Entering the Rumbur valley, Pakistan, with all of its violence and militancy, felt like it was left behind. No electricity, phone signals or newspaper stands are to be found in the village of Balanguru, precarious and beautiful, perched between mountains.
Preparations for the Joshi (spring) festival were well under way when I visited: women and men were sitting chatting together, brewing the wine to be drunk, stitching colourful outfits, and on the eve of the celebrations, beating a drum late into the night while dancing.
"Parents don't let their small children drink, but by 13 or 14 you can start drinking here," said Jamrat, one young Kalashi, while another 18-year-old girl was too drunk on festival eve to give an interview.
This is far removed from ordinary Pakistani life where most people adhere to an Islamic code, shunning drink and dance. The Kalash, on the other hand, worship their own gods. Pakistanis would view Kalash culture with disapproval but nevertheless many, mostly men, still flock to the valleys from around the country to experience the liberation the festival offers.
The Kalash use the blanket term "Punjabi" for the Pakistani men who suddenly show up in the village staring at women, trying to "chat them up", and making many feel uncomfortable.They do not consider themselves Pakistani. In fact, they call anybody from elsewhere in the country "Pakistani" - as if it that term would not cover themselves as well.
But it was in the heady mix of the festival that the first clues appeared about the pressures the outside world is beginning to exert upon this society. Security was heightened in the valleys - a sign that Pakistan's problems can intrude upon even the most isolated communities. A walk-through security gate looked out of place at the foot of the mountain before a winding staircase that led to the heart of the festival.
Here euphoric Kalash people were dancing and singing and there was a distinct whiff of marijuana in the air. There was a small and unconvincing hand-written sign hanging somewhere, warning spectators that drinking was not allowed.
All the while, the anti-terrorist squad was scattered across the valleys. Every few steps, stood an upright man in uniform, holding a gun to his chest. And new rules dictate that each foreigner visiting the area must have their own security guard. "It's ridiculous," says Shane Brady, an Irish tourist. "The police were first being put up in our room, then when we refused, they slept right outside our room."
Saifullah Jan, the owner of a local guest house in Balanguru, feels strongly about it too. "The police are a hassle here. It's ruining tourism," he says. Foreign visitors are supposed to pay for their guards' food and accommodation, he adds. When they refuse, supporting the guards becomes a burden for the locals.