Today, Carlos Garranzo arrived from Spain early in the morning. Lina and Pilar are still waiting in Istanbul, Turkey for their flight to Islamabad tomorrow. In the afternoon, I got a call from Nabi letting me know that my luggage had arrived in Islamabad. We ventured out into the blistering heat and retrieved the bags from the airport, which as always was an ordeal. After ensuring everything was now accounted for, we rested a bit and then received a visit from our liaison officer from the Pakistani military, Captain Mohammad Badar. Since I am vice-leader of the expedition, Beni decided that we should try and complete the briefing with the Ministry of Tourism in the evening without Lina present. That way, after Lina and Pilar arrive tomorrow morning at 4:00am, we can try and fly to Skardu on the early morning PIA flight. We dined with our liaison officer, then waited till close to 11:00pm for Wing Commander Javed Iqbal to arrive for the briefing. We spent the next few hours completing paper work and convincing him to allow us to depart without making the US $10,000.00 helicopter rescue deposit that is now required of all expeditions. Afterwards, we received the grim news from Manzoor that our PIA flight to Skardu was not confirmed for tomorrow as the flight has been cancelled for the past few days and therefore has a long list of waiting passengers ahead of us. After the others arrive, we will discuss the plan for the coming days, but we will most likely be forced to travel by road via the notorious Karakorum highway. We can only hope that rumors of armed military personnel entering the vehicles of trekkers and climbers travelling to Skardu by road don’t turn out to be true.
After a 15 hour flight from Los Angeles to Dubai on an Emirates A380 and another from Dubai to Islamabad, I finally arrived to Benazir Bhutto International Airport at 1:30am. After clearing immigration, I waited at least another hour and a half only to discover that two of my four bags full of crucial climbing equipment were missing. I filed a report with the airline and headed out to the arrivals area to meet up with my contacts from the logistics agency. We piled into a van in a torrential downpour and headed into the city to the Grand Regency Hotel. The city seems quiet which is a relief after watching coverage of the clashes between police and demonstrators that accompanied the return of the Tahirul Qadri to Islamabad just two days ago. Lina and the others should arrive tomorrow morning at 4am and we will hopefully fly to Skardu on the 27th or 28th, weather permitting. A number of the PIA flights to Skardu have been cancelled including the flight today so we may end up having to travel by road on the Karakorum Highway if our flight is too delayed. I will post another update in the coming days.