Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Beautiful Birds of Pakistan - 2

This is my second post on the beautiful birds of Pakistan. Birds, not only fill the nature and our environment with their colourful attire and sweet chirping, they are also an essential part of our ecology. It is heartening to note that more and more bird watchers are sparing their time to observe birds in their natural habitat or even in the cities and adding their birding experience on the media for the benefit of novices like I and the nature and bird lovers in general.
Today I am sharing the adventures of Mirza Naim Baig, a free lance WWF enthusiast and avid bird watchers. The birds shared here are found in the coastal part of Pakistan, Karachi and surrounding areas  in particular
Majestic Egrets
Cattle Eaglet
Asian Koel (Male above - Female below)
Though recorded with Pakistan wild life this is one of the very few pictures ever recorded. Yellow Wattled Lapwing spotted in DHA Phase 8, Karachi
Posing Robin
Male Sun Bird



Besides many species of indigenous birds, Pakistan is home to a large number of migratory birds who flock to this part of the world in March and November to avoid cold Siberian winters and to nurture their future generations - Green Bee Eater is one of the migratory birds. 
Green Bee Eater (above and below) is a migratory bird of summer for breeding
Common Bank Mynas (above) - Bee Eaters (Below)
Jungle Babbler
About the Bird Watcher and Photographer
Mirza Naim Baig is a freelancer member WWF who takes part inn the preservation of wildlife, beside being a wildlife tour operator. He is from Karachi and studied Bachelor of Arts at Edwards College, Peshawar and lives in Karachi. He is the owner of Dream Merchants.

His birding experiences and photos can be seen on FacebookAll photos above are the property of Mirza Naim Baig and have been shared here with his exclusive permission. In time more of his birding photos will be posted to share his hard work and love for these little flying birds.
Caption Photo: Pied Bushchat
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Beautiful Birds of Pakistan - 1

Just a couple of days ago, I wrote a post on the Birds - the scary birds of Alfred Hitchcock from his film "The Birds' and lifeless, yet beautiful, birds hanging from the ceiling of a store that i visited. The post prompted me to write and share beautiful birds that keep flying around us but we do not really care. But there are people who have an eye to spot these beautiful birds, photograph them and save for us to see.

So here I am with the first batch of beautiful birds of Pakistan, that are not only beautiful, vividly coloured and eye catching, but also speak volumes about the shooting skills of the bird watchers and use of their cameras just about the right way. 

In this post today, I am sharing photos taken by Mohsan Raza Ali, who shares his birding photos at Facebook. Most of these photos have been shot at F-9 Park, Islamabad, the Margalla Hills and the surrounding areas.
Sunbird (Female) 
Oriental white eye
Red Minivet




Continue to scroll down for many more beautiful and colourful birds of Pakistan:
White Throated Fantail
Common starling
Oriental white-eye
Cinereous Tit
Fighting Swallows
Pied kingfisher
This is the first batch of photos by Mohsan Reza Ali - in time I shall share more of his photos about life, Islamabad and landscape he shoots with equal passion and professional eye.

About the Photographer:

Mohsan Raza Ali hails from city of Multan and is now settled in Islamabad. Besides his wonderful hobby of bird watching and photography, he is computer science graduate from Islamic University, Islamabad and has been a senior Software Engineer at Bentley Systems, Development Manager at Aspose, Development Manager at Data Focal Innovations and an Application Architect at LMKR.

All photos above are the property of Mohsan Raza Ali and have been shared with his due permission. His photos can be seen on Facebook | Caption Photos: Crimson Sunbird

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock was a legendary filmmaker and director. All his movies were instant hit for mysteries hidden in each. "The Birds" was one such movie that I watched in my childhood in the 60s. The film was about an unexplained attack of violent birds on the people of Bodega Bay, California.

The attack by the birds and the scary effect it created on its viewers did not escape me and I still have a vivid memory of the birds swarming on the people of Bodega Bay and even breaking windows to get into their houses.

But that was just a movie.



