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Published: April 13th 2020
Sleeping in Skardu via Machulo ( 2230m or maybe 2310m depending on your info source)
Karim is a late starter.
Breakfast isn't until after 0800. We are not alone- there are 3 other tourists (American lawyers as it turns out- we bump into them a few more times in the next 2 days). Breakfast is very appealing- juices, yoghurt, milk, cereal, bircher muslei, fruit, stewed fruit, preserves, eggs, those weird little hotdog sausages, Pakistani vege curry, chappati, Hunza bread. Lots of tea, lots of coffee. I stick to the stuff I've missed- the yoghurt, stewed fruit, muslei, toast and preserves. Mary goes Pakistani, she likes cold savoury stuff even at home- she'll eat cold leftover veges for breakfast. Enough mundane detail.
Time to tour the palace.
We engage a palace guide who gives us a 45 minute tour detailing the history and explaining the various rooms and antiquities. The kitchen items are always interesting and we get to play guess what this is- the item in question being a mousetrap- very clever, wish I had taken a pic. The other item that was interesting were the journals/visitors books of British and British Indian expeditions in 1909.
I especially love all of the tiny windows and wooden shutters- the views varying from sweeping mountain views to gardens to courtyards full of drying apricots. We also get to look through the renovated king and queen living quarters which have become Serena Hotel rooms and suites - the suite Imran Khan stayed in is proudly shown. Well worth the guided tour (tips as you wish, $5 seems to be the go).
Karim settles the hotel bill (process always seems lengthy). We pile into the Prado and end up at a trout farm (?!). It’s a new venture and has a bonus climbing wall, basic accommodation and small dusty museum. We don’t fish for trout. We do drink chai. Mary thinks she has left a bag containing her passport, etc back at the palace- mad panic- luckily it's in the car. Then it's back on the road, this time to Machulo Village- ancient, upper and lower components. Rustic, picturesque, steep slopes, views of Masherbrum Peak, old mosque and new replacement mosque (I like the old one with its coloured wooden doors). Wheat was plentiful and being harvested everywhere. Apricots- everywhere, on the roads, being bashed out of trees onto sheets
on the road. Would be great to stay a couple of days in a place like this and just wander around. There are trekking opportunities from the village I believe. (NB- Every time I start working on this blog again I so want to go back- Pakistan is such a wonderful destination for so many reasons, I digress). Driving, driving, driving we pass a sign for a cold desert car rally. Driving, driving we get caught up in a traffic jam- land slide. It's interesting, we meet other road users as we wait till it's cleared. Late afternoon we arrive at Shigar Fort- just before closing time- and have the speediest $5 tip tour ever- 5 minutes, maybe 8 (the Khaplu Palace was more interesting if you are in a position to choose only 1 to visit). The fort was originally constructed in the 17th century by the Raja
of Amacha Dynasty of Shigar, with more recent additions such as a pavilion in a lake. Massive USD $1.4 million reno by the Aga Khan Foundation in 1994 - now also a Serena Hotel. The place was noticeably more populated by tourists, looked like a bit of an in/instagram destination in
the restaurant area. Great gardens!! Karim happened to be buddies with the manager here also so we are invited in for a complimentary chai and shortbreads which was great as we skipped lunch and it was now after 6.
Pretty much retrace our steps back into Skardu eventually pulling up at the Concordia Motel after 8. Karim knows the owner- we get top floor rooms with river views (which we will see tomorrow). Karim and Niaz head off to stay elsewhere- we find out the next day that the elsewhere was Snowland Guest House. Dumped our bags, Mary flaked out, I went to pre-order some food. Went down to the very full dining area after half an hour- lots of big post trek groups, as well as the Americans from Khaplu.... and one of the Kiwis from the trek. The staff were very nice and got food out to us pretty fast. We totally over ordered and ended up giving most of it away (except the french fries!)- there were 3 post trek young guys behind us who devoured it in minutes. It's really noisy and busy. Had a bucket wash before bed- good hot water. Mary is still
The night sky is obliterated by the fluoro lights that seem to be on all night. I sleep averagely.
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