all the way from Karachi to Swat and back in the 1960s, when a lot of the roads were mere tracks paved with burnt bricks. My parents drove to Saudi Arabia by road to perform the Haj, which is a feat on its own. I have driven to Chitral from Karachi in a Jeep CJ7 with my family and friends, to the Khunjerab pass and back once before in 1995, and to Naran and back from Karachi in 1998 traveling different routes every time.

The Himalayan germ, once caught, works inside like a relapsing fever; it is ever biding its time before breaking out again with renewed virulence

Marco Pallis, 1939

This time we made plans to travel from Karachi through the arid terrain of Baluchistan via Quetta, Loralai and Fort Munro, to Dera Ismail Khan, Islamabad and then on the Karakoram Highway up to the Khunjerab pass. We also intend to detour to Fairy Meadows, and on the way back to the picturesque Phander Valley. These rugged Mountains of the North have a nostalgic attraction, which beckons you to return. I hear my calling now.

To enjoy these vast frontiers and the scale at which they enthrall you, one has to trek back into the past, and reflect on the formation of these massive eruptions of the earth. Travel with those who have tried to conquer these mountains and chart the terrain, for those who would follow with a kindred sprit of adventure and discovery.

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