Recently, I accompanied my wife into a store and while she was busy in selecting a suit for herself, I was looking at the hundreds of birds artfully decorating the ceiling of the store. 
And at that very instant, I went back into my memory lane recalling the Hitchcockian birds swarming the skies and the houses.

 
 
 
IF you have seen the film by Hitchcock, you will appreciate the post and the photos that I took that day in the store. But even if you have not seen the movies as it snow six decades old, you wont be able to resist and appreciate the aesthetic sense of the person who designed the store, even if you are not an art lover.

I am sharing a movie clip of the film to show you how many birds were there and how these haunted and hurt the people of the small village.
Pray these birds do not actually happen !!

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan: Skardu - the Cold Desert

 
One hears of cold arctic desert covered with thick layers of ice or the Gobi Desert of Mongolia - the hottest desert of the world. But you may be surprised to know that there is one 'cold' desert located almost at the height of 8,000 feet, above mean sea level, surrounded by snow clad mountains in Pakistan near the city of Skardu - the road way to world’s highest mountains that includes K2, K3, and Gasherbrum. Since the temperature falls below freezing point in winters, the desert is rightly called the cold desert - or may I say the coldest highest desert in the world - or better name it a desert above the clouds!!


The beautiful sand dunes of Katpana Desert at Skardu, the main city of the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan, are one the favourite tourist destinations. Owing to its location at this high altitude, it is rightly known as the cold desert. These vast stretches of sand dune exits along the course of mighty River Indus, which start from the Khaplu Valley to Nubra Ladakh and Shigar Skardu valley. However its largest area can be seen in the Skardu and Shigar valley.



I first saw this beautiful natural phenomenon when I visited Skardu many years ago. I could see these sand dunes from the airplane window as these are very close to the Skardu airport. I took a few shots, but lost these over a period of time. Strong winds shift the dunes as quickly as nomads. At this high altitude and cold region, this desert holds strange a attraction. 


Now watch a beautiful drone video capturing the vast stretches of cold desert in Skardu Valley:

(The second part of the video shows the beautiful road to the Shigar valley of mighty K2. An amazing road looks very beautiful through the lens of this drone.)

There are many other spectacular sightseeing places in and around Skardu. Some of these are:

  • World’s second highest plains, Deosai
  • Sadpara Lake - one a monumental lake now being consumed by making of  a dam (photo below)
  • The 600 years old Kharpocho Fort - built by Balti ruler Ali Sher Khan Anchan.
  • Shangrila Resorts built on cold icy waters of Skardu Lake. There is no better place in Skardu than to lodge at the Shangrila Resorts to enjoy the pure natural beauty of Skardu.
If you wish to visit Skardu and its sand dunes, beside its many other attractions, do plan a visit in summers as the winters are very severe. You may take a flight from Islamabad to Skardu. But due to weather turbulences, the flights are often disrupted. One can also opt to take the land route on the Karakorum Highway, the KKH. After Jaglot on the Karakorum Highway, an almost seven hours narrow road leads towards Skardu. So do keep Skardu as of your travel destination next time you plan to visit an adventurous journey to Fascinating Pakistan.

Photos: Northern Areas of Pakistan
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan: Gorakh Hill Station

Let me take a break from the snow clad mountains of the northern areas of Pakistan and take you down to the desert and barren mountains of the Sind province of Pakistan - but assuring you of a cool breeze and occasional snow fall in winters.

Some of my readers who know the geography of Sindh in 'general' may not agree with with my viewpoint as the area is known for sizzling hot summers with a semblance of winters. But believe me we have a place amid the scorching plains and rocky mountains of Kirthar mountain range in Sind that relieves of your summer worries when standing atop the Gorakh Hills.

The name Gorakh is derived from the Brahvi language in which, word "Gurgh" means Wolf and that Balochi language word "Gurkh" is later dialectic adaptation of Brahvi language word Gurgh, meaning wolf.
Screen shot of Gorakh Hill View Point - Scroll down for the video

Gorakh Hills, situated at an elevation of 5,688 ft (1,734 m) in the Kirthar Mountains, the highest place in the province of Sind, is one such place which is home to sub zero temperatures in winters and a pleasant cool breeze with a temperature generally remaining below  20 °C all through summers, which are longer than winters than other parts of Pakistan. 

