Sost

The three of us!

The three of us!

We are in Sost…. and have been for the last three days.  There is nothing to do here… not even any internet (hence this post will be sent a couple of days late from China). We have played an average of 20 games of cards per night in an effort not to go to bed before 10pm. Dean spent one day working on the bike which I kind of helped him with out of shear boredom but running to fetch and clean things left me thinking that sitting and reading the Quaran may be more fun… and yes, I read the Quaran, probably the most boring book in the world… this is where we are at!

A beautiful lake created by the 'Attabad landslide'

A beautiful lake created by the ‘Attabad landslide’

We left Karimabad and slowly made our way here. The KKH seems to get more and more beautiful. We had planned to spend a few nights in a place called Gulmit in ‘Upper Hunza’ but upon arriving there we realised that one night would probably be enough. The next morning, with so much time on our hands, we had breakfast in a local ‘restaurant’ and sat for a while and watched how the locals lived… it basically consisted of them sitting in the ‘restaurant’ looking at us. One of the locals spoke pretty good English so we chatted with him for a while before heading on to Sost.

Some friendly locals ploughing the fields

Some friendly locals ploughing the fields

Along the way we pulled off the KKH into what seemed like a village. It was actually just a few huts and some farmland amongst massive mountains. On our way back to the road a man came out of one of the huts to see if we were ok (he thought we were there to hunt?!), and invited us into his hut for tea. It was such a cute hut with his mum, dressed in traditional dress in the centre of the room tending a wood stove and making fresh Chapatti (flat bread). There were cushions and rugs all around the room and we were invited to sit down and make ourselves comfortable. We sat and spoke with him and his brother for over an hour and ended up eating a lunch of dhal and chapatti and having some tea. It was really lovely and we learnt a lot about the local culture and their religion. They follow a moderate, progressive form of Islam (‘Ismali’) which encourages education and equality for the sexes. It was very refreshing to learn about but is unfortunately only followed in a small corner of the world.

The chapatti mama looking for Ibecs

The chapatti mama looking for Ibex

While in the Hunza valley we’ve noticed that the houses seem quite well made, even modern, the farming is well organised, and the people seem more ‘normal’ to us, which I guess means more western (both by appearance and behaviour).  Small things like the guys wearing jeans and sunglasses, and the women are always out and about, and often say hello to us, not a burqua in sight!

So it turns out that the reason for all this modernity is this version of Islam they follow.  Ismali muslims follow a ‘spiritual leader’ called Khan, who currently resides in France.  Khan encourages Ismaili’s to embrace the modern world, to study hard (and learn English), and to respect all other cultures, people and religions as equals (even heathen infidels like us!).  He also puts money into these remote communities by building local schools, offering university scholarships, and co-investment in agricultural schemes like the irrigation that keeps all these fields looking so healthy (he puts up 50% of the money and the community matches the other 50% by way of free labour).  No wonder everyone around here loves the guy so much!! 

We’ve been told countless times that Islam is a religion of love, respect and equality, but in the same breath that one man is the worth of two women! Then when you see women walking around in burqua’s in a city where an entire block is devoted to prostitution, or you hear people talk about homosexuality like a sin, it’s a really hard thing to understand.  But in this small corner of the world that claim may just be true. (Dean)

Despite this impromptu lunch date and riding as slowly as we could we arrived in Sost by 2pm where we managed to find the dirtiest hotel in town. This morning we got suited up to ride out to a valley near the border of Afghanistan that had been recommended to us but were soon turned around by police… back to the hotel…

A road to a little village

A road to a little village

I’ve finished the Quaran…Dean has fixed everything he can think of… I have washed everything I can think of… and I don’t think we can walk up and down the main street here anymore as people are starting to get suspicious. We even had the ISI, (equivalent of the FBI) ring our hotel yesterday to ask when we were going to be checking out! We don’t even know how they knew we were staying here! They probably think we are spies…

Another KKH view!

Another KKH view!

In retrospect we probably should have ridden to Skardu from Gilgit and taken a chance with the security issues but we are comforted by the fact that this should be the last time on this trip that we have to waste any more time waiting, as after our China crossing we will on our time with no further dates or seasons to work with…

Dean has started to cut a plastic water bottle up with his pocket knife like a mad scientist… and the bright blue alcohol that we use for the camp stove is starting to look like a rather delicious cocktail… time to start today’s card game marathon…

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