Friday, June 8, 2012

Can a Solo Foreign Female Traveler Visit Kalash?

Got a message from an Austrian traveler after she read the colorful Kalash blogs:

"absolutely great trip report, would love to travel there, but what would you say, is it possible for an european single female traveller in her 50´s??
would there be a lot of hassles, means, bus needs to wait until european registers and so on.....
i´m not scared, but i do not want to run into constant hassleling when travelling.....
thanks for an explanation
ulli from austria "

This is what I had to share:

"Thanks ulli for the kind comment.

Yyes there are hurdles, for foreigners as well as for locals, however that makes a little excuse if one wants to see a primitive living, a primitive culture, and some great colors. To me it was like going back into the history without the hassle of inventing a time machine, so all the bother was worth it...

Check if you can resist after looking at this: The Colorful Joshi Festival

There I met and saw quite a few foreign travelers, more than what I was expecting, mostly with a guided tour, however, there was atleast one solo female traveler whom I know from TT postings but could not meet actually... so a 'sole female traveler' does not necessarily mean a 'No', imho!

Coming back to hurdles, objectively, there are a few issues. First is related to the road traveling as the road to Chitral passes through Malakand, which was under threat from insurgents in the recent past but clear now, however, the provincial government is very cautious over foreigners passing through the area and imposed an NOC restriction. The NOC can be arranged from Peshawar and takes time as I understand from several TT postings in this regard.

There is one easy and one difficult alternative to this; first is the PIA Chitral flight which runs daily both from Peshawar and Islamabad. The problem is that this flight is dependent on weather, read the inefficiencies of PIA, and cancels out very often. The downside is that one may have to wait a couple of days in the queue unless they are lucky.

The other more reliable but difficult alternative is to route it through Shandur Pass in the North via Gilgit. The female traveler I mentioned above made it to Kalash through this route. This would take atleast 3 days, and proper planning, but is doable independently without permits and one may peek into one of the most beautiful and remote terrains on earth.

In Kalash, I met a bunch of foreign tourists - who were brought by a UK based Pakistani expat who runs a travel company there - who were sent back from half way, from Dargai, because of the NOC ambiguities. Luckily they managed to make it to the festival in time through PIA.

The second issue is about the night stay in Kalash as I understand that the government is not allowing foreign travelers to stay overnight in the valley, maybe because of its proximity from Afghanistan. For this festival, I understand that this restriction had temporarily been lifted.

Third issue, which would annoy one the most, is the condition imposed on foreign travelers to keep government provided security guards all the time. I talked to a Japanese frequent who was rightly vivid about this condition as according to him he was given with 8 personnel! But I am not sure if this condition is only  for long stays, as the guy uses to stay there for a couple of months every year.

These are my observations, which might not be very accurate, but may give one a fair bit of idea how to go about it.

And obviously I got the following response:

"thank you, mozumbus, for your prompt reply, this will help other travellers as well, so next year this area will be it...... "

1 comment:

  1. Muzammil bhai you can suggest her Shogran Naran Kaghan.its also a very beautiful valleys .