Things went tough and unexpected when we started paddling on the Karakorum Highway(KKH). The courage and will in ourselves kept us moving on the 8th wonder of the world. Lets get started on a journey of emotions, courage, culture and history.
The Karakoram Highway is one of the world's most famous roads and a daring feat of engineering from both Chinese and Pakistani road crews who cut a path through the formidable Karakoram mountain range, which divides the two nations (the road was opened in 1986 and took 20 years to build). Many cyclists I know, or those I'd read about on the Internet had cycled this road - a classic and challenging route passing through the rugged mountainous terrain.
Today we have a personal feel and touch of the Karakoram Highway by bicycle. The sky was full of clouds and cold breeze was blowing when we exited Gilgit on Karakoram highway alongside the Hunza River. On the south, The “Killer Mountain” or also called Nanga Parbat also stands as a giant white cloud attached to the earth. This is the world’s 9th highest mountain (8125m).
The highway slowly climbed beside the Hunza river - a series of small ascents and descents, with the former usually lasting longer. The valley sides were steep and often climbed several thousand meters above the road, crested with white, which dazzled in the strong sun. In the evening we stopped at Jutal village. After meeting with locals they agreed that we can camp there, one local named “Tehzeeb” along with his cousin “Shiar Ali” offered us their garden for camp. The garden looked amazing, with apricots trees. We were all excited there was food, water and green garden as no one of us could expect more than what is readily there. After setting our camp the local boys came with a plate of fresh apricots and later with dinner. We have not tasted such apricots before as this garden. “All garden is yours, eat as much as you can”, Ali Shair Said
After setting and organizing our camping paraphernalia, the same local boys as mentioned came with a plate of fresh apricots and later join us for dinner. We have not tasted such apricots before, as said fruits in Jutal Village taste extraordinarily different. “The garden is all yours, eat as much as you can Shair Ali motioned”.
We were honored by “Tajmul Hussain” for the dinner with “Lassi, Makhan, Beans, Roti, and Salad”. The Gilgit-Baltistan bread is bigger than our own Punjab and we were afraid if we end up eating only one out of 4 bread offered us. It was a memorable dinner that night. Sitting at the apricot garden in the open benevolent sky and surrounded by locals who were really so glad to witness our great feeling of delight, content and leisure. It was unfortunate that “Tehzeeb” didn’t know Urdu, as he declined to speak anything as I personally didn’t feel very comfortable with him. We thanked Allah for reaching Jutal safely. It became so dark and the temperature somewhat dropped so rapidly that we were started to feel the cold at Ishah.
A lot of locals came to visit us as if we were celebrities. They came by and sit with us for some time and ask the general questions. They felt happy knowing the purpose of our bicycle trek. They all appreciated much our effort in this bikaton endeavour that we have organized and invest too much effort and dedication. Some elderly folks of the village also joined us and spoke with us. It’s somewhat a privileged time for them to relate to us the tales of their lives and how they feel about life. They all gave us the conclusion of their lives which we thought were the golden words and experiences of their life’s story an opportune time they ought to voice out to us as these experiences are bereft to other people.
We meet a local named “Sayed Tajmul Hussain”. He was the resident of this village. We have lengthy discussion with him as the village. He told his story that he was a Chef at “Diran Guest House” in Minapin, Nagar. He left the job because his job site is too far from his home as what is primordial to him was his closeness and ready availability to his family. The “Diran guest house” was the best known hotel in Pakistan in 2009. Sayed is now devoted in his fishery farm in “Jaglot, Gour”, Nagar and a proud father of five (5) lovable children. The warm welcome afforded us in Jutal was really beyond our expectation as everyone in the village was trying to reach us and desiring to talk with us making an instant celebrity out of us in person that we endearingly value. We were then unaware of the passage of time as we were preoccupied with “gupshup” / gossips with the local folks and slept at about twelve (12) midnight. It was a very fulfilling night to remember and cherish.
We camped last in the apricot orchard in Jutal Village. It was our first ever experience of camping. I must say it came out really enjoyable and entertaining with the local folks as our audience. The temperature fell immensely last night but the camp served us well. We woke up around 5 A.M. and saw the sunrise over the rugged mountains.