Gorakh Hill Station is situated on one of the highest plateaus of Sindh, spread over 2,500 acres (10 km2) and is located 94 kilometers northwest of Dadu city. Presently, for most part a shingle dirt track links Dadu and Gorakh Hill station, though there are ever pending plans by the provincial government to develop a road link between the Dadu city and the hill station.



One may approach the Gorakh Hill station from Karachi skirting Hyderabad and Dadu cities through road journey that may take seven and half hours to cover the 400 kilometers distance. Many tour operators in Karachi can arrange a guided tour to this beautiful pleasing hill station including night stay at the Gorakh Hill Station guest house, trekking and watching the wild life of the area. or if you are adventurous by nature and fond of camping, the vast area provides ample places overlooking the entire valley down below for camping. The road  through Khawal Luk Pass moves up the hill with numerous hair raising bends till one reaches the top.
A night stay at the hill station provides the tourists a one-in-lifetime chance to view the sunset in the evening and a spectacular sunrise in the morning and watch the sun rays running over the many hillocks and hill tops and finally illuminating the entire valley. At night, one is awestruck to watch the sky full of stars and galaxies overhead in complete darkness as there is no other habitat in the area down below for miles altogether.

On cloudy days, the entire valley is filled with low clouds and even wraps the hill station - mystifying the view and the presence on the Gorakh Hills with visibility reduced to just few feet.

Watch a fantastic video from the Gorakh Hill top with low clouds surrounding it and the valley down below:
Gorakh Hill Station is a bliss for the people of Sindh, specially for people of Karachi who travel to northern areas spending lot of money, while they have a choice to explore the lands of interior Sindh and go trekking to Gorakh Hill and the Khawal Luk Pass, beside resting and enjoying the summers or if lucky enough to find snow flakes falling on them during winters.

References: Wikipedia | Photo: Beautiful Pakistan (Facebook) | Map: Google Maps
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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan - Rakaposhi

Today, while sifting through my old photographs, I came across this photo of mine posing with my wife and sons standing at the Rakaposhi Point on the Gilgit-Hunza section of the Karakorum Highway (KKH) with the mighty Rakaposhi mountain in the background. While driving to Hunza, we came across this point and were instantly frozen on the spot for it gave a full view of the Rakaposhi mountain rising from the ground level to its utmost height and glory. We stayed at the place and ordered for breakfast from a small self made eatery on the point. I still remember devouring the hot parathas (heavily greased rounded bread typical to Pakistani cuisines) and fried eggs, followed by hot fuming doodh patti (doodh=milk, patti=tea leaves, a tea made from milk and tea leaves with no water and a heavy dose of sugar).

Rakaposhi is a massive mountain, rising at a height of 7,788 m above sea level in the Karakorum mountain range. Rakaposhi, meaning the snow covered in local language, is situated in the middle of Nagar Valley Nagar District and Danyore and Bagrote valley approximately 100 km north of the capital city Gilgit of the semi autonomous Gilgit-Baltistan region of Northern Pakistan.

Although, i is ranked 27th highest in the world and 12th highest in Pakistan, it is its beauty that makes it as one of the popular sites for mountaineers around the world. Rakaposhi is also the only mountain in the world which rises straight from beautifully cultivated fields to the height of 25,550 feet. The first successful recorded ascent by non-natives was in 1958 by Mike Banks and Tom Patey, members of a British-Pakistani expedition, via the Southwest Spur route.

A spectacular view of Rakaposhi  from Gulmit - Photo: Northern Areas of Pakistan

Now watch a spectacular video of skirting around the Rakaposhi via para gliding while flying at a maximum height of 6,070 m - I am sure you would feel the coldness and awe these two para gliders, piloted by with Brad Sander (one of the best para gliding pilots), were experiencing when the flew past Rakaposhi ( a little more than half of the video):

Rakaposhi is famous for its exceptional rise and it rises 5,900 m in just a little over eleven kilometers from the Hunza River. The areas around Rakaposhi are home to some of the endangered species like the Marco Polo sheep, snow lapboard, brown bear and wolves.

