We are now relaxing in Karimabad in the beautiful Hunza Valley. Big rugged snow capped mountains and valleys of green trees and spring time blossoms.
I will take off from where Dean finished in the last post after our long, slow, police escorted day to Gilgit.
Despite being told that Gilgit was totally safe we were met in the morning by another policeman who was to escort us to the local police station. We had decided to do another long day to a place called Skardu which had been recommended to us. We weren’t really up for another long slow day but we had time on our side and we hoped that the police would only need to take us part of the way. Upon arriving at the police station we tried to bleed more information from the policeman who seemed to know the most English…
“We need police escort from here to Skardu?”
“Yes yes, police”
“OK, but once we get to Skardu is it safe?”
“Right…so here to Skardu police but in Skardu safe? Or do we need a security in Skardu?”
“OK… so when in Skardu can we walk around on our own or do we need police?”
“Yes, you can walk around in the hotel”
“Great…. so not safe in Skardu?”
This dialogue continued and involved about 4 different policemen and one translator but the thought of travelling 300 kms to get to a place and have to possibly stay within a hotel complex didn’t sound like much fun. Also, if there was a threat, a guy on a bike wasn’t going to make us feel safe enough to really enjoy ourselves so we decided to ride straight to Hunza where it was apparently safe…depending on which policeman you spoke to.
“OK, we go to Hunza, not Skardu”
“Skardu safe, no problem, you can walk around ok”
Big sighs and impatient glances were exchanged between Dean and I but at this stage we were already over it and had made our decision.
It felt that with this decision the security relaxed a little. We still needed a policeman to guide us out of the town to another station who then provided another escort to the next police check point who then provided another but we were then ushered ahead alone and told at the next police check point that we were now in Hunza and it was safe.
“No Taliban here….we hate the Taliban!” he said proudly
“So does most of the world” I responded with a smile
So we were in Hunza, alone and free – it felt good! The ride along the KKH was really beautiful…breathtaking. Massive mountains all round us, green trees, a river running along the road and very friendly happy people in all of the villages. There was evidence of recent landslides all along the road but there was enough room for us to pass through… it was a little scary looking up at all the precariously placed boulders which are just waiting to fall but nothing seemed to be moving in that moment!
Due to deciding not to go to Skardu, we have some free time on our hands before we cross in to China. Dean and I are pretty good at wasting time but it’s a lot harder to do when there is no booze! We have been in Karimabad for 2 nights already and have another 7 to go! It is a lovely little village with a couple of forts to see but apart from that there is not a great deal to do.
We walked a few km to an ancient village yesterday called Ganish, home to four 600 year old wooden mosques (a UNESCO world heritage site). At the town’s entrance a group of about 6 little boys ranging from the ages of 5 to 10 years old took it upon themselves to guide us around and explain the town’s history. I got a bit scared when they led us to a doorway in the old city wall and then in broken English said something like “now can not open” before they latched it shut behind us with a piece of heavy timber! I tried to act cool, but half ran back to the door while they were still latching it, thinking it might be some sort of kidnap attempt, but they were just showing us how they used to secure the city in the old times Of course Dean found it very amusing that I was scared of a bunch of cute 6 year old boys… They then showed us the swimming pool (muddy hole full of water) in the middle of town where the soldiers once practiced water combat, old wooden hooks in the walls where horses used to be tied up, and pits in the ground leading to snow melt water which were once used to keep food cool during summer.
Seeing how beautiful it is here makes us regret not being able to see more of Pakistan but the security issues make it too hard to venture anywhere else. There is a really rich history in this area and the locals are starving for tourists to visit as they once used to before 9/11. It’s such a shame that the wars in Afghanistan have left Pakistan so susceptible to terrorism.
From here we will ride a few kilometres down the road tomorrow to another village in Upper Hunza for a few more nights and then head to Sost for our last few nights before we cross the border.