When six single women travelled from Karachi to Skardu

Published: April 2, 2015
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The starry night sky and silhouette of mountains around was a treat our eyes had never had. PHOTOS: NARJIS FATIMA

It was our Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) moment. Six single women, in their 20s, boarded the Business Train to Lahore – the first destination of our trip from Karachi to Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).

Karachi Cantt Station.

As we settled in to our cabin, we revelled over our triumph of coaxing our parents into saying:

“Ja Simran ja, ji le apni zindagi.”

(Go Simran go, live your life)

But we were scared too. After all this was no Euro-rail.

The afternoon was bright and sunny, and after taking in the cabin amenities, we were content. The cabin door, with a stable, iron lock and a mirror, was more than what we were expecting.

Keeping to our cabin, with the door locked and the window lid shut, some of us slept and some gossiped during the night hours of the shaky journey.

The next morning came with a sense of achievement that much of the journey to our first destination had passed safely.

First stop – Larri Adda

Too excited to have reached Lahore on time and eager to have our first stopover in Rawalpindi, we made a rushed decision and chose Larri Adda over Bilal Daewoo because it was close to the railway station. A few hours into the journey and we were exchanging furtive, naughty looks with each other, and embarrassed, shy ones with those who would move their eyeballs off the dancing girl in a lal gharara (red skirt) on the TV screen only to have a good look at the six madern (modern) girls on the bus. Initially, they played some naats on the TV but soon switched to Indian songs from the 90s.

The bus we took from Larri Adda.

Civic Hotel  Pindi

We got off at Faizabad bus stand and it was drizzling. Taxi walas came, each with his own bait for this group of non-Isloo looking young girls, unaware of the fact that we were the bun kababs from Karachi. We had chosen Pindi over Islamabad because one, the hotel was cheaper, second, it was near the Piwadhai bus stand and third, Islamabad is an empty city.

On the way from Abbottabad to Rawalpindi.

Off to Skardu through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P)

The next day we boarded a Hiace for Skardu from the Piwadhai bus stand. It was a roller coaster ride. Taking the Karakoram Highway, we passed through the green valleys of Abbottabad and Manshera and had dinner in a family room of a local dhaba. We felt comfortable, perhaps because dressed in shalwar, kameez with duppattas over our heads, we assimilated well.

The narrow, two-way road that cuts through the mountains on the Karakoram Highway.

Our food at the dhaba in Manshera.

Our next station was a motel out in the middle of nowhere. Well not exactly nowhere; it was Besham, where our Hiace would join a convoy for security reasons.

It was around midnight and the convoy was to leave at dawn, so we had five hours to kill. Yes I said kill, because that’s what we were ready for if we smelled even a speck of danger, the danger only females can sense. And did I mention our group was 67% Muslim and 33% Christian? There were other dangers too.

The convoy was never a part of our itinerary, and neither was this Rs100 per night motel, with smelly pillows and blankets and not a single woman in sight. We decided to never tell our parents about this part of the trip, but then we thought when else would we get a chance to lodge with bus and truck drivers? Also, the starry night sky and silhouette of mountains around was a treat our eyes had never had.

Reaching Skardu

Once on the road again, we passed through the twists and turns of lush green mountains hovering above the gushing Indus River.

Clear blue water from a tributary, joining in with the murky waters of River Indus.

Exiting K-P, we entered the grey, giant mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan. We could imagine what the route was like when we were looking up pictures on Facebook, but reality was enormous, beyond anything we had expected.

The rocky, barren mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan.

There came many checkposts throughout the journey, but on the last one, something interesting happened and we gave a name to our group. Seeing Karachi faces, the guards asked for our CNICs, to check if we were spies. The guards were amazed to find out that ours was an all-girls group. One of them kept confirming if we had really travelled all the way from Karachi and at the end of the inquiry he said,

Shahbash!’

(Well done!)

None of us were sure if he meant it as praise or sarcasm, but we decided to christen our group with the name ‘the Shahbash Group’.

After almost 17 hours of reciting Quls and Kalimahs, capturing pictures that could never do justice to the glory of nature that our eyes had witnessed, and drifting into stints of sleep, we finally reached Skardu.

Green valleys in Gilgit-Baltistan.

We were six women who had made it their mission to embark upon this journey with the intention to breathe in the beauty that is Pakistan. And we succeeded. It was a planned trip, with matters such as train tickets, hotel bookings, the Hiace, all arranged prior to the trip with help of a friend in Skardu.

Fields in Skardu valley.

Enroute Gilgit-Baltistan.

