Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Skardu Valley – a land of rivers, snow clad mountains and sand

Amidst a landscape of stark naked mountains, deep and steep gorges, crashing waterfalls and quiet lakes, Skardu is situated on the banks of the mighty River Indus. Located at a height of 8,000 feet / 2438 meters, Skardu offers cool and bracing climate. To the east is Laddakh, in the south Indian-occupied Kashmir and to the north is the Chinese province of Sinkiang. Skardu is strategically situated at the foot of an enormous rock, which is crowned by a historic fort.

Skardu Valley is part of the Baltistan, and located right below the jagged and glaciated Karakoram. Once part of Laddakh, it was known as Tibet-i-Khurd - Little Tibet. Skardu is also believed to be that part of famous Silk Trade Route. Rock carvings have been discovered along the road between Gol and Khapulu, and Skardu and Satpara Lake. The trade routes here split in Skardu with one leading to Satpara over the Deosai and Burzil Pass (5000 meters high) into Kashmir and another leading to Gol. At Gol it forks again with one trail leading to Khapulu, the other to Kharmang into Leh. Many famous mountains, such as Masherbrum (shown above left), K-6, K-7, Sherpi Kangh, Sia Kangri, Saltoro Kangri etc are located in Khapulu Valley.

One hears of deserts in plains but never at the foothills of 18,000 feet high snow covered mountains. Skardu Valley is one such place which is carpeted in fine ash white sand through which greenish blue in winter; grey as tarnished silver in summer, the Indus snakes lazily between wind-ribbed sand dunes (above centre).

When I once went to Skardu, the then Fokker of the PIA flew close to Nanga Parbat and provided me a rare chance to shoot Nanga Parbat from “close quarters.” I was also invited by the captain into the cockpit and he pointed in far distance the cone of the K2. After negotiating the famous Zulu Turn, the aircraft landed at Skardu airport. I will never forget that landing and the K2 and of course the Zulu Turn.

There are three lakes, Satpara about 8 km, lower Kachoora about 35 kilometres and upper Kachoora about 40 kilometres. The Shangri-La lake resort (above right) is a picturesque place to rest and admire the beauty of Lake Kachura and Skardu Valley. To the southwest of the town is the sprawling Deosai Plateau which can be reached via the beautiful Sadpara / Satpara Lake just about 8 kilometres from Skardu. I will write more details on Deosai plans in one of my next posts.

Related Reading: Skardu Valley (Pakistanpaedia)