our second dinner in Pakistan we debated the merits of two options. One
was to put on the Indus the following day and after completing the
desired section, explore rivers in the Hunza Valley region. The second
was renting jeep that would drive us up to Askole, where the road ends
near the Baltoro
; the beginning of the K2
Good morning to the
Unfortunately during the night Chris got sick, and we all
hoped it was
just a quick case of food poisoning, and he rested while we mastered
breakfast at the hotel.
During breakfast the next morning the group generally
once we put on the Indus we wouldn’t make the long drive back
up to Skardu, so it would be fortuitous to explore the area while we
were here. It would be a gamble, but it was a group decision so we
finished taming our meal and strolled around town while Roland worked
on engaging a jeep, because our vans wouldn’t make it up the
rough road to Askole. We hoped to explore a tight canyon on the Braldu
Come to find out our hotel doubled as
a cement block manufacturing
plant, I guess this is where the advertised
“garden” would have been.
Our initial jeep findings were too
expensive, and when we found out it
had no reverse we were glad we hadn’t rented this one as we
pushed it back out into the street.
Contrary to this laughable photo, Pakistan is the cleanest third world
country I have been to.
Pakistan is not quite up to
free” cell phone laws, but having a police officer on the
back must make it safer.
Once we secured a “jeep”, a sweet old Toyota Land
Cruiser, we loaded it up with all six of us plus the driver, our boats
and overnight gear, and were in route to Askole. On the way we stopped
in Shikar for lunch and were swarmed by friendly school kids.
We enjoyed the ever present dahl and chai, and hit the
road again. The
road continued to wind up the valley, but the going was slow. We were
continually in awe of the scenery. Occasionally friendly locals would
hop on for a quick ride between towns.
Coming around a corner we passed a group of women and who
with the unmistakable hand across the throat signal, followed by
spitting on the ground in our direction. This is the ultimate Balti
insult, and the reason became clear as we drove past a school fenced by
a cement wall, adorned with the slogans “I hate
America” and “Down with America”. We were
obviously passing Taliban funded madrassas, a growing problem for
villages too small to receive government schools.
This was the only negative interaction we’d had so
shrugged it off as we motored through several more friendly towns
before reaching a military check post. In an effort to hinder movement
of the extremist groups, there many active military and police check
The scenery was pleasant at this check
about this time Phil got sick too.
To date on the trip all the check points had been brief
stops to record
passport and visa numbers, but this post is on the single route to K2.
The only tourists they are used to are climbers or trekkers, and for
both activities a permit was expected. Technically we didn’t
need one, but they weren’t sure about that and treated us to
tea while making some calls…and more calls. Eventually our
pleasant hosts gave us the thumbs up, except that a quarter mile down
the road was a police check point, and they would ask for the permit
and didn’t have a phone, so we might be able to talk our way
through. During the whole process we checked out the area and noted the
river really looked too low anyways.
decided to cut our losses and head back to Skardu and put in on the
Indus, and passed a rough night with Phil recovering while Rafa and Ben
got hit by the flu.
Another beautiful Skardu sunrise
rewards early risers.
We headed to the Indus River oblivious to the stir we had created
yesterday. On the way we took a break to see how the locals go fishing.
I can’t imagine how cold this must be!
We were packing our boats and overnight gear when Roland
We hoped he was just walking around and finished up, but right as we
were fully geared up he returned with bad news. Because of our stop
last night, all the local police knew we were in the area, and to cover
their rear ends, wanted to make sure we had a permit. They told us we
would have to talk to the local District Controller, so we were forced
to abort for the day and schedule a meeting on the next.
This worked out well for me, because I ended up with the
flu and spent
the following day purging while our permit was drafted by the local
authorities. They were more than helpful with the process and after one
more night in Skardu we were destined to finally put on the Indus.
Skardu sunset from what felt like my