Travel with Ruth – Hunza Valley – Part I
Ruth Naymat Gill is a conservationist, an explorer and traveler. She loves to read and write. She is a storyteller when she shares her own experiences with others. In this six part series, she takes us to a trip to the beautiful Hunza Valley of Pakistan.
I looked out of the side window of our van, and there it was the mighty Indus moving along with us towards our own destinations. What was not in that one moment, the mighty river, the great mountains, and the cold air, the bellowing yet soothing sound of running waters, the silvery moonlight, and the eyes to behold it! This one moment in my six days journey to the Hunza Valley in the northern areas of Pakistan, encompasses so much for me to reflect upon, that I can write about it endlessly and still I will not be able to express its magnificence and why it’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life. Such is the magic of Nature, it can surprise you with the unity of the fragile strands of small dandelion, adding a sparkle in your eyes, and it can leave you in awe, when a mighty wave touches the shore and breaks.
I was having a hard time when this opportunity to travel away from all the hassle of life came to me. I was so unsure about it that even when only a few hours were left for us to depart for our first stop, I had not signed my undertaking for the trip. Now, writing this, I am glad for that one brief moment I had taken hold of my pen to finally sign up for the trip because it did to me what I was trying hard to achieve and was failing to find. I was troubled but the journey gave a reason to forget all that fuss and suddenly I found myself with such bliss of nature that kept me spellbound even after I came back home. This is what travelling does to a persons’ mind and soul but all travelers are not the same, and from this note, starts the story of a magical place.
Hunza Valley is located in the northern areas of Pakistan and it is one of the many popular tourist spot the country offer especially among tourists coming from abroad. For Long Hunza valley remained a hidden heaven surrounded by great mountains and difficult passes but with the development of Karakoram Highway, the valley accessibility has increased admirably and has resulted in a great influx in tourism activities in the area. Still to reach there one has to have a heart, now why am I saying this, because coming from Punjab by road, you are bound to spend over twenty four hours travelling on the silk route which very often turn into (as my fellow travelers dubbed it) ‘Khaddar’ route.
One might think that time flies when you have good company to enjoy while travelling but the road from Besham to Chilas test your patience like anything. There is another route to Chilas as well, via the Naran valley and Babusar Pass, 4173 m, which is a scenic alternative to our present route and also save at least four hours on the road but unluckily the pass is opened from July till October end so we had to travel through Kohistan. We were well informed regarding this particular stretch of our journey but nothing prepared us dwellers of the plains for a narrow road with its roughness, a valley with rushing waters creating white surf; of a river on one side and hanging rocks on the other side for such a long time, especially after dark. We traveled and traveled and it seemed like this road is never going to end. Sometimes there was network available and during those particular spots suddenly all the phones would start ringing, as most of the time we were off the grid and obviously our families were eager to know of our safety.
Well into the night, we saw the road sign declaring we have reached Chilas and frankly speaking, our spirits did not lit up at all, we were tired, hungry and wanted to get into beds as soon as possible. Chilas is a must go through town on the road to Hunza no matter which route you take. It is the capital of Diamer District and a junction to the old trade routes. The town is 3km south of KKH. The next morning we woke up to beautiful surprise. As the sun rose to lighten up the day the first view from the terrace of our hotel was enough to rose our dampen selves and from there onward we got many such surprises. Since we planned to reach Hunza as soon as possible and already one day was passed, of our six day venture, we were eager to embark again. It is important to note that when my family gathered from me that even after twenty four hours on the road I was nowhere near to Hunza, they laughed real hard at me.
After breakfast, we were on road again with Indus as are faithful guide and our major observation of Chilas beside the large mountains surrounding the city was that there was not a single woman not even a small girl that we may see in the streets. One of our companion asked why that is and we were enlightened with the fact that women in Chilas are on house arrest. This freaked us out a lot, for young woman like me who was on the road without any family this did came as a big shock and I wondered how this women live! Here the long road played its part and it was not long before I understood that this might occur strange to me but to these women this is how life is meant to be spent. It is quite normal for them. Freedom, as we see it means that we live a life we like to live and it does not have to be rebellious to what is already in place, however, if one of the caterpillar wants to turn into a butterfly that’s completely okay too. Every choice brings its own efforts and consequence with it, but it’s the choice that matters not the efforts or consequences that comes with it. I, now, know that why the culture, I was passing through was not wrong. It was justified. I saw something totally different from my world and it amazed me.
The photos used in this travelogue are contributed by Ruth Naymat Gill.