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Published: October 7th 2006
Monday September 11th
Aaron and I were planning to leave for Karimabad, in Hunza valley while Jason was planning to chill in Gulmit for another day. We set up a meeting point for tomorrow in Karimabad and said goodbye after breafast. Jason was moving in a room with some polish climber who told us crazy story about their attempt to climb a 5900m, but highly techincal mountain and having to sleep for 2 nights at 5600m without tents or sleeping bags. Though guys. They never reached the summit.
Aaron and I headed to the street to catch a minibus or hitchhike, whichever was faster. In the end it was the minibus. The ride was short (an hour and a half) and painless. We were dropped at the intersection on the Karakoram Highway close to Karimabad along with a cute japanese girl (the first lone tourist girl we had seen thus far in Pakistan). Not long after we were dropped some big and heavily bearded truck driver started talking to us. He didn't speak much english so we talked more through gesture than anything. He took out some plastic bag full of what I thought to be hash and offered me
That mountain is so steep that snow cannot stick on it.
some before eating a handfull. It was probably tobacco but hash makes for a funnier story.
At some point he pointed to his big truck and started saying "Karimabad! Karimabad! Karimabad!" all excited. We put our bags on the back, told the japanese girl to come and entered the truck. He put some bollywood cd as music (the CD case had a sparingly clothed woman on it, not very islamic but I was to discover that pakistani men love bollywood, no matter how undressed the actress/singer are) and drove us to Karimabad. We thanked the driver when we reached the village and he turned back. He had nothing to do in Karimabad, he just drove us there because we were tourists and he wanted to be nice.
The japanese girl led us in some japanese guesthouse full of (you've guessed it) japanese. We were unceremoniously kicked out by the owner who told us: "Europeans go to "Old Hunza Inn"". We weren't welcome there. We followed her tip and went to Old Hunza Inn. We got a dorm for 50Rs.
We walked around town after that and shortly found comrade, who is the owner of the department store
View from my hotel before sunset
From Old Hunza Inn, while I was sitting on the porch reading.
mentioned in the LP! The store is easy to find, it's the one with the Che Guevara poster. He saw us passed by, invited us in and offered us Cokes. He was with his little daughter who had been sick for a week while her daddy was doing business in China and had been really scared. He closed his shop and we went in some local restaurant to eat. We had yellow rice with chicken (vegetable for Aaron) that was, once again, delicious. Comrade gave us his own, communist, version of Pakistani history and we discussed politics and of his planned trip to Cuba. He paid for our lunch, despite our insistence that we pay. Really interesting man.
After the lunch we went to get our shoes repaired as the glacier hadn't been too nice on mine and Aaron's flip-flops were as good as dead. It took a while to repair it and while he was doing it a local came and got his repaired flipflop. He paid 30Rs so we knew what the local price was, approximately. We were happily surprised when he asked me for 20Rs and Aaron 25Rs. I would've happily paid 100 for the service
he gave us. It's nice to see that some people in this world are honest enough not to try to rip off tourists.
We didn't do much for the rest of the day, went on the internet cafe (took 25 minutes to load gmail, lovely) to send an email to my mom to tell her I hadn't been abducted by al-qaeda, read a book in Cafe de Hunza, tried (unsuccesfully) to call back home (costed me a bunch of money for nothing) and chilled in my dorm. A swiss guy, named Beat, came in a little before dinner. He had cycled all the way from switzerland, heading to Delhi. We talked for a while and then at 7PM, we headed to the hotel's restaurant where there was a vegetarian communal dinner which everyone who was sleeping at the hotel was attending. That night it was just us 3 and a french couple, Pascal and Olivier who were really nice. They were real trekkers and had done Baltoro (go to K2 basecamp), Shimshala and several other big treks. They said they were coming back to Karimabad in between each big trek to relax and I could understand, this place was
so laid-back and everyone was exceedingly friendly.
The dinner was delicious, it was soup, chapatis, rice, ratatouille, some sort of homemade cottage cheese with onions/carrots/celery and some spinach dish. Even if you're card-holding carnivore, I suggest you give this meal a chance if you go to Karimabad. Good stuff. I exchanged a book on chinese history I'd been hauling around since Yunnan for a book on the history of the western Himalayas "discovery" before heading to bed.
Tuesday September 12th
Beat and Aaron were planning to trek up to Uttar Meadow, a few hundred meters above Karimabad but I was feeling like relaxing so I told them I'd go the next day. I spent the morning reading my book, taking it easy. At some point Jason came in and booked a dorm close to ours. We went to eat lunch somewhere that had chairs outside. It was pretty expansive so we opted for 2 vegetarian curries. The portion was ridiculously small for the price (we thought it was small for a one person, then realized it was for both of us), not good and had hair in it. Jason was a bit brutal with the waiter when he
Inside Baltit Fort
You see that small window frame. It's because of that damn tibetan princess.
came to get our plate. I was gonna tell him the portion was small and there was hair but Jason told him it was the worst meal he had in Pakistan. At 2PM we went to Hunza fort and did the guided tour inside.
The fort was pretty interesting as was the tour but a bit expansive. It was nice to be explained the different style of architecture (Hunza, Tibetan, Kashmiris and British) contained in the fort. This way we had someone to blame for these way-too small doors (goddamn tibetans). We also learned how islam was introduced in Hunza: the king married a tibetan princess from baltistan (who are tibetan but muslim) and she told him he had to convert (he didn't say it explicitely, but she obviously told him he wouldn't have sex unless he prayed 5 times a day). At the same time, the princess reduced the size of door in the fort to insure that tourists would bang their head on them in a few hundred years (you can tell what happen the first time I crossed one of those door). Evil, evil woman.
