Cool view from the hotel, we're packed and ready early. Too early for breakfast it seems. We and every other guest sit and wait very patiently for some action. And sit. And wait. It's not memorable but it's no big deal. Really looking forward to this day- the plan is to drive to Deosai National Park, up to a lofty altitude of 4114 m. It covers an area of about 3,000 km 2. It's the second highest plateau in the world after Changtang Tibetan Plateau (on the list). Whilst it's snow bound from November through May we are getting to experience autumn through the pass- (NOTE- spring is meant to be spectacular with the plateau covered in wildflowers and migrating butterflies). So off we go, once again traversing now sort of familiar roads. It's only about 30km from Skardu but is best travelled slowly (the only real option) and enjoyably. We travel increasing bumpy and ascending roads. Love it. At the pass it is time for a stop for a high altitude chai. It is freezing!! Light cardi and sandals- rookie error. Take shelter inside and pull up a spot on the floor next to
three business men from Karachi. Enjoy our hot chai with a packet of coconut biscuits, the business men from Karachi insist on footing our bill. It feels familiar and comfortable in this dark little tea shop, as with sooooooo many places it'd be great to stay just a bit longer.
We continue. Niaz and Karim are proving to be good company. Karim and Mary chat endlessly in the back. I am still up front and don't need to chat too much. I get some input on the music selection. The plateau opens right on up - it is very, very beautiful. The wild flowers capture my attention. We spot lots of squeaking marmots. We don't spot any of the endangered Himalayan brown bears. Deosai was declared a NP as a measure of protecting the bear and trying to reestablish numbers. As with all things there are always two sides. See you tube link for conservation initiative, then an article on the issue the local villagers are now having.
Nope.... lunch time. We stop at an area with tents and a tented kitchen (? Bara Pani). There are a bunch of portaloos. Be so cool to camp here. Lunch is good- soup, veges and rice and chappatis and tea. It's nice sitting back watching the comings and goings. We seem to be the only tourists. Back in the car and we head to Sheosar Lake (4124m). Got to admit that I could feel the altitude here- that mild headache is amping up. It is freezing cold and windy, we make a very token effort to walk around before puffing our way back to the car. I cant believe that the altitude has actually affected me given the previous few weeks. Several 4WD vehicles pass - the drive comes to a screeching halt... Himalayan brown bear? Nope. We've already had lunch... so, why the stop? Well Niaz recognises a famous singer from around these parts- Mubarak Ali Sawan. We all get out and MAS tells us he has been entertaining at the Cold Desert Car Rally but is now heading home. We get a song... another moment of surrealness.
"Continue driving to Rama Lake via Astore Village. Afternoon walk around Rama." Kind of deviated from that, drove through Astore Village which was quite busy. Then set off up a very windy, switchbacky hill. Passed a couple of homestays- one in particular looked really lovely- Wazir Guesthouse- newly pained white and purple, very neat. We however were heading to Rama PTDC (should have stayed at Wazir's!). Winding, winding, winding we arrive at PTDC Rama- impressive stone motel surrounded by pine trees and with a friendly resident goat. It is so late in the afternoon that we actually don't get to Rama Lake.
Our room looks pretty good- ignoring the sticky tables, the sticky carpet and sticky full ashtrays the linen is clean and the bathroom looks fine. The hot water doesn't work though which is a bit of a bugger because we were kind of looking forward to it... and it's freezing. We get offered the adjoining room with plentiful hot water in the bathroom, except the room stinks of smoke- like really stinky. We ask if we could keep our room but use that bathroom
I love sitting on the floor. I love these little places.
but it's a definite no. Karim tries hard to get some hot water happening for us but is unsuccessful- not that big a deal in the scheme of things. The goat comes in and lies down approvingly on the floor, it doesn't want to go back out into the cold. Eventually shoo it out so we can go get dinner. Sit for a very long time - maybe 2 hours waiting for something. Karim called it waiting for ibex head tea- as in they go shoot the ibex before coming back to make the tea. Slightly tired at this point, very hungry- the goat is looking good! We amuse ourselves watching TV- unfortunately the Kashmir border situation is filling the news, many demonstrations are occurring. Not good. In between the news and dinner there is a massive argument between management and another party of guests. It passes the time. Food was good. Fought the goat off going back to the room.
57, in love with the world. Fell in love with Nepal. Then Iran. Now? ....
Where to next?
2016 Bibbulmun Track End to End 1050km in my home state. UPDATE 13/4/19- IT"S FINISHED!!!!!!!!!
2017- Well, that'd be the USA again then Mongolia.
Update- Mongolia is to be shelved for yet another year. Instead there is a wedding to attend in Edinburgh- but first, The West Highland Way to be walked.
2018 - Tajikistan is calling
Update- Tajikistan indeed did call, as did Kyrgyzstan. It was amazing - a 23 day 2500 km Fann Mountains/Pamir Highway Odyssey then amazing trekking in the Tien Shan.... full info
The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan have fought two wars - in 1947-48 and 1965 - over the disput...more history
Famous Shina Singer- Mubarak-Ali SawanNiaz actually recognised Mubarak-Ali Sawan sitting in the vehicle we were passing. As is customary in Pakistan a greeting and conversation ensued. Bonus points for Niaz- we were given an impromptu song, he sings Shina songs (Shina being a group of people of Gilgit-Baltistan region). Very surreal moment. Another one.