Never ending glaciers and the terrific suspension bridge as well as hitchhiking a tractor and the Pakistani who told us magical stories about ancient caravans

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Passu glacier

11.05

Here comes the new day – full of adventures. We wake up at 6 in the morning and we start sightseeing. There are several old houses in the village (one of them was the summer palace of the Mir of Hunza – this is the title of the local rulers) and a museum, as well as an old fort that is 200 years old. We climb above the village and the sights are amazing.

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The beginning of the trek

We plan to reach Borith Lake (which means salt lake in the local language), that is 3-4 hours walking distance from the village. The scenery is very beautiful. This is one of the most raw and unapproachable mountains on Earth, the lowest peaks are 4000 m.

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View from the trek

In the distance we see the pinnacles of a gigantic rocky massif that looks like an enchanted mountain where dwarfs, gnomes and other magical beings live. Looking down you can see Hunza River – black and enormous with silver alluviums on its bends.

The path climbs to the glacier Gulkin. We see a glacier for the first time and it is incredible. It moves, cracks and hisses. Underneath it is running water and big pieces split from it occasionaly. The glacier is black because it is covered with rocks and sand and that’s why it is easy to walk on it, but yet it’s dangerous.

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The black glacier Gulkin

After an hour walking on the glacier we manage to pass it but only because the German guy Stephan and his guide are with us.  We stop to drink tea at the house of a local woman in the close-by village named also Gulkin. The floor Inside her house is covered with carpets and in the middle there is one little wood-burning stove and it feels really cozy.

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Typical house at Gulkin Village

After we reach the lake people from the hotel come to pick us up. We go to see the suspension bridge located at the Hosseini village. The bridge crosses Hunza River and there is another small village on the other side of it. The bridge is swinging back and forth and there is quite a big distance between the wooden floor boards that it is made of. The wind is blowing strongly and your legs shake when you pass it. One local woman passed by us walking vigorously without holding herself anywhere – the sight of this flabbergasted us.

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Suspension bridge at the Hosseini village

In the evening we go back to the hotel exhausted from all the emotions (the glacier and the bridge were quite extreme) and Zahir, the owner of the hotel cooks us local dinner – the kind you can try only here. He prepares pan-cakes with some very interestingly tasting mulberry syrup, apricot oil with strong aroma, honey, a dish with cheese, chapatas and apricot compote.

The village we are in is situated at 2500 m. above sea level and people here can grow only certain crops – potatoes, apricots, etc. It is only rocks and cliffs here and after the Attabad Lake formed, the road was blocked and the delivery of goods became extremely difficult. People here rely only on local production and the local cuisine has unique ingredients like apricot oil, goat cheese and butter.

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Local woman at Gulmit Village

Electricity and Internet are far from abundant. There is no electricity at the village for the last 20 days now and everyone uses gasoline power generators. Although the village is remote and there is a lack of commodities, the people here are very educated and forward-looking. The erudition rate is 100% and one has the feeling of speaking with intelligent city people. It is unbelievable.

12.05

Today we have decided to do a short trek to the upper part of the Passu glacier. First we have to research everything thoroughly, since we plan to do the trip with no guide and the mountains here are quite different from those in Europe. People here die like flies and one has to be very alert for potential dangers.

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View of Passu Village

We are poorly equipped – with no mountain shoes and the only warm clothing we have is the shawl Attila and Sofi (my brother and his girlfriend) gave us as a gift and we take turns using in the freezing nights. The pathway passes over the enormous glacier Passu and then climbs at 4100 m. Most people tell us to not even try passing the glacier without a local guide. We decide to sleep in the shepherds’ huts after passing the glacier at 3500 m. It takes four hours to reach the place and you have to walk on the glacier’s edge.

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Passu region

In the morning we find an internet club because we want to tell our relatives where we are – for the last 8 days we were “internetless”. After that we go to the local bakery to buy chapatas and around 3 o’clock in the afternoon we start climbing. We walk on the road to Hosseini Village and a tractor stops by and takes us for a short distance. From Hosseini there is a dirt road that goes to Borith Lake and then the glacier’s edge. From there on the road becomes goat track.

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Borith Lake

Somewhere after the lake our well known friends catch up with us. Guess who this is – the policemen, of course. They heard from someone at the hotel that we left without any equipment or a local guide and they went nuts. One of the reasons is that accidents happen here all the time – last year some tourists died there.

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Borith lake from another angle

We met a Pakistani group coming down and they told us it is impossible to cross the glacier without equipment and guide. We promised the policemen that we won’t even try it and they go back.

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Passu Ghar

We climb and around sunset we reach Passu Ghar where the shepherd’s huts are. Going up we see more and more evergreen bushes that look like juniper. We find one place surrounded by some not so high trees, we pitch our tent and we set fire. The temperature is below 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) and we are freezing. We plan to reach the glacier tomorrow and probably stay one more night in the region.

13.05

It rains cats and dogs all night and in the morning we hear something that sounds like many horses galloping our way. We jump and get out of the tent. It turns out that big rocks are constantly falling from above because the rain softened the mud. We look around us and 50 m. away we see a small shelter and the door is unlocked. We move inside and we are saved from the falling rocks.

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The house where we nestled

All day long big dullards fall from the slopes and walking on the pathway is very dangerous. In the afternoon we reach the last huts. Above them is the place where we have to cross the glacier.

It looks impossible to cross it without a guide, crampons and ice-axes. The glacier is enormous and parts of it split all the time, and it forms crevasses some of which are 10 m. deep. Part of it forms walls and it feels like you are in a labyrinth.

