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The Secrets of the Lake
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A vacation home in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush might not be for everyone, but for author, adventurer, and travel outfitter Jonny Bealby, it’s a part of life he most enjoys. Bealby heads up Wild Frontiers, a UK–based company that specializes in expeditions to physically demanding or politically contentious regions—Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent in particular. We recently traveled together from Srinagar, India, through Kashmir to the Nubra Valley, a mountain desert where India butts up against China and Pakistan. The valley, peppered with Buddhist monasteries, tapers off toward the Siachen Glacier, long considered the world’s highest-altitude war zone. When we reach the limit of permissible access, Bealby grows annoyed: “It’s crawling with army,” he says. “All these borders—they’re a pain in the ass.”
Bringing clients to places most outfitters won’t touch, Bealby, 46, has loads of regulars for his trips—a riding safari in Kyrgyzstan, say, or downhill skiing in Kashmir. Some journeys are set-date group departures, with ten-night prices starting at $3,000. Others are bespoke itineraries, and it’s for these that one really wants to book Bealby himself. His on-the-ground guides are extremely knowledgeable, but the experience of traveling with Bealby adds another dimension. He can recall obscure historical, political, and topographical facts (plus the names of friends in every village), and he tells adventure stories aplenty—more, even, than those he’s already packed into his three published books. Bealby will lead three set-departure trips in 2010; his private guiding services begin at $600 a day (44-207/736-3968; wildfrontiers.co.uk)