Slowly, Slowly (What's Urdu for That?)... Askole, Pakistan

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August 20th 2019
Published: December 9th 2019
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Leaving BardumalLeaving BardumalLeaving Bardumal

A really nice level site demarcated by stones for pitching rows of tents. When we arrived yesterday the river looked close enough to go down for a wash- alas not so- massive drop off to contend with. The spring was the better option.
Sleeping at: Askole

Sleeping Altitude: 3000m

Trekking Distance: 35km

Day: 21

Last day of trekking. We are on the trail by 06:30 in order to cover the 35km back into Askole. It's cool and perfect for hiking. Very flat patches interspersed with climbs, same path that we took on the way in but still totally awesome. Body is feeling good, have lost some weight and we're losing altitude quite quickly. We meet quite a few people heading up and down to various points - lots of Pakistani students and a couple of groups (looking like we did at the beginning of our trek- clean but sweaty and out of breath). Ashan, Lynton and I take a break at Johla which is deserted bar a couple of young guys and an Italian girl. She tells us that one of the groups who passed through yesterday had lost 2 of their horses overnight, both of which were subsequently found dead in the river. Bad start to their trek. She has been solo traveling in Pakistan a few times and is involved in a women's craft co-op in the Hunza region. Interesting girl. We have lukewarm coffee with the last of my personal stash of instant coffee and powdered milk (love my thermos so much- it's worth every gram), and dried apricots that Mary and I bought in Skardu which I had squirreled away for a day like today (sorry Mary, we ate every last one). I even found a couple of packets of cheese and crackers courtesy of the Thai Airways Perth to Bangkok flight (I totally think my trail name should be Squirrel). Ashan looks on bemusedly, he has been intrigued about the never ending source of stuff that I shove in and out of my pack.

On, on, on.... Continuing on, we take the suspension bridge across the river before spotting Ian, Mary and the horses going into Jhola. Whistle madly to get their attention- I have always wanted to use that little whistle thing on my Osprey pack. Walk on at a decent pace before arriving at a few deserted buildings (photographically interesting) and a little oasis of trees with a decent small river/stream running through them. Bliss. It's midday and we have walked about 25km. It's no longer cool. Seek shade, peel off shoes and socks and pull up a piece of sand to
Still Getting Red In The FaceStill Getting Red In The FaceStill Getting Red In The Face

Clearly the temperature is on the rise
sit on while immersing my feet in the river- true bliss! truly freezing! Gen, Anthony and Danny are ready to head off as we arrive. Our kitchen guys are ready to go too but have boiled up a big pot of water for tea for us- so nice sitting in the shade drinking tea. The porters tea (leaves) is so much better than ours (bags). Our packed lunches for the day are very light on- chappatis, a few sweet biscuits and some dried fruit and nuts. I think we're out of supplies. So glad I had my squirrel stash! After half an hour the horses and the rest of our entourage arrive. Keep dangling the feet till I can no longer feel them until there is an almighty racket.... Mary's horse is getting a beating- it bit the horseman and has to be put in its place according to Ali the horseman. Time to go- I can't watch that kind of thing.

Walk with Lynton and chat for a while before the headphones come back out for the final push. Eventually reach a bridge- we get to cross it this time even though it is still under construction- it's a bit exciting and chews up some headspace. We then come to a detour - audible groan- this means scaling up and around some very high rocks rather than skirting around a section on the flat. Meanwhile the clouds have descended and the wind has whipped up- some very windy spots up there. Also good distraction therapy! Finally we see green valley and villages again. Lots of porters and horses and goats. As we get closer and closer it gets windier and windier. At this point it is also starting to rain. Pull out the gortex. Rain falls heavily. I LOVE it!!! Ashan catches me and tells me that he has rung for a jeep to come and pick us up (!!!). WHAAAAATT??!! I am very keen to walk into Askole to finish the trek. After a bit of negotiation manage to reassure him that I am totally fine by myself, I like being by myself.... he should totally get a lift but I want to walk. And walk I did.... all the way back into Askole. True to form- only 1 slightly wrong turn.

And so... at 15:43 it was officially all over.

Time to celebrate- several cups of strong milk tea with sugar all round. I sat there in the dark little tea shop surrounded by noise and flies feeling happy, a little bit tired and very accomplished.

Dinner that night was memorable on a few fronts. Firstly, the return of Juma! Still smiling and happy to see us all he told us all about his epic walk back. He had also caught up with Chisato and Fernando and they were doing well - presently sightseeing in Skardu. Secondly, we had our thank you tipping ceremony to our porters and kitchen staff. They had been milling around all afternoon waiting- many were going back to their homes and understandably keen to get going. Lynton gave a good speech and the money was distributed according to a very specific formula (one that the Irish painstakingly developed and shared with us based on average wages and days of service plus 25%, etc, etc). Even with a good and fair tip it still felt like they deserved more- such a hard job (it was hard to gauge whether they were happy with the tips). That was followed by our final celebration dinner as a group. It was a
bit weird- the new group of 3 guys that Juma had picked up in Skardu joined us so the conversation felt very different- more formal, less flowing. They were very nice but we didn't get the opportunity to joke around and fondly reminisce that we had put off the night before.... but....we did get a celebratory chicken!

Tomorrow we are Skardu bound - back to the big smoke. We will say goodbye to Lynton and Danny who are starting the Snowlake/Hispar La Trek.

SUCH an amazing adventure.

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