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Passu glacier

 

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And again

 

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Entrance between two walls formed by the glacier

We step on a rising ground and we start wondering where the path is but we couldn’t manage to identify it. We go back to our camp and the night is freezing cold. We tried to set thewood-burning stove inside the house but the wood is wet and the only thing we managed to do is fill the hut with smoke.

14.05

The clouds are almost gone and in the morning we climb to see Passu peak (7300 m. above sea level).

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Passu Peak

I feel sick in the morning but after I drink a cup of tea the situation gets much worse. We got some kind of gastric disease because we drank water from the rivers after we finished the one we brought with us. The water looked clean but it had sand in it. In the evening we have to exert Herculean efforts to reach Borith Lake. At the lake’s shore there is a hotel and the owner is a relly sympathetic old man.

We pitch our tent and the owner offers us apricot soup with vermicelli – a local specialty. We are 1000 m. lower than before and the weather is much warmer.

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Camping at Borith Lake Hotel

15.05

We decide to stay one more day at the lake in order to recuperate from the gastric disease. From time to time a tourist comes by to see the lake. The surroundings are calm and idyllic.

The mountain is covered with snow and it reflects itself in the glass surface of the lake. Two ducklings bathe themselves in the water, spreading their wings from time to time. The silence is broken only by the songs of the birds, the buzzing of the insects and the far cries of the villagers in the distance who take out their miniature goats, sheep and cows. We feel like something changed deep inside us after walking in the toughest parts of the mountains – it looks like even our eyes changed. We wonder what will tomorrow bring to us?

Gulmit Continental Hotel is a really nice hotel and the owner is very sympathetic and calm person. If you decide to stay at Gulmit we warmly recommend this hotel.

Borith Lake Hotel that is situated at the lake is also an incredible place where you can camp if you like. The owner is a very nice giddy pate with quite interesting personality.

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This will be your view from the hotel 🙂

If you need more information about the region – prices, phones, etc. as well as information about the many amazing treks and local guides in Karakorum, feel free to write to us: magickervan@gmail.com.

16.05

We start hitchhiking and some people take us to Attabad Lake. After waiting for a while we come to the notion that we have to wait for the boat to be full in order to cross it. The price is 100 rupees (1$) per person but the foreigners pay double.

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Attabad Lake

After 12 p.m. there are almost no passengers and we have to wait for some time. On the other side of the lake there is a minibus that costs 50 rupees to Karimabad and we decide to take it. We don’t see private cars passing by so it is good we did it.

The minibus leaves us at the road fork to Karimabad where there is an old settlement with two forts that are 800 years old each – Baltit and Altit. They were built for protection from the people in the neighbor valley – Nagar. In ancient times Nagar Valley and Hunza Valley were always warring.

We had met a guy from Karachi at the Borith Lake, who was there on vacation and had hired a jeep and a local guide. He invited us to meet him when we reach Karimabad where he stayed. The local guide – Mr. Ifchi impressed us with his in-depth experience about the region and we wanted to meet them again and learn more about the different places here.

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House in Upper Borith

We phoned them and they met us and showed us a really nice hotel with an extraordinary view towards the valley. The owner of the hotel allowed us to pitch our tent in the front yard and to use hot water and washing machine for only 100 rupees (1$). The name of the place is Karimabad Inn.

The weather here is pretty cold at this time of the year so we cannot bathe and do the laundry in the freezing springs. We go to see fort Altit and the old human settlement before we meet our friend from Karachi.

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Jataq – the central square of Altit

 

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Fort Altit

At sunset he took us with his jeep to a place where one can see the whole Hunza Valley and the peaks surrounding it. At the top of this place is built Eagle’s Nest Hotel where we drank tea.

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View from Hotel Eagle’s Nest

 

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Golden Peak – 7023 m.

Mr. Ifchi cooks dinner for us at his house and we are all invited. His house is near the historic village Ganish which is on the road next to Karimabad. The dinner is very delicious, with many local specialties with cheese. Mr. Ifchi did all the treks in the region and knows them very well. At dinner he tells us some very interesting stories from his childhood and we are carried away in the old times.

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A girl from Hosseini Village

Here are some of his sotries: Up to 1974 Hunza Valley was autonomous kingdom and the ruler – the Mir of Hunza, lived at the Fort Baltit.

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Fort Baltit

In the fifties when Mr. Ifchi was still a child, there were no roads, only the Silk Road was bending in the mountains above ravines and precipices and was difficult to pass – it looked like goat trail. All the time caravans with yaks and horses arrived and stayed at the Kervansaray in the village.

The caravans came from Kashgar, China and the people leading it were uyghurs, tajiks and many other ethnicities. The caravans brought mainly cloth dye and silk. On their way back they took gold – it was the Mir’s taxes that he paid to the Chinese. One time Mr. Ifchi went with his father with the caravan in Upper Hunza to collect the taxes. He remembered that the road was extremely hard to pass. At that time people in the village had almost nothing – for breakfast they usually ate apricot soup, for lunch – chapatas with apricot juice and from time to time they cooked potatoes and lentils, prepared with apricot seed oil.

Ganish village is the oldest known human settlement in the region and it consists of around thirty houses and a few little mosques – in ancient times it was a tradition for every family to build its own mosque. In the central part of the village there is an ancient swimming pool and one 800 years old sycamore tree.

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Ganish Village

The people living in this valley are Ismaili but the ones in Ganish Village and the neighboring Nagar Valley are Ithna Ashar – another branch of Shia Islam.

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Walking on the black glacier

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