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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