References: Wikipedia 
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Friday, November 17, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan - Gasherbrum 1, The Hidden Peak

I have already introduced of the five eight thousander peaks in Pakistan out of the fourteen in the world and also wrote an exclusive post on Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas, the only eight thousander located out of the Karakorum range. Today I will talk about Gasherbrum 1, also known as the hidden peak.

But before I do that, let me say a a few words about the survey of the Karakorum peaks by T.G. Montgomerie who back in 1856 with no GPS or visual devices surveyed the Karakorum peaks - sitting more than two hundred kilometers away, a feat of extreme professionalism while carrying out the Trigonometric Survey of India. And he named Gasherbrum 1 as K5, as he labelled the Chogori or the Mt Godwin Austen as K2. Later in 1982, William Martin Conway labelled it as the Hidden Peak, for being located in the extreme remoteness.

Part of the Gasherbrum massif in the Karakorum region of the Himalaya, with a height of 8,080 m (26,510 ft), Gasherbrum 1 is the 11th eight thousander and the third eight thousander in Pakistan. It is located on the Pakistani–Chinese border in Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan and Xinjiang region of China. In local Balti language, the world Gasherbrum means the beautiful mountain, "rgasha" (beautiful) + "brum" (mountain)

The Gasherbrum 1 expedition commences from Skardu. From here the expeditions enter the Shigar Valley and a  laborious trekking across the Baltoro glacier to reach the base camp. The best climbing season starts in June and ends in August.



Gasherbrum I and II were explored by an international expedition by the Swiss G.O. Dyhrenfurth, explores . Two climbers could go up to 6,300 m (20,670 ft). 1936 a French expedition tried an unsuccessful attempt, but it was on July 5, 1958 Pete Schoening and Andy Kauffman, part of an eight-man American expedition who successfully scaled the summit.

On March 9th, 2012, two Polish climbers (Adam Bielecki, 28 and Janusz Golab, 43) completed the first ever winter ascent of Gasherbrum I. Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab climbed the peak without oxygen. The Polish team ascended via the Japanese route up the NW Face of Gasherbrum 1. The expedition succeeded after 49 days of waiting due extremely bad weather.

The Polish Expedition Plan - Photo: Himalman Weblog

The same day, three climbers from a different expedition, Austrian Gerfried Goschl, Swiss Cedric Hahlen and Pakistani Nisar Hussain Sadpara, went missing, never to be found again. The three had been sighted for the last time midday on Friday circa 250 m below the summit .They were trying to ascend via a new route.. 

Watch the video of the first ever winter accent of Gasherbrum 1 by the Polish climbers (2012)
This is the second share of the five eight thousanders in Pakistan, after Nanga Parbat. I will write about the remaining three eight thousanders in my subsequent posts.

Photo: Northern Areas of Pakistan |
References: Wikipedia | Panel Mountain
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan - The Eight Thousanders

Pakistan is one of those blessed countries which has enormous tourist attractions right from its 1200 long coast, mostly virgin, along the Arabian Sea, vast stretches of deserts, fertile lush green plains and snow clad mountain peaks dominating its north.

While the entire country is worth visiting and touring, it is a mountaineers haven as its has 108 peaks over 7,000 metres and as many over 6,000 metres, while there is no count for peaks over 5,000 and 4,000 meters. Most of the highest peaks in Pakistan lie in Karakoram Range (which lies almost entirely in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and is considered to be a part of the greater Himalayan range) but some peaks above 7,000 m are included in the Himalayan and Hindu Kush ranges.

In fact Pakistan is the meeting point of three great mountain ranges, the Himalaya, the Karakorum and the Hindu Kush. And it is here in these mountain ranges lie five out of the fourteen eight thousanders (peaks over 8,000 meters) in the world. Of these five, four lie the Karakorum in the surroundings of Concordia; the confluence of Baltoro Glacier and Godwin Austen Glacier, while one is located in the Himalaya.