After the visit we split and I read some more
At 7300m, it was one of the highest unclimbed mountain until a few years ago. A japanese man climbed it. He's still up there.
in Cafe de Hunza over a Walnut Cake. Before dinner I headed to the dorm where I met Aaron and Beat. It had taken them 5 hours to walk up as they got lost on the way and Aaron was sick so he had to stop often to vomit, but since he's irish he didn't want to give up. Beat gave me a step-by-step guide to go up so as not to repeat their mistake. At 7PM we joined for the communal dinner which wasn't as nice as the day before but still pretty awesome. The table was full this time with more than 15 people. After dinner I went to another internet cafe which was much faster (5 minutes to open gmail) and even managed to upload a few (but not many pictures).
Wednesday September 13th
Today was Uttar Meadow day for me and Jason. We left at around 8PM, after saying goodbye to Aaron who was going to Gilgit to meet up his friend from home. I gave him some immodium as he was still sick (I had heard him leave for the toilet several time that night). Aaron was a good travel companion. Always optimistic and
Me and Uttar
The hat is doing its job, but it doesn't make for the best pictures when you can't see my face...
ready to do crazy stuff, I enjoyed travelling with him.
We followed Beat's instruction to the letter and didn't get lost once. If you're planning to go to Karimabad, take this down as else you'll get lost. Don't follow the LP, the path they suggest is now useless.
1. Go up Karimabad toward the fort. You should reach a 4 way intersection with a sign that points straight ahead for Uttar Meadow. Don't go there. On your right is Baltit Fort, don't go there. Turn left.
2. Somehow make your way to a water canal, passing through some small alleys on the way. There is no better way to say it but here all roads lead to Rome, or in our case the water channel.
3. Follow the water channel until you hit a fairly violent stream coming from above which feeds the channel. Turn right and follow that stream.
4. You should see a pool of water on your right at some point in the ascent. Fairly quickly you should see another water channel. Turn right and follow the channel. Do NOT be tempted by the blue arrow, unless you want to waste an hour.
From Uttar Meadow
Not as impressive as the other mountains, I liked how they looked though.
a few minutes on the channel you will come accross water pipe going up. Turn left and follow the pipes.
6. After about 2 minutes you'll hit some sort of waterfall and you'll wonder where to go next. Go up the sort of waterfall for about 2 meters, you should see a clear path. Follow that path toward the river.
7. About 20m before the river, you will see a path going up on your left. Take it.
8. After another 30m, you will hit a wierd pipe which makes several 90 degrees angle. If you look very carefully on your right you will see some sort of paths through the stones with cairns. Follow it for a few meters then a clearer path should appear. After that follow the cairns/path and you're done. After a few minutes you should see a sign on the rock saying Uttar Meadow 40 minutes but they're lying, it's at least an hour.
With this set of instruction from Beat, we did the whole trek up in about 2:45minutes. At some point we heard some people behind us and found out they were some polish we had seen at the fort the day before. Apart from that we didn't see anyone until we reached the meadow, where we went in a small house which we thought was the restaurant. We rested there for a while, talking and enjoying the view. The polish joined us soon afterward. We stayed for about an hour and a half up there, just relaxing. We drank chai with the men in the house and I asked for hot water because I had some chinese instant noodles still from China (a gift from Aaron).
The area was truly beautiful and I can understand why the LP suggest sleeping there even though it can be done as a day trip. It is truly beautiful and if I had tent/sleeping bag I would've definately wanted to sleep there just because it's so peaceful. The way back down wasn't as fun as we had planned. 800m descend in an hour isn't easy on your knees.
I spent the rest of the day being lazy, doing laundry, checking emails, reading. My last week and a half in China had been particularly trying and Hunza is simply the perfect place to recharge your battery. At around 6PM, me and a new french guy in my dorm realized there was no hot shower so we went to see Olivier to ask if we could use his in his double room which he told us ofcourse, but don't use too much water because I'll get beat up by Pascale. In the end we managed not to use too much and Olivier survived.
We had another delicious communal meal, again with new people. There was a french girl travelling alone and the french guy which joined me Pascale and Olivier in conversation in our "secret language". Olivier, Pascale, Caroline (the lone french girl) and Beat were planning a trek to Rush Phari (a 5000m mountain) leaving the next day. I couldn't join because I had already told Jason I'd go to Rakaposhi base camp but I was tempted. Caroline had no tent or stove so she asked if Beat's tent was big enough for two but he thought she also wanted to share the sleeping bag so he replied: "Well the tent is okay but I'm afraid it might be a bit tight in the sleeping bag". Fortunately (or unfortunately), Caroline had her own sleeping bag. I went to the internet cafe after the meal, then went to sleep. There's not much to do in Karimabad after dark. It's not the place for wild nightlife that's for sure.
Thursday September 14th
Jason and I had decided to have another day off before going to Minapin to do the Rakaposhi trek. I spent the morning at the internet cafe (connection is decent in the morning and evening only, in between 10AM and 5PM it's basically dead) after saying goodbye to the frenchies and Beat. I read some more, chilled out at Cafe de Hunza, bought some food for the basecamp trek, said goodbye to comrade, exchanged my book for a book by William Dalrymple (after much negotiation), ate another communal dinner and went back on the internet. After that day my battery was now fully recharged.
Hunza is one of those place that are very rare around the world. Breathtakingly beautiful, nice and honest people, no hassle, lots of things to do around (if you're into trekking) and it's not even dry, some store stock chinese beer so you can even have a party. I wish I could stay longer but I have only a one month visa and there are many things I want to see in Pakistan.
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