Travel with Ruth – Hunza Valley – Part II
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.
Read Part I
We made a short stop at Nanga Parbat View Point on KKH. ‘Nanga Parbat’ is Kashmiri for Naked mountain, called so, because its slopes are barren with no vegetation. It is 8126m high in altitude which makes it the 9th highest peak in the world and the 2nd highest in Pakistan after Godwin Austin K2. It is also referred to as the ‘killer mountain’ as it has claimed the lives of many before it was finally climbed by a German-Austrian joint expedition in 1953.
Apparently, Nanga Parbat was in no mood to grace us with some good view, as it was almost noon and the sun was really bright, the light reflected from the peak almost blinded us, so with disappointed hearts we sat back in our vehicle and the travelling resumed.
Our next destination was Juglot on Karakorum Highway. Imagine Zeus, Poseidon and Hades meeting for a long conference, yes this is that well known place where the mightiest three, Karakorum, Himalaya and Hindu Kush ranges meet and this is also the confluence point of Gilgit and Indus rivers. Did I just say Gilgit? Wasn’t this place very near to our destination point and what, wait a second, does this mean that Indus river is leaving us? That’s true. Juglot is the point where Indus hand over all his friends to Gilgit River and we start travelling beside Gilgit River towards Gilgit. Gilgit Valley is mostly a desert with precipitation of 130mm annually, with barren mountains reaching 4500m elevation on three sides and the snow covered Damani standing tall with 6143 m in the east. The city itself lies in the eastern side of the valley in wide irrigated bowl which is 1500m above sea level. Though our plan was to bypass the city but a political protest on the road left us with no choice and we had to take a longer route or better said, it was in our fate that we went through the Gilgit city and with that ordeal over we were again on the road to Hunza.
At almost 3:30 pm, we reached Ghulmet, Rakaposhi View Point and oh my goodness, what a place that is. Ghulmet Glacier serves as one of the base camps for Rakaposhi expeditions and this is the highest unbroken slope in the world that runs straight to the height of 5838m. There is much to remember of the small part of the trip that we spend there. The chilled glacial air, the shivering, the breathtaking view and the memories of childhood when I painted this greatness on a piece of paper for my holiday homework. I was so proud of my work back then and I had never thought that I will see this beauty in real time. One can just keep looking at it, sadly we had to leave it for good, as Hunza was waiting for us. With many twists and turns on the way, we reached Hunza at dusk when the sun was almost set and shades of red and purple could be seen in the sky which looked marvelous against the huge ring of peaks that surrounds Hunza and Nagar.
Our stay was in Hotel Embassy Hunza in Karimabad, which was a appealing place to stay as the view in front of our rooms was remarkable. Hunza Valley is 2400m above sea level. With the backdrop of Ultar and Lady Finger peaks one can see mesmerizing views of Rakaposhi and Diran Peak in Karimabad. The Hunza Valley has a long history of being impregnable and it wasn’t until the December of 1891 that the British made their first invasion of the valley as a result of a failed negotiation with the Mir of Hunza. The Battle continued for three weeks at Nilt, and the British army finally defeated the combined forces of Hunza and Nagar with the help of a prince of Nagar. The Mir fled to China and the British installed his brother Mohammad Nazim Khan as the new Mir and ally to the British government thus ensuring a safe passage to Kasghar.
As the night fell deeper, we decided that we will go for shopping before going to bed after dinner. So we did went out for shopping and wandered in the dark streets with very few shops opened. Luckily we found someone in Cafe de Hunza, which is a must visit bakery famous for its walnut cakes and we were able to place our orders for the cake. The next morning, we went to visit Altit Fort which is almost a 1000 years old fort standing tall on a cliff with its beautiful wooden balconies, stories of horror and torture and a wonderful view of the valley, Hunza river and KKH in the distance. The fort was built to enhance the defense of Hunza against Nagar valley as these two people were enemies of each other and the rivalry of the two still persist to some extent. Looking over Hunza, across Hunza River towards Nagar, we traveled back in time, when the first tribes entered to settle in this valley and remained hidden for a very long period, with mountains and glaciers as their guardians.
The photos used in this travelogue are contributed by Ruth Naymat Gill.