Yes, we travelled across Pakistan at a time which is considered the worst in our history.

We are ‘the Shahbash Group’ and if we could do it, six single women in Pakistan, then so could you. And if you do, Shahbash to you too!

Narjis.Fatema

Narjis Fatema

A student of Mass Communication at Karachi University who Tweets @Narjis_Fatema (twitter.com/Narjis_Fatema)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fareed Khan Afridi

    Pretty enlightening and informative. Looks like you all had a nice trip,
    and enjoyed the trip. Been there, done that.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Nicely done, bravo! I hope you six went ahead on to Gilgit and Shimshal. That is a much more magical place. Shimshal specially, that is the village where every family has raised at least one mountaineer. Let that sink in! It is unthinkable for Karachiites (I am one too)!
    Plus they have a mountaineering school there, where a lot of girls are also undergoing training to become mountaineers, high altitude porters and mountain rescuers. It would have done you proud to see what Pakistani women are capable of! :)Recommend

  • US CENTCOM

    Sounds like you guys had a great experience and nice trip. I am sure you will remember this trip for years to come.

    Recommend

  • Imran Ahmed

    Well done ladies! You exercised your right to freedom of movement.Recommend

  • Zahir

    Skardu, heaven on earth !! Skardu / Hunza are the best places in the world !!Recommend

  • maryam

    shabash… :)Recommend

  • Ahsen

    A Big Shabash to the ‘Shabash Group’ i have personally seen the beauty of all this area and i can bet you cant save the beauties in the camera, must visit Skardu n GB once in lifetime and i tell you; you wont regret. Long Live GB, Long Live Pakistan.Recommend

  • Mariam Rehman

    Yayie! So proud of you all *clapping* Shabash! :)Recommend

  • rao amjad ali

    Brilliant! Very well done and more power to you!Recommend

  • Mushtaq Muhammad

    On lighter note….my frd whom I shared ur post asking…if u found ur raj out there……Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    S i g h …Recommend

  • http://wwwdramapakistani.net/ Sadaf

    I am so happy to read this article . This means somehow the old culture of respect has survived . Thank goodness that you could travel alone and come back safelyRecommend

  • MustafaHashmi

    Kudos to your Shabash group! BTW its Pir WadhaiRecommend

  • Ashfaq

    Good work guys, I went on my own from Abbottabad to malam Jabba, malam Jabba back to besham and onwards to skardu, drive my 4×4 1980 model jeep. Thanks to linkin park music which was giving me company, beat that!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Gosh……that was stunning. I salute you girls and feel so jealous of the energy and sheer enthusiasm that comes with youth. The way you narrated your adventure ( because that’s exactly what it was ) just forced me read on……loved it.Recommend

  • Zazo

    Aaah ! welcome to the land of beauty ! ;)Recommend

  • Nadine

    Awesome shabash group! I hope to see that part of pakistan one day! Recommend

  • Ali

    Why does it have to say ‘single women’?Recommend

  • Nouman

    if they really made it (SAFELY)! then this event deserve more coverage then we give to those rape and harassment cases..we need to showcase the the brighter side of our country. 6 girls travelled from one end to the other and to very remote areas of pakistan.. Proud of you..Recommend

  • Nadeem Khan

    Shandaar and revolutionary ……
    You relived once great girls of 60s and 70s Pakistan. Enjoyed the article and also shared with youngs of my family, especially girls. Loved to see six rice plates in a roadside hotel. Bravo !Recommend

  • Salman

    Amazing and really a big Shabashi to you all
    Recommend

  • Hina

    good going girls! Lets keep doing it :DRecommend

  • Ravian

    Well done Narjis. Pakistan is not as dangerous as it is shown to be, and you have proved it.Recommend

  • Haider Iqbal

    Miss Narjes Fatima.

    BravoRecommend

  • Talha Dar

    Shabash girls. Proud of youRecommend

  • iffi

    Bravo “Shahbash girls”… you did it (Y)… and you did it because you were courageous, committed, and yeah, i would love to mention that you had maintained the boundaries too :) you didn’t exploited and misused the freedom your parents, your religions and the society provides you :) By keeping a decent decorum and making sure you have covered your heads properly, and just focusing on your goal of exploring the immense beauty of Sakrdu and not using the opportunity to look for any “Raj” in the way (lol) has also enabled you to reach out to your destiny safely.

