Last summer(May-June ’09) we took a trip up north with my cousin Sheroo+hubby and kids. First stop was Islamabad, and from there onwards to the Shigar valley in Baltistan (Land of Mountains)
But first we had to cross the ruggedly majestic mountain ranges, in the little PIA plane….
..until we arrived at the valley of Skardu.
We got off the plane awe-struck. Coming from the flat coastal plain of Sindh, mountainous landscape such as we had just witnessed made Sheroo and I a tad weepy at the sheer glory of it all. The Karakoram was, after all, just a stone’s throw away, and we DID happen to be in the neighbourhood of some of the highest peaks of the world.
From the airport we were driven in a small coaster past Skardu, which is the capital of Baltistan, and a major hub for mountaineers on their way to climb K-2 or the Gasherbrums. The road was long, but the landscape was breathtaking and the air was fragrant with the scent of trees. We absorbed everything, while chatting with a Canadian couple and an Austrian man who travelled to Shigar with us.
The Shigar Fort Hotel turned out to be as beautiful as we had expected, but eager to start exploring the surroundings, we walked down to the village to see for ourselves the girls school set up by Greg Mortensen (of ‘Three Cups of Tea’ fame). We were followed by little local kids. They were beautiful and rosy-cheeked, an endearing combination of friendly yet shy.
When we returned, it was too dark to really explore the hotel, so we freshened up, had a nice dinner in the quaint hotel restaurant (a converted horse stable), absorbed the refreshing chill of our first night in Shigar, and went to bed soon after.
The next day we walked down to the river. It was a good long walk, but the kids were sporty about it. Over the bridge….
….and under the bridge ran the silt-laden river, glacial water straight off the surrounding mountains. Painfully cold.
The expedition was followed up by lunch in a village restaurant that was largely non-operational due to the fact that it wasn’t tourist season yet. But they managed to conjure up some chicken curry and daal and mixed vegetables for us. We munched cookies while we waited, and didn’t forget to share some with the little village kids who seemed to have adopted us for the day.