3 weeks ago

This Wonderful Little Place …. Gilgit, Pakistan

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Eva Power, founder of The Ethical Silk Company, on surviving a hairy experience in Pakistan and why it’s her favourite place …

I come from a family of travellers with aunts and uncles who have lived on every continent. However, it was the opportunity to travel after finishing college that really sparked my own wanderlust and as a result I spent most of my twenties travelling. Some of my most memorable times were travelling with friends along the west coast of Australia in a campervan and working on farms along the way. Fun times!

I’ve also been to more remote places having travelled through Mongolia and Central Asia. Standout memories include seeing a solar eclipse in Kazakhstan, spending a month in Iran before taking a train into Turkey. That was truly incredible, especially as I was by myself, wearing a chador to visit mosques and seeing the 2,500-year-old historical ruins in Persepolis.

When our eldest was nine months old my husband and I went to Sri Lanka for a month, getting trains from the highlands to the coast, and enjoying the quieter pace of life by the sea. Our son, having red hair, made quite an impression; Sri Lankans are incredibly kind and love children so he got lots of attention.

My travels in India and Pakistan led to me starting The Ethical Silk Company. My aunt lives in India and over the years she has sent my family beautiful silk scarves as special gifts, which my Mum would put over her pillowcase as she found it so good for her skin and hair. It was actually Mum’s suggestion to start producing silk pillowcases as they were so hard to find back in 2008. I had wanted to work with a particular eco-friendly mulberry silk and with highly skilled tailors, so it felt natural that I should look for a Fairtrade tailoring unit in India. As I had traveled to India previously and had a sense of familiarity with the country, it was a bonus when starting my business. It also meant I could tag on an extra few days to visit my aunt after visiting our various production units.

Our latest Andaman collection is inspired by a memorable visit in 2006, when I spent a month in the Andaman islands. It was a piece of heaven, being able to live the island life in such a remote spot – living in huts by the beach, snorkelling and scuba diving in the reefs, and then eating tropical fruits and delicious Indian food in the local villages. I still remember the vivid blues and greens – the jungle running right down to the bright blue ocean. I wanted to bring these colours into our latest collection.

Pakistan, however, will always have a special place in my heart. I travelled there with my boyfriend in 2006 and it was an incredible adventure. We travelled from Lahore into Sway Valley and then up the Karakoram highway through the most breathtaking scenery with K2 in the background. Gilgit is my favourite place, being a bustling town in the very north of Pakistan, surrounded by the Karakoram mountain range. It is a great base to explore the surrounding countryside, and to watch polo matches. The people are the most friendly and hospitable I have ever encountered. I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to experience Pakistan before things got so volatile over the following ten years. Unfortunately I was bed bound for most of my time in Gilgit as I was very sick at the end of our trip. I will never forget how well I was looked after by my homestay family in Gilgit and also by a local doctor, who insisted I was flown home. It was like being cared for by family; www.theethicalsilkco.com.

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