Started early from Gilgit (Serena) after a nice breakfast (usually included in hotel room price).
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.
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.
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.
Pictures cannot do justice to the raw beauty of this drive.
At one point, there was also a 100% natural, 100% organic car wash ☺.
100% 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.
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. ☹
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
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 🙂
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.
We went to the famed Shangri-La hotel at Lake Kachura for high tea.
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
After 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.