Herein under is the list of all the five eight thousanders located in Pakistan.
  • K-2 also known as the Chogori, Mt. Godwin Austen that reaches up to a height of 8,611 m and is the second highest peak of the world after the Mt Everest.
  • The Nanga Parbat (meaning the Naked Mountain) is 8,126 m high and is one of the deadliest of the eight-thousanders. This Himalayan peak ranks 5th in the 14 eight thousanders of the world. The summit is shaped like a reclining women, as remarked by some imaginative mountain and beauty lover. If flying to Skardu, one can see the Nanga from the right window of the aircraft. One can feel the grandeur of the height when flying almost to the level of its peak. Due to its difficulty in climbing, many mountaineers have lost their lives, that is why it is also known as the Killer Mountain.
  • Gasherbrum I (also known as Hidden Peak or K5) is the 11th highest peak on Earth, located on the Pakistan-China border in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. Gasherbrum I is part of the Gasherbrum massif, located in the Karakorum region of the Himalaya.
  • Part of the Gasherbrum massif, the Broad Peak in the Karakorum Range is 8,051 m high and is the 12th of the eight-thousanders in the world. Broad Peak is known locally as Faichan Kangri and was originally referred to as K3. The summit is over 1.5 km long, from which it gets in name as the Broad Peak.
  • Gasherbrum II (also known as K4) is the 13th highest mountain on Earth, located in the Gilgit Baltistan province, Pakistan near the border to China at a height of 8,035 m (26,362 ft). Gasherbrum II is the third highest peak of the Gasherbrum massif, located in the Karakorum Range of the Himalaya.
I have already written about Nanga Parbat in one of my earlier posts on Fascinating Pakistan series. And would write about other four in my next posts.
Photo Credits: K2 Mobeen Mazhar  | Karakorum Peaks: Abbas Shah
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan - Fairy Meadows

God has created replicas of heaven all around the world - but reaching these heavenly places is as arduous and extremely difficult as aspiring to be granted heaven in the world hereafter. The oasis in the deserts are reached after a man is at his breaking point after walking without food and water for days. Likewise in the obscured mountain valleys, there lie man a beautiful lush green places with lakes of crystal clear water, orchards laden with many types of sweetest fruits and overlooked by snow clad mountains. But to reach these, one has to really labour through treacherous mountain tracks, requiring extreme performance of 4WD jeeps or walking for hours over stony treks to finally reach these one-in-lifetime sites.

One of such heavens on earth is the Fairy Meadows in Diamer District, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Located at an altitude of 3,300 metres, Fairy Meadows, which is called Joot in the local language was named "Fairy Tale Meadow or "Märchenwiese" by a German climbers on their way to scale Nanga Parbat. Fairy Meadows in fact is the gateway to the Nanga Parbat for trekkers attempting the Rakhiot face of Nanga Parbat. This heavenly grassland is located in the Raikhot valley, at one end of the Raikhot glacier which originates from the Nanga Parbat and feeds a stream that finally falls in the River Indus.
To approach Fairy Meadows, one can embark upon an 11 hours road journey to Chilas on the Karakorum Highway (KKH). From here at a distance of 61 kilometers is the Raikot bridge, where jeeps are readily available during the tourist season for six passengers per jeep. The road to Fairy Meadows then commences with a breathtaking twelve kilometers long jeepable track through a treacherous unstable gravel mountain pass, followed by yet another 3-4 hours of trekking on a five kilometers trek. In fact the drive is so dangerous that one is more worried about one's safety rather than enjoying the beautiful landscape one is passing through.