    Just imagine a group of chulbuli and naughty girls, for whom it was hell difficult to control their emotions, with all set long hair, wearing lots of make-up and pajama-shirts, laughing out loud and moving their heads with the beats coming from their headphones could have suffered a lot at the lari adha and on the night at that cheap motel, ending up saying “oh my God, this country is not a safe place, particularly for girls….” lolz…. well my only point is that every place and every society has its own set of values… if these are not against the basic rights, rule of laws and religions, then practicing these gives you benefits… :)Recommend

  • Muhammad Hashim

    self confidence, unity and activeness of Shabash group helped them to visit this glorious country from south (Arabic Sea) to North (Himaliyaas) well done.Recommend

  • islooboy

    The Pakistan of today is a much better place for women then the Pakistan of the 60,sRecommend

  • Mesam Raza

    What happened in Skardu,, want to know that. And do u ppl found us hospitable or hostile? And that Shabash a was compliment not a sarcasm. (Y) shabash group.Recommend

  • http://www.zaingoplani.com Zain Goplani

    WoW!! Love the descriptive language used in this blog, along with some breath-taking pictures. This article got everything you need to know about going for a Pakistan tour via road! I am still curious, why the Shabash Group couldn’t find any Raj throughout their trip,
    Looking forward to read more stories about this tripRecommend

  • http://www.zaingoplani.com Zain Goplani

    WoW!! Love the descriptive language used in this blog, along with some breath-taking pictures. This article got everything you need to know about going for a Pakistan tour via road! I am still curious, why the Shabash Group couldn’t find any Raj throughout their trip,
    Looking forward to read more stories about this tripRecommend

  • ABBAS ZAIDI

    Wow so proud of u nargis :)Recommend

  • ABBAS ZAIDI

    Wow so proud of u nargis :)Recommend

  • http://www.bathak.com/ Adeela Abbas

    Pakistan is a beautiful country, I love my country. Thaanks Narjis…Recommend

  • Syeda

    Shabash group proved Pakistan Is Much safer then any other country in world.Recommend

  • syed sheby

    Shabash to shabash group. Accepting all the hardles northern area are just peice of jannat. Even. I travelled in month of december with my wife and my 3 year baby princess naran and sawat non stop journey covering lulusar lalazar lake saif babusir and kalam miandam malam jabba bisham too. May Allah always merciful to ur shahbash group and again……. ShahbashRecommend

  • Areeba

    thank you for this article, thank you very much :)Recommend

  • sara kalam

    Hats off… You people set example…Recommend

  • Ess Ssa

    little shocked about the fact “36% christian”…. clarification req if interested…Recommend

  • Shumaila Hussain Shahani

    Shabaash ‘The Shabaash Group’ <3Recommend

  • Tallat Nosheen

    Bravo girls!!! I have traveled (driving my car) all alone four times, from Karachi to Peshawar, stopping at various stations like Khairpur, Multan, Lahore, and then all around in Murree hills, and once from Gulmit (2 hours after Hunza towards China border and back to Islamabad. i have driven all alone from Karachi to Gawadar and back for more than 4 times too. The area where vehicles travel in groups is Kohistan district where one has to travel for about more than 5 hours and is known as a dangerous area.Recommend

  • Nitpicker

    Unless one of you is able to be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time, I dont see how 36% and 66% will be split between 6 girls………Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    In this country, six single women traveling alone across Pakistan, is the equivalent in bravery of six single men clearing landmines in Granada.

    I’m so pleased for you and your stereotype-shattering journey. It must’ve been a heck of an experience.Recommend

  • Narjis Fatema

    yes…. there has been an editing mistake… the original document said 66% Muslim and 36% “Kafir” (Shia and Christian) … I hope now it makes sense.Recommend

  • iffi

    How come Shia and Christians are “Kafir”?????? Kafir is the term used for those who do not believe on God, but instead worship sun, snakes.. i am super amazed that u termed Shias as kafir….. they are just a sect in Islam the same way we, the sunnis are a sect…… and Christians are Ehl-e-Kitaab….. I guess, being a Mass Communication student, you must be cautious while using these terms deary…..Recommend

  • Baqar Ali

    your story of check post remind me of my first and last visit to Skardu. even i was treated as Spy :)Recommend

  • AA

    It was a srcasm !!Recommend

  • Maryam Tariq

    We couldn’t find any Raj but lol yes Raj found us :P :)Recommend

  • Maryam Tariq

    Thank you for writing this partner and for cherishing the trip we six did together :D Indeed it was the best thing we could ever do :)Recommend

  • shumaila

    well done. I have toured AJK alone but i was not frightened at all.Recommend

  • SKP

    Good work. Only thing to remember is that this territory belongs to Kashmir which is a part of India. Recommend