Silk Road 10: Gilgit to Skardu, Pakistan

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Silk Road Pakistan June 2016
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Started early from Gilgit (Serena) after a nice breakfast (usually included in hotel room price).

silk-road-10-image001Gilgit valley and town from the Serena Hotel

silk-road-10-image002Off to school, Gilgit early morning

After about 30kms on the KKH, we branched off where we had a great view of the Hindu Kush range meeting the Himalaya range and the Karakorum range. This is also the point where the Hunza river joins the Indus river.

silk-road-10-image099

silk-road-10-image003Beautiful valley where the Hindu Kush, Karakorum and Himalaya mountain ranges met.

The road was now a Pakistani rural road i.e. it was about 1.25 cars wide and traffic went in both directions on this road, which weaved along the valley with the Indus River. Trucks also use this road, as that is the only way to deliver goods to Skardu and Khaplu. The drivers were always courteous to each other. This was the Silk Road that accessed Kashmir in Northern India.

silk-road-10-image004Road quickly deteriorated once we left the KKH

The road condition was generally not good, and this short drive of 245kms took 6+hrs to do with breaks along the way. This drive is best described as being one of the most amazing, exhilarating and adventurous drives in the world.

silk-road-10-image005Beautiful scenery; green vegetation only along the water channel, above the Indus River

silk-road-10-image006Many such suspension bridges with wooden planks across the Indus river; all built by the Pakistani Army

silk-road-10-image007Everything is trucked in and out from Skardu via this Gilgity-Skardu Road

silk-road-10-image008Note the interesting landscape and the waterfalls behind and above the minivan

silk-road-10-image009Beautiful kids

silk-road-10-image010Rural outdoor school classroom.

silk-road-10-image011Rural School

silk-road-10-image012Interesting decorated trucks

Road snakes along the Indus river valley

silk-road-10-image013Road snakes along the Indus river valley

silk-road-10-image014

silk-road-10-image015Amazing scenery continues

silk-road-10-image016Workaround the avalanched huge rock

silk-road-10-image017Sometimes scary roads; will that rock above the road stay there until after I have passed?

silk-road-10-image018Majestic scenery dwarfing the snaking road

silk-road-10-image019Dear Rocks, please stay put 🙂

silk-road-10-image020Small villages where flat irrigated land was possible

silk-road-10-image021People live in remote and precarious places to work and mine the Himalayas (below) for its semi-precious stones

silk-road-10-image022


Pictures cannot do justice to the raw beauty of this drive.

At one point, there was also a 100% natural, 100% organic car wash ☺.

silk-road-10-image023100% natural, 100% organic car wash 🙂

We passed incredible views, and multiple villages along the way, and multiple police checkpoints, and at each district crossing, we had an FFC (Foreigners Facilitation Center) where our documents were examined, and questions about our intentions, our journey etc. were asked, and documented on paper.

silk-road-10-image024Police checkpoint queue

The villages all had running water, electricity and sewage, just like in Hunza valley. There were multiple rope pulley bridges over the Indus river, with a small platform on which people sat and pulled themselves across the river to the other side. We did not experience this as Dilshad refused to go on one of these. ☹

silk-road-10-image025Pulley platform where people would pull themselves across the Indus river.

silk-road-10-image026Precarious

silk-road-10-image027

silk-road-10-image028Rural road and bridge

silk-road-10-image029Dizzying waterfall heights

silk-road-10-image030This one Seriously scared me

We stopped for lunch at AstakNala, which is a small town half way between Giglit and Skardu. We stopped at the PDTC Motel (Pakistani Govt run motels that provide good and clean basic accommodation to travelers) as they always had clean bathrooms. To our surprise, the Manager there, Imran Ulla Beg, was an Ismaili from Hunza who Zafar and Abbas knew well. So after tea here we went across the road for a riverside lunch

silk-road-10-image031At PDTC motel AstakNala (in back), with Imran, the manager, who also was from Hunza

silk-road-10-image032Lunch at roadside/riverside cafe, AstakNala

There were multiple single lane suspension bridges with wooden slats over the Indus river, and all traffic used them, one vehicle or truck at a time, slowly. Photographs of bridges, police and army installations were forbidden, but had to sneak a few in 🙂

