Edit Blog Post
Published: November 6th 2019
Sleep in Skardu
Sleeping Altitude 2310 m Day 7
0545 completely ready, bill paid at 0600 and we're loaded up into 2 cars by 0605 for the 30 minute drive to Islamabad Airport. I'm already separated from my backpack which has disappeared into the other vehicle. Check in is very smooth and my backpack turns up. We chat to a few other tourists in the queue- I entertain a group of Malaysians with my very rudimentary Bahasa Indonesian/Malayu. The other tourists are predominately well toned, well tanned Europeans with excellent hiking clothing and backpacks. From here we tourists seem to move en masse to the western style coffee shops (we choose Bread Hut because the well dressed Euros beat us to the other one) to top up on one last decent cup before heading into the wilderness.
The flight is decent (40 mins or so), all seats are full. We have been lucky to get a flight, the alternative way of getting to Skardu being by road which takes 2 days, there haven't been any cancellations for a week now, phew. We have a very helpful fellow from Islamabad (works for Abbott Pharmaceuticals) sitting in front of
us who points out all of the stellar peaks out the window- Nanga Parbat, K3, etc. Utterly breathtaking views- getting excited! As we touch down there are soldiers and armed soldiers all over the place- the families of the soldiers stationed in the regions are taking off in an army plane. Take lots of pics. Take the little bus to the terminal through desert like environs, our bags are already unloaded by the time we get there. We then wait for an hour to register and process for a local visa, there is a large French group ahead of us who have an accompanying leader who has them first in line. We don't have an accompanying leader and we don't have a clue what's going on. The local visa registration involves writing each persons details/passport/visa numbers and photographing them with a smart phone, the next person hand writes out the actual visa.
Juma, our actual trekking guide, meets us outside with his trademark smile that we will encounter constantly over the next couple of weeks. He is traditionally dressed in his blue salwar kameez. We pile into 2 local jeeps and are off to the Mashabrum Hotel with speccy
mountain views all around, the hotel is the largest in Skardu, the capital of Baltistan. It is located on College Rd- the main thoroughfare and overlooks the valley with the Hargisa River running through it. We wait in the lobby as a group before being given a welcome mango cordial (bummer) and lucky dip of keys. Mary and I have room 203- score - excellent, excellent views from the room and balcony. The room has that ingrained smell of sweaty socks, dirty carpets, dusty everything and the ubiquitous furry blanket, but ohhhhhh, the views- we have arrived!! Dump our gear and head back to the restaurant for our group buffet lunch. It's a massive spread but my appetite hasn't really returned yet, the 2 Spanish members of our group decline lunch- it's WAY too early for them. We all agree to meet back at 4pm for a walk down the street. Head back up to the room then to the baking hot roof top- ascending 60 stairs causes breathlessness- at only 2230m ASL! My heart rate is 130, feelings of anxiousness return- can I do this trek? Go lie on the bed (having turned down the furry blanket) and watch
the flies circling the ceiling fan. Power cut occurs so just watch the flies.
4pm arrives and we assemble for a 5km walk up and down the road. Lots of small shops, dusty, dirty and smelly- I suspect that's due to the rotting chicken carcasses baking in the sun. Despite this I feel buoyed, the adventure is beginning. We check out some traditional craft shops, bakeries (my personal favourite kind of shop), spice stalls and pharmacies (large quantities of drugs on offer sans prescriptions some of the group stock up on gastro type drugs and pain killers (good move)). Walking back to the hotel the shadows are elongating and it drops about 1 degree to a balmy 35C. Dinner is a fragmented affair- Mary, Ian and I opt for noodle soup at the hotel while the Spanish, Lynton, Danny and Anthony go to the kebab shop. We eat our soup and vege curry on the deck where it is cooler, other larger tourist groups are having a traditional banquet with their guides. The wind whips up, the BBQ on the deck sends showers of sparks everywhere- risky business this Pakistani al fresco dining! Hit the pillow at 8, it's
hot, exhausted.... watch the flies circling the ceiling fan for about 2 minutes before becoming unconscious.
Hotel reviews and pics- https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g317119-d4427303-Reviews-Hotel_Mashabrum-Skardu_Gilgit_Baltistan.html
Tot: 1.272s; Tpl: 0.117s; cc: 12; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0189s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb