A trip to the North (part-1)

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….

eye level with the Karakoram Range, an arm extension of the Himalayan mountains
the roof of the world!


finally some green amidst the gray and brown-ness...


can you see the runway?

..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.

ta-da! landed safely at Skardu airport.

Huz, just outside the gate of the Shigar fort Hotel.


the reception area is a quaint balcony that overlooks some spectacular scenery. we were served a refreshing red sherbet upon arrival.


the facade of the main palace building, that houses the heritage rooms (the king, the queen, the princes and the princesses) and the museum of artefacts

the view from our rooms; a 'bara-dari' with marble bases dating back to a long time ago. so peaceful.


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.

cute lil Balti girl, who was jogging downhill with her brother on her back 🙂 i asked if i could take her picture and she smiled shyly and agreed, but then asked for some money! "paisa de do" she said. so i gave her 5 rupees.


marching down to the village...
some of the village girls, giggling at us, wondering what we were doing in their school
in the wheatfields of the valley of Shigar..


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….

Gulabpur bridge. (yes! it had a name!)
Amu and Sal walking carefully down to the water's edge.


….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.