Rising in Tibet, the Indus River flows northwest into Pakistan, in a deep trough dividing the Himalaya from the Karakoram and the Indian subcontinent from Asia. It turns south in Baltistan, one of Pakistan's northern provinces, a land of glaciers, rivers and mountains inhabited by Balti people whose ancestors immigrated from Tibet.
Squeezed in between Pakistan's two wars (one with India over Kashmir, the other with the Taliban over the North West Frontier Province), Baltistan is known for its trekking and mountaineering, rather than the violence of the rest of the country. Home to the Karakoram range, the densest mass of glaciers and high mountains on earth, including 28, 416 ft. K2, second only to Mt. Everest, Baltistan and its capital Skardu have been tourist hubs for decades.
It is to Skardu I came to find another side of Pakistan, away from the conflict, the suffering and terror. And from my Pakistan Airways window, gazing down upon endless snow-capped peaks, I knew that was what I would find.