We were leaving for Rakaposhi view point in Ghulmat (Ghulmet), Nagar today. When we woke up, some locals showed up and queried “what we like to have for breakfast?” That was really friendly and hospitable from them. We said, “We didn’t ask for it” but they insisted we are their guests. They brought us breakfast. While we were finishing it, we also took some fresh apricots with us. Meanwhile when we were about to leave Jutal we were greeted by aggregate of local Jutal kids. They were all smiling as if it’s their first visual encounter for an outsider in our person. Later, we gained their confidence and trust and all of them came closer to us. We played cricket with them in the apricot orchard, which was itself an amazing experience.
Time passed so quickly as we were busy playing with the kids. We had to hurry and pack our bags and start our journey. We left Jutal around 10 AM. The folks and children join chorus to bade us goodbye and with all of them saying good bye and wishing us “Saffar Mubarak”. We really would remember all the lovable kids of Jutal as they made us feel extra special.
After Jutal we saw the first tunnel on Karakorum Highway just in front of “Nomal Valley”. We witness a lot of Chinese engineers working on the road and they were also glad to see us. We stopped at “Rahimabad” for an hour rest. The place was also surrounded by natural garden and orchards. We ate apricots, drank glacier cold water and recharged ourselves and moved on. Karakorum Highway presented stunning view after “Rahimabad” with exceptional road condition.
Our stop for the lunch and midday rest was “Jaglot-Gour”. We were glad to find a lot of hotels and shops in such stunning beautiful small village. There we met “Jamshaid”, a local boy who befriend us and became instantly close to us. We took our lunch and ate mulberry thereby having sweet taste of the wonderful environment of “Gour”. We left “Gour” at past noon and surprisingly we saw “Sayed Tajmul Hussain” that he have already met in Jutal. That was a really a pleasant surprise for us to see him again and we were enticed to join him to his trout fish farm. He gave us good briefing about the fishing methods for trout fishes. Sadly, we still had some distance to cover to reach Ghulmet but we were determined to accomplish it.
The road condition was perfect but there was a lot of ascending incline of the highway structures. It’s the secret of cycling that if one successfully pedalled through uphill one should persevere hard pedalling and feel relaxed of his pace and gearing and stop whenever his muscular efforts are consumed/exhausted to provide the muscle legs to relax for a brief moment. Conversely, the halting breather should not last more than two (2) minutes as the body temperature and momentum would subside. Move after gaining momentum from your instant physical stop breather as you could condition your psyche/mind that there would be no road so high that you could conquer.
Soon on the Karakorum highway, we saw a P.S.O. pump. We do need some fuel but in the form of water to recharge ourselves. We met some locals there who were businessmen. During our discussion, one man from “Mingora, Swat” said, “You will not find such people (People of Hunza) even in Swat”. That was a big statement for the “Hunza/Nagar” people. We were treated well there and drank enough water and felt re-charged as we move on towards our next destination. The day seemed long enough as we calculated our destination is yet a fair distance afar.
Our exhausted bodies gained a new life when we saw a first fantastic compelling view of the Rakaposhi Mountain. We erstwhile stopped, took a good hard long look of the beautiful mountain before we set off again. The Rakaposhi is known for its beauty and height. This peak provided stunning view the whole day on Karakorum Highway and in Hunza and Nagar Valleys. Now we felt a little satisfied that “Rakaposhi View Point” would not be very far away to reach.
It was getting cold as the sun was hidden behind the high peaks. It also cued us to be quick otherwise we are forced to camp before Ghulmet. We then moved on and keep on frequently asking the locals for place identification but all were in unison that our destination is yet a little far.
We reached our destination before sunset. It was a long day of physical exhaustion and anguish that came to an end. The Rakaposhi mountain was beautiful and shining in front of our hotel. We met some locals at the “Rakaposhi Viewpoint Hotel” and soon became familiar with each other and we planned trekking along Pissian glacier towards Rakaposhi. The trekking was an unplanned idea but we love to adopt it. We met and befriended “Raja Ali Kayni”, a well known local in Nagar Valley. Our trek was set for tomorrow as we plan to sleep in peace and serenity in front of Rakaposhi.
With a great plan set for today, we slept more than the normal sleeping hours with the hope that our physical rest might help us endure the trekking towards Rakaposhi. After waking up, we went for a late morning walk in Ghulmet, Nagar Village hoping to find some fresh fruits. There, we got acquainted with an educated boy named Ali Abbas who took us to his home where he offered us a lot of cherries. We enjoyed a lot plucking cherries from the trees which was an amazing experience by itself. He gifted us a bunch of cherries that we took with us going back to our hotel. Along the way, we saw local boys and girls going to the school providing us of nostalgic memorable flashback memories of our childhood days.
