Exclusive: Inside Pakistan's Swat Valley

Martha Raddatz has exclusive access to the dangerous region

ByABC News
February 18, 2009, 10:55 PM

SWAT VALLEY, Pakistan<br>Nov. 8, 2007&#151; -- Pakistan's Swat Valley is 150 grueling miles, and a world away from Islamabad.

We left early this morning, and it is lucky we did. It took more than five hours to make the trip through treacherous mountain passes paved only in gravel, and small villages where covering my face and hair was imperative.

We were in the heart of Taliban country, but this wasn't Afghanistan -- it was Pakistan.

I started reading about the Swat Valley on my way over to Pakistan early last week. I knew that it was a former tourist spot surrounded by a staggering wall of mountains. The mountains are still spectacular, but the tourists are nowhere to be found. I also knew that it was now considered too dangerous for foreigners, especially Westerners, which is why we did our best not to look that way.

When I met our guide this morning he had left his polo shirts and khaki pants home. He, the cameraman, and British producer Bruno Roeber were all dressed in native garb. Despite Bruno's bright blue eyes, the men blended in fairly well.

Our guide told me to bring a large black or white scarf and to wear it over my head. Half way up the mountain he could see I wasn't very good at handling a head scarf, and he pulled over to show me how. It must drape your shoulders as well.

As we got closer to Swat and were passing through a village, I peered out the window and our guide calmly said, "Look straight ahead, don't let them see your face."

But the streets were so swarmed with people that it was difficult not to be noticed.

And then we hit the traffic jam -- an unimaginable traffic jam. On a high mountain pass we came to a dead stop because they were doing some blasting up ahead. We were surrounded by huge, brightly colored trucks filled with cattle, rice, hay and people. Drivers were squeezing in between the cars. Our guide told me to stay in the car, make sure my hair was covered and not look around. Finally, after an hour we began moving again.