Sunday, March 17, 2013

Yak (Cow with a Skirt) Safari in Pakistan

Yak in Pakistan's northern areas [Photo Credit: Heavenly Beauty of Pakistan]

You may laugh out at the title of the post - but Yak with hits heavy hanging coat is just like a cow with a skirt to protect herself form the harsh winters where this huge and majestic animal belongs to.

Yak, which is closely related to the African buffalo, the American bison, and the European bison, is found on the rooftop of the world - an area spread from Tibet, Nepal, India  Pakistan's northern areas, Xinjiang region of China and Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan, where snow governs the mountains almost the year round. With temperatures generally ranging in the sub-zero bracket, no animal can survive the rigors of the weather and harshness of the terrain but Yaks.

Living on altitude between 4,000 and 6,000 meters (13,000 to 19,600 ft), Yak is considered an endangered species.

Yaks in Pakistan’s Himalayas  [Photo Credit: BucketRipper/Coen Wubbles]

In Pakistan, yaks are found in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges. Their large herds are found in the Shimshal valley in the Khunjrab National Park, an area northeast of Gilgit bordering China. Beside these are found in Passu, Nagir and Baltistan. Yaks are also found in the Broghil Valley, Chitral. Shimshal is ideal breeding ground of the yaks as it is located at an altitude of 3, 108 metres.

Yaks in Pakistan [Photo Credit: Basharat Ali]

Yak is an excellent beast of burden and transportation in the snow frozen areas - it is its capacity to live in these hostile sub zero environment that Chinese historians argue that without yaks, human civilization would not have survived in the remote mountainous regions on the world's rooftop.

Me and Yaks at 4700 m

Yaks at Khunjrab Pass on Pak-China border of north Pakistan, at 4700 m from sea level. [Photo Credit: Imran the Trekker / Flickr]

Beside being called Cow in the Skirt, yak is also known as the mountain ship the same way camel is called the desert ship. 

Yak Safari in Shimshal Valley [Photo Credit: ActiveTours Pakistan]

The people of the northern areas of Pakistan have engaged yaks in promoting tourism in the area in what is called the 'Yak Safari.' Every year tourists go to the the yak-specific areas to enjoy this unique and different safari. Many tour operators provide well planned tours to the northern areas, which include a daily Yak Safari to various places in the Shimshal valley.

Now a few words about Yak itself:

Yaks, due to their heavy fur, are only adapted to high altitudes, and cannot sustain themselves at altitudes lower than 10,000 feet. even its blood cells are naturally designed for high altitudes - half the size of the cattle and three times more in number - this specialty allows increases blood capacity to carry more oxygen. The heavy fur coat can sustain the animal in temperatures as harsh and severe as -40 Celsius.

A Yak in Broghil Valley, Chitral [Photo Credit: Native Pakistan]

Yak grazes on grass, herbs and lichens. In winters it would eat poor coarse grass, leaves and twigs. Since water is generally scarce at these altitude, a thirty yak chews the frozen snow as a substitute for water. As for grass, yaks will dig in the snow until they find grass to eat. Sometimes a yak will dig a yard down in the snow until grass appears.

Yak is a life life to people where it is found. Its every part of the body is made use of when it is killed so as not to waste it away as killing of a yak deliberately is almost a sin in Tibet.

Yak Cleaning
A masterpiece shot of Yak birth, Tibet China [Photo Credit: Kari Liabat / Flicker]

The killed yak's horns are used for draining blood and cutting meat, beside being used as decorations. The head of a yak is dried and served at New Year's celebrations. The fur of a yak, which can grow to be two feet long on the torso, is used to make ropes, clothing, slings, sacks, and even tents. Yak fur tents are warmer than canvas tents and hold up much better under intense winds. The yak fur allows smoke inside the tent to escape, while the oils in the fur keeps water from penetrating inside. Underneath the fur is wool which is used for clothing and boots. Even the tail of the yak has been used as healing aids.

Climbing with yaks in Mount Everest [Photo Credit: FR2DAY]

The milk of a yak (female yak is called 'dri' in local Tibetan language) contains twice as much fat as the milk from normal domestic cows. The yak milk is  golden in color and is rarely drunk. Instead is used for yogurt and butter. The yak butter is used  in tea, as a face lotion, and as fuel for lamps. Yak-butter tea is steadily consumed by Tibetan nomads—up to 40 cups a day. This consists of black tea churned with yak-butter instead of milk—definitely an acquired taste.

All Photos above have been duly attributed to the source
Tours Operators in Pakistan for Yak Safari: | Hunza Guides | Active Tours |
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