It’s not every day a 70 something Perth woman totes an AK 47 rifle, but that’s what intrepid solo traveller Faye Day did on a recent visit to Pakistan.
Her personal guide shadowed Faye for four days, even caring for her when she attended a wedding, so it seemed appropriate she should pose for a picture with his rifle.
Faye, 79, the author of nine autobiographical travel books on her journeys to more than 150 countries down the years, has just published her second book and a third is due for release.
Her most recent trip over two months took in Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan and Sudan, countries less travelled by the majority of tourists. This suits Faye who stays away from the conventional tourist trail, detests shopping and likes lots of walking.
“It was my second visit to Iran and I stayed with a family related to friends here which was a totally different experience,” Faye said.
“The hospitality was overwhelming. I was taken around the country and all they would allow me to pay for was the fuel. I took a child to a shop to buy some treats but the shopkeeper refused payment, saying that I was a guest in the country.”
Faye visited the historic city of Bam which is being rebuilt after an earthquake.
“When I went before, everything had been destroyed but the citadel is being rebuilt and they are doing a wonderful job.”
She became very ill in Lebanon, from something she suspects she ate from a roadside stall but recovered to continue her trip.
Pakistan was a highlight and she had not been there before. She travelled to the north-west of the country where there had been no tourists since 9/11.
“I was not expecting the beauty of the country. Every time I went to take a photo crowds gathered and I was offered tea everywhere, even in a chemist shop. I was given a police escort at Chitral and started a four-day trip.”
Faye and her escort headed from the remote mountain villages of Kalash Valleys to see the Kaffir people.
The women use black makeup on their faces after blackening a goat’s horn in the fire, rubbing it on wetted stone and applying it around the forehead and eyes, a striking look.
They dress in hand embroidered clothing even for tending cattle, cooking over the fires and washing clothes.
During her trip the police rang her guide and told him not to stop at the next town because of insurgents.
“Everywhere we went the trees were ablaze with autumn colours and the mountains covered in snow, the accommodation quite good and the people most obliging,” she says.
Faye was attracted to the stone houses often created with materials from surrounding terrain.
She said Sudan was an eye-opener, travelling north of Khartoum which was perfectly safe.
“Everyone hears about starvation and war there but Sudanese history is akin to Egypt, the first pharaoh was a Sudanese king. There are more pyramids in Sudan than Egypt but they are smaller and in a different style.
“People don’t know much about the pyramids. They are well protected and maintained, but they are still being excavated. One locked temple within a mountain had larger than life murals of various gods – quite beautiful.
“Not many tourists visit and the carvings are superior to what I had seen in Egypt.”
On her way home Faye spent seven hours in Dubai to see the Miracle Garden, which, she says, was just that and truly magic.
“They had created a fairyland of houses and castle composed entirely of flowers, and there were giant parrots and ducks, a peacock, an avenue with multihued umbrellas interspersed with flowers overhead, rows of hearts and butterflies forming arches, a floral clock and even a full-sized Emirates aircraft.”
Faye describes her latest trip as “very interesting and fascinating – a new experience.” She is off to the United States and Columbia in November and might stop off in Brazil.
“My thirst for travel is undiminished,” she said. “I will travel for as long as I can, it’s an obsession.”