Trekking alone across the Karakoram Range, Christopher Kabala learned about a new culture, largely unaffected by the world events unfolding just hours away.
“This is not the Pakistan that you read about in the papers,” he said, “It is one of the most peaceful places in the world.”
Kabala, 61, a pianist, and music director at the Round Hill Community Church, traveled to the country last August to go trekking.
“I went because I am a bit of a mountain freak,” he said.
Ever since he was a young child, Kabala had an interest in climbing and the outdoors. His father was a climber. But then Kabala became involved in his studies and his love of music. He didn’t have time to climb.
That is until 1994, when he was playing in a musical festival in Austria and decided to climb Grossglockner — one of the highest mountains in the country.
“Then I was hooked,” he said, “I like the excitement and the adventure of it.”
He decided to go to climbing school in Switzerland, where he trekked through the Swiss Alps.
He has since traveled through Nepal, Egypt, Tibet, Turkey and throughout Europe.
“I have really enjoyed it,” he said.
But this trip to Pakistan was unique.
“I had never been in a culture so removed from our culture in the West,” he said, “The people are so content with their lives and that intrigued me.”
Kabala, a resident of the Upper West Side in Manhattan, was struck by the hospitality of the people in the north of the country. Families would invite him to stay overnight in their homes and he would eat meals of rice and chicken with them. They were very open, inviting him to participate in many activities, including a dance around a bonfire.
“It’s a very simple culture ? It was fun,” he said.
Before leaving for Pakistan, Kabala researched the region and knew he would not be in any danger.
“I had been in contact with people who were already there ? in the areas I was going to and I came to the conclusion the risk was small. Pakistan is not Kansas. There is tremendous instability in the country, but not in the northern region where I was,” he said.
Kabala took hundreds of photos ranging from images of people to vistas overlooking the mountain range.
“I think the trip is sensational,” said Richard Bergstresser, former first selectmen and a trustee at the Round Hill Community Church.
Bergstresser sat through a slideshow and talk given by Kabala at the church and was struck by how fascinating the story was, he said.
“This was so unique. He had so many great pictures ? and emphasized the people he met,” he said.
Kabala said that although this trip was strenuous, he plans to go back, possibly this summer.
“It was a tremendous experience,” he said.