Finally, back to our hotel, we had our breakfast. We called “Ali Kyani” who was taking us near to Rakaposhi to get ready so that we could leave immediately with him.
Today we departed for the Rakaposhi Trek seemingly late as the fleeting sunshine vividly reminded us. Ali and Israr were both on Motorcycles so they have to be gentle to be in motion pace with us with our bicycles. The road was a fluidly smooth with the Hunza River neatly flowing just the below our road.
Along the way, we had an experiment as the trekkers in motorcycles wanted to test-ride our bicycles. We told them it would be difficult, but they insisted. So we stopped at the Pissian Village Link Road and exchanged our bicycles with their motorcycles. Funny moments started on the road with the bicycles they were manoeuvring to make fast and faster attained less progress in physical speed. In so doing, their bicycle road navigation was a futile one that seems to consume much of their physical strength. At this juncture, we made a wise decision to take back our bicycles and let them feel relaxed and mentally organized with their motorcycles.
We reached at Ali’s place by 12 PM. We had a lot of time before we can set off as our plan was around 3 PM. We saw a beautiful garden at his place and we had fresh cherries for our welcome. Roaming around his garden and nearby places of the Pissian Village was an amazing experience. We also saw the collapsed Nagar Fort which was located in Pissian Village.
We all agreed to have a lunch at Rakaposhi Pissian Meadows. We prepared all the necessary trekking and cooking stuff and set off at about 1 PM for the adventurous trek. The trek starts from the middle of Pissian Village. Difficulty seemed normal for the first half an hour, but, then the rocky path made it a bit difficult to pass. Notwithstanding, the rocky pathways, each snap view of the Rakaposhi refreshes and recharges us. On the way, we saw some Nalla’s stream flow coming from Rakaposhi glaciers.
We reached at the top of Pissan Meadows at 3:45 PM and saw beautiful Pissian Meadow juxtaposed in front of Rakaposhi. That was a view which fascinated us. We saw some goats and buffalos below the meadows having their lunch. We stopped and had some rest as Israr started collecting sticks for making lunch as if feeling the pangs of hunger. He was a tough guy as he went further up the hill and to the glacier and came back with a piece of ice and water that became helpful for our cooking.
While Israr was cooking, myself, Ifzaal and Ali also thought of to ascend up the hill and see the Pissian Glacier. We started climbing, and saw some view of the glacier that doesn’t seem to satisfy our souls. We went closer and closer hoping to see a grand view. The grand view seemed quite a long way so we returned back after one 1 hour. It was really a total bewilderment that the Rakaposhi Grand View was so far yet from our sight being a futile attempt despite our physical struggle uphill and we were so dismayed that the Rakaposhi grandeur view was a total illusion as it’s physically apparent the Rakaposhi is too far away from our camp.
A much coveted tempting meal was waiting for us as we came back. We had our late lunch at 4:40 PM that we thought tasted better than any restaurant in Karachi as we were all hungry by then. We were then having lunch in front of Rakaposhi sitting on a stone considered as a “memorable lunch” ever in our lives. Some goats joined company with us during lunch and it was really a unique fantasy and entertainment being in company with animals in distant elevated mountain places. We finished our lunch at 5.30 PM. The sunset glared our eyes and we had the feel of the immense coldness breezing from Rakaposhi Glacier. We then decided we packed ourselves and had a final group photo at Pissian Meadows, viewed Rakaposhi over and over again being hard to say goodbye to such a beautiful mountain sight. We saw sunset on the Rakaposhi on our way back. Rakaposhi by sunset turn to an astonishing yellow structural color being a memorable landscape view by then. We reached back at Ali’s place around 7:30 PM. Our tired bodies fell in the beautiful garden and we wanted to have rest for some time.
We left for “Diran Guest House” after having dinner. This was the same hotel where “Sayed Tajamal Hussain” of Ishah, Jutal Village used to cook. No doubt, the hotel was beautiful in structure adorned with luxuriant garden robust with fruits. Some famous personalities were also found like “Mustansar Hussain Tarrar”, “Nadeem Khawar”, “Waqar Ahmed Malik” et. al. After we had our dinner, we visited the hotel where we saw a lot of antique artifacts making this hotel one of the best in Pakistan. We had an amazing time at this hotel but it was the time to leave say goodbye. We stayed at Ali’s place that night.