and we all enjoy the wonderful gardens and the incredible barbecue. Most of the tourists also staying there are Pakistanis on
short holiday to escape the heat and humidity of what they call
the “downcountry” of Islamabad and Karachi.
Another Cliffside Adventure
The drive from Gilgit to Skardu takes 10 hours on a road
that sometimes gives you the feeling of hanging over the
raging river below, with breathtaking views of the sheer-drop mountains above. We are lucky with the weather and
have a nice view of Nanga Parbat, which at 26,660 feet
is the ninth highest mountain on earth and the western
anchor of the Himalayas.
We spend the next two nights in the wonderful village
of Shigar, in a hotel that was once literally a fort. Again
we are the only foreigners, and the locals welcome us with
smiles and friendly greetings.
In the afternoon the villagers invite us to watch a local
polo match in the soccer field. The playing is animated
and aggressive, with few rules, and lasts about two hours,
providing plenty of photo ops.
Every where we go, our military escort is with us, which
sometimes makes me uneasy because everyone comes out to
see why. News travels fast in parts of the world like this. There
are a few signs on the walls that are not very complimentary
to America, but our guide says that some crazy people wrote
them. Not totally reassured, I keep my guard up.
On the Way Home
The time we spend in Baltistan is wonderful and full of
good experiences and adventure but it is time to reverse
course, across the Kunjerab pass and back into China.
The return takes us via Gilgit again, but this time we
take the high road across the Deosai plateau, another treat
for the senses, crossing an expanse where nomads are taking their livestock to greener pastures for the summer. It’s
mostly dirt road and the trip to Gilgit takes a full 15 hours,
the last three with dangerous road conditions.
After a well-earned good night’s sleep in Gilgit, we drive
all the way past Hunza to Sost on the Pakistan side of the
border, where we spend the night before crossing the 40
kilometers of no man’s land back to China.
We reverse back over the pass and say goodbye to
our nice Pakistani friends, meet our Chinese guide on
the pass and, after an arduous three-hour processing at
Chinese immigration and customs, spend one last night
in Tashkorgan before driving back to Kashgar, where we
catch our flight to Beijing and home.
Travel in Pakistan is always full of trials and tribulations, but the beautiful landscape and our encounters
with the peaceful and friendly Baltistan people make me
inclined to recommend giving it a try. M