Chitral was similar to Gilgit in that they were both the regional centres for large, remote areas of northern Pakistan. That was more or less where the similarities ended, however. Gilgit, occupying a spot on the well maintained Karakoram Highway, felt like a small but burgeoning city. Chitral, meanwhile was cut off from the rest of the country for several months a year by the closing of the Lowari and Shandur passes to vehicular traffic. During this time, the only access to the town was by air from Peshawar or on foot over one of the passes. This isolation probably had a lot to do with Chitral’s appearance as a big frontier outpost rather than a modern, developing Pakistani town.
Nick and I were dropped off at the front door of our chosen guesthouse. After a checking in and resting a bit, the manager suggested that we head down to the police station and register there, as all foreigners were required to do.
Our five minute walk took us past the Chitral fort and the town’s oldest mosque. Once at the police station we were invited into a dark, dusty room where three Pakistani men sat talking. As soon as they saw us at the doorway they stopped and welcomed us in. The process was painless, if slowed a bit by the number of officials that needed to look at or sign copies of our registration. As we sat waiting for the process to be completed, we learned that the Lowari Pass (at 3100m considerably lower than Shandur) was STILL not open, though likely would be in a few days time. As a result of this, there were still very few foreigners in Chitral (there had been four registered in April and Nick and I were numbers four and five in May) but they were starting to filter in.
With our presence in the town legitimized, we went out for a look at the rest of Chitral.