Pakistan has been in the international headlines for all the wrong reasons, said Denise Davies, a young Scottish cyclist who is touring the country. He said he sees reality to be different and wants to promote a positive image of Pakistan to the rest of the world.
“Usually media projects Pakistan as an extremist country but there are no signs of that on ground,” said Davies during an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
He and some of his cyclist friends set out to pedal through Istanbul in Turkey, from where they went to Central Asian states, Iran and China.
His friends disbanded when he entered Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) via Khunjerab Pass, which is the highest border crossing across the Karakoram Range.
“I really haven’t seen such hospitable and caring people in any other part of the world. Even though I’m carrying a tent and some food, I haven’t had to use them as the locals invite me over to their homes to spend the night and have food with them,” he said. “Pakistanis are peace-loving people and I have learnt many good values from them,” he added.
“Up till now, I haven’t come across any extremist elements at any point of my journey. The mountains ranges are tremendous and beautiful and seeing Kalash people in Chitral who have maintained their centuries-old culture and tradition was just perfect,” Davies remarked. He said the security forces and the police are “very kind and cooperative” and he was obliged to them for giving him security.
When asked how he liked the local cuisine, he said he likes all traditional food here but loves to eat pakoras and tanduri roti the most. He seemed to be completely at ease with Pakistanis and apart from enjoying the traditional food, he also danced on occasion to the beat of traditional drum.
“I wish that my friends would have also come with me so that they would not miss such a fantastic opportunity of seeing such gentle people in these beautiful valleys,” he said. “I want to convey to the international community that Pakistan is not only beautiful but the people of the land are hospitable, positive and peace loving. I invite my other cyclist friends to visit this country too,” he added.
Davies was heading towards Rawalpindi on Tuesday after completing his tour in G-B. Next up, he will go to Lahore and then enter India on his bicycle.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2012.