The jeepable track is considered as one of most dangerous roads in the world. The DangerousRoads describe the difficulty and extreme dangerous track in following words:

  • The road is an unforgettable experience. It’s winding, in some places only wide enough for one vehicle, and in many places bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. The most dangerous part of the road involves a narrow 6-mile ascend on an unpaved and uneven road. There are no barriers to prevent a vehicle from falling off the cliff to a fiery death.  The road is no wider than a standard Jeep Wrangler and there’s plenty of through traffic. One false move and it’s a very long drop.
  • The gravel road has not undergone any repair since it was built by the ethnic villagers of the Nanga Parbat Mountain hundreds of years ago which makes it one of the dangerous roads on this list. The road was built by the local people, and is therefore a private toll road. It’s steep and just the width of the jeep, with unstable gravel road hacked out of the barren hills.
  • Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice.This drive is only recommended for the people who are serious mountain lovers and have strong nerves. This is a stunning place for photographers and nature lovers. But this road is definitely not for the faint of heart, so, if you want to go there - bring a lot of courage with you!
But once one reaches the lush green Fair Meadows, one instantly how one has reached this heaven on earth. Words alone cannot describe the beauty of the place, with fresh breeze blowing and a landscape so captivating that soothes one eyes which just moments ago were seeing nothing but barren stony mountains over a life threatening unkempt gravel track.

The Fairy Meadows grassland is surrounded by thick alpine forest. The high altitude area and north-facing slopes mostly consist of coniferous forest having Pinus wallichiana, Picea smithiana and Abies pindrow trees, while in the high altitude areas with little sunlight are birch and willow dwarf shrubs. The southern slopes are concentrated with juniper and scrubs, namely Juniperus excelsa and J. turkesticana. In the low altitudes, the major plant found is Artemisia, with yellow ash, stone oaks and Pinus gerardiana spread among it.
A spectacular view of Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows

From here one can have a spectacular view of the majestic Nanga Parbat, one of the 14 eight thousanders of the world and one of the five eight thousanders located in Pakistan. Read more about Nanga Parbat in one of early posts on Fascinating Pakistan series. 

Sitting on the slopes of Fairy Meadows and looking at the Nanga Parbat, one feels as if one is sitting in a lush green bowl being overlooked by the awe inspiring mountain in the backdrop. One can listen to many folklores about the area and of the many expeditions that passed through to scale the Nanga Parbat and the sadness in their tone when describing dead bodies of climbers being taken away who fell victim to the Killer Mountain, the Nanga Parbat.

I would now stop my commentary and let you watch the video below that explains everything and shows you from roads to jeepable tracks and finally horse back to Fairy Meadows, overlooked by the mighty Nanga Parbat or the killer mountain in the background.
The six-month tourist season at Fairy Meadows starts in April and continues until the end of September. Tourists lodge at the camping site spread over two acres, known as "Raikot Serai" and the other at Fairy Meadows, though partially developed.

I am sure the video above gives you a fair idea of the challenges to be faced while driving on the mountain track and then finally reaching the Fairy Meadows - Next time you visit Pakistan, do consult your travel agent to include Fairy Meadows as one of your travel destinations for life time adventure.

Photos Credit: Northern Areas of Pakistan | References: Wikipedia
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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan - Shimshal Pass

I just started writing a series of posts yesterday to introduce to the world the fascinating,beautiful and awe inspiring beauty and landscape of Pakistan. This post today is the second in the series of many more yet to come.
Shimshal Village

Now my readers ma ask why Shimshal Pass - a place rather unknown in the tourism annals of Pakistan. Well I picked up this place for four reasons:
  • The photo above was the main motivating factor as the composition is so captivating that I was awe stricken for a while. It looked as if I saw something from another world. Just look above again - doesn't it instantly attracts you - specially the bunch of yaks running at the foothills of mighty mountain? Well it did for me and I instantly thought of writing about Shimshal Pass and the Shimshal Valley. 
  • Secondly the motivation of the people of Shimshal village to come out of the obscurity from an otherwise obscured small village surrounded by rugged stony mountains, cutting them completely from the Hunza Valley just next to the Shimshal Valley, but inaccessible except for foot or mule mode of transportation. They thus started cutting the mountains and made a jeep able track to reach the Karakoram Highway (KKH) near the Passu - it took them Eighteen years (1985-2003) to build this track completely relying on their muscle power without any outside help.
  • And lastly the trekking on the Shimshal Pass - from the Shimshal village located at 3,100 metres above sea level to Shimshal Pass at 4,735 metres. The invincibility of the trek at places almost vertical climbs, wading through gushing mountain gorges and fast flowing streams.
  • And lastly, the entire Shimshal village has electricity - yes don't be surprised and thanks to the solar technology. All houses have solar panels to provide them uninterrupted power supply and watch TV through satellite receivers/dish antennas. This initiative on the part of locals should serve as any eye opener for many villages of northern areas to follow suit.
Now back to the Shimshal village, which is the jump off point for the Shimshal Pass. The village is part of the Gojal Tehsil of Hunza District, in the Gilgit–Baltistan province of Pakistan. At 3,100 m above sea level, it is the highest settlement in Hunza Valley. The village is closest to China. As are typical helmets of high altitude, it has just over 200 houses with a population of approximately two thousand.

