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By Ben Stookesberry

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2008: Islamabad Pakistan

After 35 hours of travel Roland Stevenson, Chris Korbulic, Rafael Ortiz are now at the flanks of one of the greatest mountain ranges and river systems on earth. Over the Next two days we will be busy gathering supplies, arranging drivers, and otherwise acclimating to our new Pakistani environs while we await the arrival of Darin McQuoid and Phil Boyer to round out our strong team. Already we are benefiting from Roland’s history and connections in the area as we are staying at an extremely well appointed home of one of Roland’s family friends, Mr. Zakari. Zakari has already proved himself a great asset to the trip by arranging a last minute visa for Rafa Ortiz with an important fax to the Pakistani Consulate in Mexico City. To say the least, I think we are in good hands.

Before dawn on Thursday morning we will grab Phil and Darin at the Airport here in Islamabad and begin our journey up the Indus with one of the cruxes of the entire trip. Our route up the Karakorum Hwy will make a brief but sketchy passage through a portion of North West Pakistan that has been plagued lately by violence spilling over from an Afghan border. When we hit the cross roads of the Karakorum Hwy and the infamous Khyber Pass we will be only 80 miles from the proverbial War on Terror. To that end we will be traveling through this area in the early morning with the boats concealed in tarps and the Cameras nice and low.

This is precipitous start to an already challenging whitewater itinerary that may represent to some the peak of frivolous grab at for a sensational headline or two, but I truly believe that there is a greater good to be served by our little "vacation to the edge."

–In the words of Roland Stevenson–
"Without getting too philosophical, this is a critical time in Pakistan’s history. They’re on the brink of Talebanization, dealing with a bad economy, etc. It sounds like a war-zone when you watch CNN or read about it in the papers, but I hope the trip will be able to show a large number of people that most people in Pakistan are peaceful, friendly, and caught between extreme political forces from both Afghanistan and the US. At the end of the day, the trip’s about taking the opportunity to relate to people as normal human beings and share stories of Americans and Pakistanis having fun together with the world. We could go in and take a bunch of pictures at the arms market in Dera-Adem-Khel, dress up in shalwar kameez and turbans, and talk about how extreme we are because we’re on the front line in Pakistan…. but I don’t buy that angle at all. If we succeed at anything, I hope it is to run a safe expedition and draw some attention to the beauty and power of the Karakoram and Himalayan drainages. In my opinion, the story isn’t about war, guns, and insurgency, it’s huge mountains, epic rivers, and good relationships in a poorly understood portion of the world."

Ben Stookesberry