What Does Belgium Couple Think About Pakistan?
Annelies & Kenneth, a sweet Belgium couple recently visited Pakistan. Let’s have insights about this couple’s recent trip to our dear homeland.
Tell our readers about your home country.
Kenneth: We are both from Belgium. Our country is different from Pakistan in many ways, but one of the most striking differences is the size. Our country has just 11 million inhabitants and in three hours you can drive through it. Despite the relatively small population, it is densely populated. When driving from city to city you never stop seeing houses. That is why it is so liberating for us to travel in Pakistan as natural beauty still prevails here.
What would you say about your passion for traveling?
Annelies: We have always loved traveling and rock climbing, which is a great combination. We actually met each other three years ago on a climbing trip in Mallorca. It didn’t take long before we discovered we had a common dream: to see the world. Of course, we couldn’t just set off, so we limited our travels to climbing trips in and around Europe. It was only when we both decided to change our careers that we made the decision to take some time off to explore.
Does your partner support you in your world exploration trips?
Annelies: We have very similar ideas about traveling. When we planned our route we soon discovered that it was the immersion into a country and its culture that is most important to us. And rock climbing of course. That is why we decided to travel only by hitchhiking and public transport, carrying all our climbing gear. It is the best way to get to know the local people.
Also on the route, we agreed easily. It is a very natural route leading from Belgium to India on which we visit 14 different countries.
Kenneth: We’ve been traveling for over seven months now, facing many challenges and living side by side almost 24 hours a day and we still haven’t killed each other. For me, that’s the ultimate proof that we support each other :).
What were the initial thoughts when you were planning to visit Pakistan?
Kenneth: It’s full of terrorists! No seriously, we had a pretty open mind about Pakistan even before we looked into it. We just didn’t know a whole lot about Pakistan. Of course, we checked for security issues. When looking up a country in general, we prefer to rely on different sources than popular media and our countries travel advice. We read a lot of blogs of people who had visited Pakistan recently and that gave us the real up to date information. We got really excited about Pakistan, we were keen to see the great nature and monuments and to be introduced to the famous Pakistani hospitality. And in Quetta, we even slept in the police station instead of in a hotel and had some really good food!
Annelies: But there was one part of our route that we had a lot doubts about. Since we are traveling overland (taking zero flights) our route would lead us over the Iran border into Baluchistan. We knew we had to get escorted by the Levies there all the way to Quetta. The prospect of riding in open pick-up trucks surrounded by men with AK-47’s scared us a bit. It was really hard to find out if we would be in real danger or if the escort was more of a precaution.
Again thanks to the positive reports of fellow travelers we decided to go for it and it turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of our trip. We never felt in danger and the Levies were really relaxed. When we had a flat tire in the middle of the desert, they showed off their shooting skills. And of course, we asked to hold the guns.
Read also: A Polish Couple trip to Pakistan
Did someone forbid you from coming to Pakistan?
Kenneth: No. Off course some of our friends and family were worried. Not just about Iran and Pakistan, but also about hitchhiking in Europe. I think we convinced them by now that it is actually not that bad at all. The further we go to the east, the nicer the people are. Many times people didn’t just give us a ride but also offered us food and a place to stay.
What actually attracted you to Pakistan?
Annelies: The people and nature. Nowhere on our trip where we treated so nice as in Pakistan. We used the couch-surfing platform, staying with local people. We started in Karachi and we never had to search for a place again. Our first host Muzammil brought is in touch with people all over the country. It is people like him that make this country so great.
Kenneth: For us the summon of Pakistan nature are the mountains in the North. That is why we will be back in summer sometime, so we can visit more places there. But we also really enjoyed Ranikot, the impressive fort in Sindh province. We went there with our couch-surfing hosts and their friends for a camping trip. The local village headman honored Annelies by giving her a traditional scarf. That is certainly a memory we will carry with us for a long time!
Your favorite food here.
Kenneth: The daal in the Quetta police station. Haha! I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t expect good food, but it really tasted so good. In general, we were so delighted to be able to eat cheap healthy food. In Turkey and Iran, a lot of street food is mainly meat. Pakistan was a welcome change. Annelies had a hard time with the spiciness. I guess we will never be as though with spices as the locals.
Annelies: Kenneth almost cried when he ate chicken biryani in Karachi.
What do you think is media portrayal about Pakistan is true?
Kenneth: We got this question a lot from people in Pakistan. It isn’t as bad as you might think, a lot of people we know can look past the mainstream media clichés. But yes, a lot of times only the negative news about Pakistan reaches Belgium. The news isn’t exactly untrue, but there is a skewed perspective. But now thanks to the internet and other alternative media people can get more accurate information about the area. Unfortunately, this works both ways: with the huge variety of online sources, one can always find the information that backs up its own prejudices.
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Annelies: One of the aims of our blog is to break these prejudices. Soon our blog will feature many articles about Pakistan and our Facebook posts already changed the minds of some of our followers. Including our own moms! While they were concerned about Pakistan first, thanks to our experiences they now have a much more positive view of Pakistan.
Your general comments about people of Pakistan.
Annelies: As we said before, it’s the people that make Pakistan so good for us. We made a lot of lasting friendships here. The best time was on a group journey to Nanga Parbat. We had so much fun, celebrating Christmas and my birthday in the mountains. Our new found friends arranged a birthday cake and we even build a snowman together on Christmas day.
Kenneth: And when we decided to make the push from fairy meadows to Nanga Parbat base camp (we made it as far as Beal camp due to heavy snow) we got so much support. We can’t thank the tour company Caravan enough for letting us join this trip with the locals.
Do you think you will come here again?
Kenneth: Definitely. We already received and accepted an invitation from Pakistani teachers and principals of the PACT group of schools to teach some host colleges about traveling.
Annelies: And of course we have some unfinished business with the mountains in the North. We’ll be back!
And yes, People of Pakistan would love to have the honor to host you again. They are not just explorers, but also social workers as they are involved in many local charity projects like working for Syrian and Afghani refugees in Turkey. They will also be working on schooling and healthcare projects in India soon. You can follow Annelies & Kenneth on their blog
shouldibringmyrope.com. They currently have a crowdfunding running to support their causes. Read more and support them on shouldibringmyrope.com/projects.
We wish couple great luck for their future endeavors.