With the development of the over 60 kilometers long jeep-able track from the Passu to Shimshal, due courtesy the Agha Khan foundation, the Government of Pakistan and the sheer hard work of the locals, it now takes 2-3 hours to reach this beautiful village perched in the  lush green Shimshal Valley with yaks and goats roaming freely and even racing. The track is one of the dangerous as described by the blog Dangerousroads:
The Shimshal Valley Road is a spectacular and terrific curvy mountainous road which rarely permit speeds over 10km/h. Located in Gojal, Hunza–Nagar District in the Pakistan-administered Gilgit-Baltistan formerly known as Northern Areas of Pakistan, the journey is extremely dangerous.
Beside very healthy goats and sheep, the main attraction of Shimshal is the Yak, a fierce looking shaggy creature, also found in other higher planes of northern areas of Pakistan. These typically local animals are used as a source of milk, beef, wools and carrying the loads to the mountains in the high pastures and also for crossing through fast current streams and rivers.
Yak Safari - Photo Courtesy Travel Blog

Those who are not avid trekkers, yaks provide them a fantastic opportunity for yak safari to close by areas on the Shimshal Pass. The best time for yak safari is from  June to October but the best is in September to October. The yak safari commences from Shimshal village to  Zardgarben, 3,810 m taking 5-6 hours. You may continue to resume the safari next day to Purien-e-ben, 3,322 m taking hours. Still going higher, one may resume the safari next day to Shuijerab, 4,080 m for 6-7 hours and camping and returning to Shimshal the next day.  

The yak race is another attraction of the area, which is an annual feature when one can see the locals mounted on yaks wading through river streams and lush green fields. This annual feature is held in the last week of July or the first week of August.



As for Shimshal Pass, it lies on the watershed between the Indus River and Tarim River basins, and leads to the valley of the Shimshal Braldu River, a tributary of the Shaksgam River on the border with China. Francis Younghusband was probably the first Englishman to reach the pass (1889).

Trekking from Shimshal  village to the Shimshal  Pass trek is treacherous and deadly, yet adventurous. The trek becomes unsteady with falling rocks and lose stones under your feet. Sometimes one slides on the lose stones, which may become dangerous as the stones once set into motion continue to trigger down from behind too.
It is the sheer determination of the young men of Pakistan and even abroad who venture into this otherwise unspoiled area and take up trekking through Shimshal Pass. Amid howling winds cutting through one's body and loneliness of the mountain trek makes the trekking more difficult - and rather scary.
Words alone cannot explain the toughness of trekking  - Watch video of trekking up to the Shimshal Pass and commend the efforts of these trekkers who opt to reach the Shimshal top disregarding dangers and invincibility of the trek. En route one has to wade through fast mountainous streams with water so clod that cuts through one's skin.

The video above was made when the Atta-abad Lakes had to be crossed through ferries as the KKH was submerged underneath. Now an alternate route has been made to connect the two missing ends of KKH and one can move on the road. However, for adventure sake, one can still opt for a ferry ride in the lake.

I am sure this post will made you make an endeavour to go trekking in the Shimshal Pass and enjoy the experience for many years to come. And you would love to explore more of the fascinating Pakistan. I will help you explore more.

Read more about Yak Safari Photo Shimshal Pass/Village courtesy Mobeen Mazhar | References: Wikipedia |
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