Indian Kashmir and the Ladakh region was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The sheer immensity of it was breathtaking and felt like I’d traveled to another planet at times. I didn’t know if anywhere could match it, but northern Pakistan definitely does. It’s on the same level, and some
would argue, even better. The one thing you have here are not in Ladakh are the massive glaciers. Some huge glaciersfill the upper areas. Riding up to the Hunza Valley from Gilgit is beautiful as you get your first views of these hidden gems.
The route you follow along the river is the famous old Silk Route. This network of routes was integral in cultural interaction throughout the Asian continent. Nomads, pilgrims, merchants, monks, soldiers, and many other walks of life transited these areas. It connected China and India to the Mediterranean. Along the 6,000 km, traders brought more than just goods, but cultural influences. Religions and art weaved their way into the fabric of these regions by way of the silk road.
Parts of it have been re-conditioned with help from international governments and local villages. The Hunza Valley is a magical mix of green villages, reddish-brown mountains, deep-cut rivers, glaciers, seven-thousand meter plus peaks, and friendly people. I ended up at camping at the Eagles Nest, which overlooks Karimabad and the entire valley. A short ten minute hike leads you up to a spectacular viewpoint with 360 degrees of beauty. In one direction the golden brown spire of Lady Finger comes out the end of snow-covered serrations.
Much of the day she hides behind the clouds, but randomly they will crack apart and present the jagged peak. Looking up the valley a long line of snowy peaks are rowed up on the horizon. Sunset is the best time to gaze off this way as they’re glowing in the final sunlight.
The grand view is back down over the Hunza Valley. I could sit and stare out over it for hours, and a couple of times I did. To the left are Rakaposhi with it’s glacier covered flanks, Diran peak, and the glowing Golden Peak.
I went to the top three times a day, in the early morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Just after sunrise was an incredible time to sit up there in complete silence and peace while daydreaming about everything below. Every day I was there got more and more beautiful. On the first day the sky was mostly filled with clouds, but on my last morning I looked out over nothing but blue sky. Everything was so crisp and the colors looked painted on by a brush.
The afternoon was also nice, and usually filled with a lot of day-tripers who really enjoyed taking pictures of me.
The sun is cooking during the day and bakes you out in the open with no cover. Sunset was always a surprise. You never knew what was coming and which colors would grace you with their presence. I can’t think of a better way to end the day than watching the sunset from up there looking over the Hunza Valley and surrounding peaks.
Usually there were young Pakistani guys from down south looking to share some smoke with a foreigner. I had one of the best sunsets of my life up there. We met some real nice people from Lahore and were enjoying it with them. It started out really slow and almost felt like it was over, and then the magic happened. Like sometimes happens, it wasn’t finished at all, and was just setting itself up. Once the sun got to the right spot, it illuminated the sky a warm orange.
All of a sudden it felt like we were watching the sunrise and daylight was on its way back to the valley. From a small spot over the right side mountains, a hole opened up of bright blue light surrounded by warm colors. It really felt like something amazing was about to happen. I’m not very spiritual, but if god was going to present himself to us, this would be the way I would imagine it. Pictures could never do justice to the energy in the air and power the sky held in it.
The next morning was magically terrible waking up after a night drinking Hunza Water. It’s the local home-made booze that you buy in liter and a half water bottles. Being home-brewed you never know what you’re getting, but it’s usually around 25%. They mix it with a little bit of water and chug glass after glass. The southern Pakistani guys come up on holiday and get a bit wild. Alcohol is sort of illegal in Pakistan, but for many of them when they get up north it’s a chance to let loose. One of the worst hangovers of my life came from drinking the swill with them all night. I’ve lost all taste for alcohol since. Good way to get clean.
A good short trip from Karimabad is out to Nagar to see Hoper Glacier. A few km after leaving Karimabad there’s a small bridge and on the other side you take a right. Eighteen km up this valley takes you to Hoper Glacier. It’s a really pretty drive. Mountains that were hidden right behind us at The Eagles Nest come into perfect view.
At the end of the road, a five-minute hike leads you to the edge of the glacier snaking it’s way down from where it originates. It’s full of boulders and mountain material that it will slowly transport inch by inch down the valley.
Nagar is a nice little village where they grow fields of potatoes lined by lush marijuana plants. Of all the weed I’ve seen growing the last couple months, this was the best. They definitely take some care of it and it’s not just wild ditch weed.
There were a few spots with spray painting that wasn’t happy with America. A couple ofplaces said, “down with the USA”. My favorite was “Amarica dog”. It sounded kind of tough and cool.
I take that one as a compliment. The ride back down into the Hunza Vally is so spectacular, except for the stone throwing kids. There were three little kids in the road who couldn’t have been more that five or six years old. They sort of blocked the road and picked up handfuls of pebbles off the road and got in battle stance. They wanted me to stop, so when I sped past, they started throwing rocks at me. A fairly good size one came bouncing down the road by me. I wasn’t too worried about the little brats, but there was a u-turn that brought me back below them. As I came by, they were tumbling down the slope trying to get to me while throwing little rocks.
On the slopes near Karimabad are Baltit and Alit Forts. Dating from back many hundreds of years.
Baltit Fort sits up higher at the base of Lady Finger with views almost as good as The Eagles Nest. Being cheap RTW travelers, we didn’t pay the seven bucks each to go in the forts. The ride up the vertical cobble-stoned street was enough fun. The time camping at Eagles nest was the perfect stop for a few days to slow down and take it all in. I met tons of super friendly families and groups of friends. It was pretty easy to have somebody to talk at all times. The highlight was the breakfast buffet that the hotel put out every morning. Traveling starts to shrink me down and meals are missed. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to pig out and re-fuel the body. Even though they were very small hikes to the viewpoint, they were the first hikes I’ve done since breaking my ankle four and a half months ago. It felt awesome to feel half-way normal again and be able to explore without being held back by intense pain.
Most of the time it was my other leg from the most recent crash that gave me the most trouble. I’m a thousand times better than a month ago and especially two months ago. When I first got back on the bike I couldn’t even fit my boot over the swollen foot, it turned purple all the time, and I had terrible pain. Eventually the boot could slide on and I could walk semi-normal. It was easy to get a bit down about it sometimes, but I’m getting there day by day, I think. Some days it feels great and some it feels miserable. The mornings are pretty stiff and sore, but gets a lot better once it’s warmed up. I’m trying to do the physical therapy everyday, even though it usually puts it in more pain. I have nothing to complain about though. I’m in a place of the world that I’ve always dreamed of seeing and people make sound impossible.