Driving on the KKH to Hunza we saw some spectacular high mountain scenery.  The exalting scenery en route does not prepare one enough for the majesty and serenity that is the Hunza Valley.   The Hunza Valley is a high altitude, fertile valley that supports agriculture. Hunzakuts (peopel of Hunza) have been known to live well past their 100th birthday fit, full of vitality and virtually free from disease. Regardless of what the reality may be it is common to meet someone over 80 or 90 years of age working in the fields or climbing down the side of a mountain in flip flops. It is not uncommon for 90 year old Hunza men to father children. Hunza women of 80 or more look no older than their counterpart of 40 from a city – and not only any woman, but one who is in excellent shape.

The Lady finger Peak

Local women do some exquisite needlepoint embroidery in their spare time and prepare souvenirs that are sold to tourists.

A hunza woman reportedly over 80 who does needlepoint emroidery and does not need glasses still

Karimabad, Hunza is one of my favourite places on earth. Can you honestly name one place where you wake up surrounded by 7 peaks, all over 6000 m. (19,800 ft.) in height? To put things further in perspective let me tell you that the tallest mountain in Europe is about 5000 m. (16,500 ft) while there are 108 peaks over 7000 m and 30 peaks more than 7500 m. (24,750 ft.) in Pakistan. (Out of the total 14 mountains more than 8000 m. (26,400 ft) in the world 5 are in the Northern Areas of Pakistan)

Rakapopshi – the backdrop for the Hunza Valley. (depending which side you look at it from)

Cafe ‘d Hunza and its owner.

Ultar Peak

The world heritage site – Baltit Fort

Lady finger peak

The maximum use of cultivable land by terracing

A group foto before we left

our rides (some of them) from the roof of our hotel

spot-the-road-challenge…can you spot the road we traveled on?

A hunza woman on her way to the field. The basket she carries is made of mulbury tree branches and would be full of produce when she returns. While she works in the field, the goat would be free to graze.

Baltit Fort – a world heritage site,

Hunza Cherries

Hunza grapes

Hunza walnuts

There is a lot to see and do in Hunza but we had lost a day in Gilgit due to an unscheduled stop to rest and repair the cars. The plan was to make it to Shindur for the polo finals. One of my favourite food items in Hunza is the walnut cake sold at Cafe ‘d Hunza. I could not leave Hunza without buying some. The owner found us waiting outside his cafe when he turned up. He had with him 7 walnut cakes that were still warm from the oven. We bought all. The cakes were rationed and consumed over several evening teas later. We took pictures and packed up to head back for Gilgit where we had left one of our group members. Mujahid had decided to stay back in Gilgit awaiting delivery of a pair of front struts for his super as his front tyres were rubbing against the fenders. The plan was to meet him and continue towards Shindur. Shindur would have been the first place where we planned to spend more than two nights on the entire expedition. We stopped on our way at the Rakaposhi view point which has an ideal setting to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the 7800 m (25,740 ft.) mountain. there is a nice outdoor restaurant where you can have food while listening to the roar of water that is the snow melt from the Rakaposhi.  The kitchen still employs wood stoves and ours was a large group so it took them more than an hour to bring our food. Meanwhile a TV crew turned up and interviewed us..we were going to have our 15 minutes of fame!!! When the TV reporter asked us about our plans and we told them we are heading towards Shindur he exploded the bombshell on our heads…the road is closed due to a glacial lake burst and a landslide! The first reports according to him was that the road won’t be reopened before a week, at the very least!

Abdullah being interviewed by the TV crew

Capt. Mufti’s turn to answer the questions

Maqsood – the great warrior. You may not recognize him when he walks past you at the airport wearing the boring airline uniform. he flies Big Boeings to pay for his VW hobby

Harvesting buck wheat – the old-fashioned way

a stretch of ‘proper’ road between Hunza and Gilgit

One of the tunnels on the newly constructed road. designed to minimize disruptions due to landslides that are a recurring phenomenon on the KKH

We left the Rakaposhi view point for Gilgit and met up with the group member we had left behind. He had meanwhile received the struts for his super and had them installed. We shared the news with him, made a few phone calls and confirmed the news about the land slide and the approximate date of road re-opening. We did not want to risk traveling towards the landslide and risk being stranded. The best option was to alter our plans and head for Rama which would bring us closer to another amazing destination of Deosai.
The stretch of KKH we had to drive on was the same we had experienced just a couple of days back. Groaning and grumbling our faithful VW’s carried on. We got off the KKH at Astore near Chilas and headed back up towards Rama. Rama is a heavily wooded valley with some breathtaking views and an equally beautiful Rama lake. The plan was to camp there and chill. It took us about 4 hours of driving on a thin tape of a road that was stuck to the side of the mountain. The last couple of hours driving was in total darkness with light rain to make the drive a wee bit more treacherous. We lost our way a few times but being ‘proper’ males and living up to our reputation we did not ask for directions. In any case the villagers go to sleep quite early in that part of the world and the dogs that greeted us by their growls and snarls spoke no city language so we had to rely on our ‘instincts’ . We reached our campsite sometime after 9 pm and barely had enuff energy to set up camp on the rain soaked ground right next a fast flowing stream. Hats off to our chef who hurriedly set up the kitchen and busied himself preparing some rice with chicken. It was freezing cold so after we had set up the tents we got a fire going with all the bits we could collect in the nearby woods. We had dinner sitting around the campfire and headed straight to our tents. The rice and chicken tasted  simply out of this world!

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