The North is an Exceptional Infinity
Everybody has always heard how good and beautiful Gilgit and Hunza are. You never realise the true worth of this statement unless you experience it yourself. Thus, with plenty of time on our hands, it was time to make this long journey. My most memorable and eventful adventure to date.
There are two different roads that lead to Gilgit. The fastest and easiest one is through Naran and the Babusar Pass. The other road takes you through a region known as Kohistan. Unfortunately, the Babusar pass is covered in snow most parts of the year thus, we were to go through the slow road. We had absolutely no idea what that could mean for us.
This road is somewhat rough and uneven. But there are a lot of small towns and places so you don’t always have to go through all the way at once. One of the largest towns and centers of the region is Besham. Due to its geography and populace, this place is notable for a great deal of economic growth and labor relating to travels and tours.
Despite reaching late into the night, we found most shops open. Several caravans of tourists and vacationers were stationed near the shops which seemed most uncommon. We had humble chai at a suitable hotel and came to know of the reason as to why people were not going further up road. The road had been obstructed by severe land sliding. Although personnel were working on making the path functional again, it was still a long haul.
The few night hours were spent roaming about the streets. Breakfast followed the morning prayers. As soon as the rest of the people started back with their journeys, it was time for us to move as well. The early morning view was something nobody had considered since the night travel was quite tiresome. The Indus River glowed various shades of blue on the cloudy day, over-shadowed by the rock-covered mountains.
A few moments later was where horror had struck. A long queue of cars, bikes, trucks and buses. On foot the picture became a lot clear; an excavator throwing chunks of rock and rubble down the cliff on the right. It was something out of a filming location. Hundreds of people had gathered on the road barely 20 feet wide while several people worked on clearing the rocks. It was like a buzzing carnival for the next 5 hours or so. This time also managed to teach me about the culture of the particular area, the dynamics and daily routines of the inhabitants. Every person is extremely busy throughout the day trying to make ends meet for their families.
The place was very windy and dusty as a result. The local inhabitants and other tourists had basically camped there and stood watching while larger stones were being blown up by dynamite. After all this was over we didn’t stop for another 2 hours until we reached Dasu.
Basically we tried to experiment and had brought along cooked rice and kebabs so that we could help ourselves to food whenever we wanted to. Thus at a roadside restaurant, we opened up our Daig, heated the rice and ate to our fill. Most of us, including the driver had already slept while the land sliding was being cleared, back in Besham. Without wasting anymore time, we headed off further onto the journey.
Throughout this part of the region, the Indus River kept company. The Indus River is what keeps the settlements and cities alive. Most part of the year here is hot. It has turned the mountains brown and black, almost like charcoal.
Chillas welcomed us in darkness. With nothing much to see except murky mountainous landscapes, there was a certain urge to look out of the windows. The tall standing rock structures were nothing short of majestic under the silver moonlight.
Until we reached the climax of it all and fixed our eyes on the magnificent Nanga Parbat. The place is Raikot Bridge. A secondary road leads all the way to Fairy Meadows and the Nanga Parbat base camp. Although the night was cloudy, you could still take a look where the summit would have been. From here on out, travel was on the silky smooth Karakoram Highway or KKH. The KKH experience was one I had never had nor could I imagine of having. I kept looking up in the sky and back on the road with my face out of the window. The air and aroma of the place managed to keep me happy and smiling throughout the night and I don’t think there can be any happiness greater than that which always surrounds you.
We stopped momentarily at another place known as 3M. The point at which the world’s greatest three mountain ranges meet.
Gilgit was quiet and asleep when we got there. But still a place was open to entertain us where we did enjoy a light talk speculating at a great deal of improbable moments from the past 25 hours on road, and then finally laid to bed.
This place gives tourists numerous attractions to stop and stay at. For instance, the Rakaposhi view point is absolutely mesmerizing in superior ways.
There was this restaurant here which would have made anybody speechless. The crockery, the presentation, the service and the location was so perfectly set, it seemed something from a fantasy. The place and its folks were exceptionally heartwarming.
Hunza comes next. But for us it was to be for the way back. The area is tempting, to say the least, which made it ever more exciting to explore.
The KKH manages to keep you awestricken and feeling blissful. There was an eerie echo of silence on track. This is where we met the mighty Passu Cones, being highly unique in shape and structure, these are the also most photographed peaks of the region. They actually belittle your existence.
Something Gilgit is famed for are the tunnels constructed through the mountain range, also known as the Pak-China friendship tunnels. There are actually several series of tunnels, varying in lengths the longest one measuring 3km. In-between these tunnels and bridges lies a gem of a lake. How ironic is the fact that this lake, hailed as one of the most exquisite water bodies, was actually an accidental make and had brought about considerable destruction.
As the road goes deeper and closer to its end, the mountains begin to surround it and grow more superlative. There are not a lot of settlements later into the KKH, just plain, clean track and a curious quietness. A silence that is bound to creep you out. You pass the Batura glacier on the way which is clearly visible if you move about the area. A gigantic piece of frozen water aching to become part of a flowing body.
For us the final destination was Sost. The dry port that manages the trade from north, mainly China. It is also the last town that is on the way to the Khunjerab pass. We got to spend some time over the plain areas. The weather had become more intense and dark, and heavy showers seemed imminent. There are several shops in the settlement which provide chiefly foreign goods, most of which were quite different and unique. The food, however, was ordinary. We then proceeded to head back to Hunza where another surprise was waiting for us.
We came back to Hunza where the clouds had completely covered any visible mountain sights. It grew colder and frostier into the night when finally it started to rain. The atmosphere was cold enough to be pleasant and bearable.
We woke up to see a completely different sight. The clouds which were formerly looming over the landscapes had now rushed away whilst leaving behind snow. It gave off a brilliant shine in the morning. The bazaars were open early since it was a working day for them all. The hospitality and modest aura of the valley was a brilliant feel. Small kids with rose-colored cheeks were walking their way to schools and the delight on their faces was actually a sight for sore eyes.
The community of Hunza serves as an example and specimen for all cities and localities in the country. With a 99% literacy rate, the people of Hunza have developed their society on education and courtesy, which has been the core reasons of their institutional well-being.
Among other valley attractions, the Altit and Baltit forts have fascinated people due to their build and more importantly the position of the structure. The Baltit fort also serves a good sample of heritage preservation.
The reach for the Baltit fort is quite a walk. All along the pathway, numerous shop owners display the region’s outstanding items and souvenirs.
The 700 year old fort is still standing thanks to a proper system of maintenance and protection. The guide for the tour was quite a humble and well-informed person himself who basically conveyed all valuable information about the fort that he could hold.
We went through all of the same places on our way back, this time everything was cloudy and wet. We tried all local daal spots and found each of the different areas to have a specific tang to it.
The journey back is certain to make you feel sad. The north is a vivid and exceptional infinity, it is a god-gifted cascade of the charming nature. It is not only the landscapes that allure the soul but what appeals most is the life surrounding the monumental models.