silk-road-10-image033Dilshad and Abbas on typical suspension bridge

silk-road-10-image034One lane suspension bridge, wooden slats, 5mph max speed, no photographs allowed

silk-road-10-image035Engaging young schoolchildren

silk-road-10-image036Stalled trucks added to the excitement of narrow road, and very steep mountainsides

silk-road-10-image037Please dont fall on me……

silk-road-10-image038Local bus; dwarfed by the size of the rocks

silk-road-10-image039Intricate artwork

silk-road-10-image040Shy

silk-road-10-image041Boys were not shy

silk-road-10-image042Mosque

silk-road-10-image043Micro Hydro electric power (~1MW) station

The Indus river was very fast moving up to now, but in Skardu it was a wide plain river, with lots of white sand and with the wind, the white sand would get spread everywhere.

silk-road-10-image044Indus river near Skardu; the winds caused sand to fly…..

We went to the famed Shangri-La hotel at Lake Kachura for high tea.

silk-road-10-image045

silk-road-10-image046At the famous Shangri-La hotel

silk-road-10-image047Beautiful mountains backdrop for Shangri-La Hotel

Then into Skardu to our hotel. Took a while to find our hotel as it was in a remote (quiet) area and a little bit out of the town of Skardu. Once settled in, we went back into the town for some walking and shopping. That is when Dilshad noticed that there were no women walking around the town; not a single one. So Dilshad got stared at, but being a foreigner, no issue. This is probably one of few places I have been to where women were simply not visible outside the home. This must obviously be a very conservative place. Later on, we found out this area was called the Purdah Bazaar; ladies unseen

silk-road-10-image048Skardu Polo ground

silk-road-10-image049Beautiful backdrops, strategic Kharphocho Fort and mountains in background

silk-road-10-image050

silk-road-10-image051

silk-road-10-image052Skardu market area

silk-road-10-image053Skardu

silk-road-10-image054Fresh chickens; color coded

silk-road-10-image055After the walk through the town with obligatory Polo grounds, decide to have dinner at the hotel as it was getting dark. The hospitality industry here is well developed and the people worked hard to please guests and foreigners. Due to lack of tourists, you get great service. Refreshingly nice. Then hit the sack.

Next day is Satpara Lake, Deosai plains and onto Khaplu Fort.

This entry was posted in Asia, Pakistan, Silk Road Pakistan June 2016

7 thoughts on “Silk Road 10: Gilgit to Skardu, Pakistan

  • kandi pirkle March 31, 2017 at 2:08 am Reply

    This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.

    I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post.
    Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

    • Ali Karim August 12, 2017 at 8:03 pm Reply

      Hi Kandi, thanks so much for the nice comment and for sharing my travelog in your Social Networks. So glad you enjoyed my travel blog through Hunza and Gilgit, Skardu, etc in northern Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan province is truly beautiful

  • Eliseo August 8, 2017 at 3:28 pm Reply

    Hello There. I discovered your weblog using msn. This is a really smartly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more about your travels. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.

  • Anonymous February 28, 2018 at 7:47 am Reply

    This blog is fantastic! As a “Westerner”, I find both your mature age and different ethnic background an absolute treasure of inspiration regarding traveling generally and the positive life lessons thereof in particular that you share, in no small part because bloggers are often privileged young Westerners.

    And this sentiment couldn’t apply more to a write up about Pakistan.

    Thanks so much for sharing…I will definitely be back to read more about your travels.

    Safe journeys.

    • Ali Karim February 28, 2018 at 9:01 am Reply

      THanks so much for the nice compliments; it makes my day when one of my blogs is read and appreciated. Thanks so much for the kind words. Please check out my other blogs; I know you will find them interesting also. Let me know.

  • Jane Willson May 27, 2018 at 4:52 pm Reply

    Oh my heavens….you two are brave. Such a thrilling travelog you offer us here. I Just so enjoy your daring photos and random prayers to varios rocks to stay put!

    • Ali Karim May 28, 2018 at 2:29 pm Reply

      HI Jane, thanks for reading my blog and I was so relieved when the rocks stayed put 🙂
      We had to drive back this same road to get back to Gilgit, and we prayed a lot on the way back also 🙂 🙂

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