Two Weeks in the Hunza Valley
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
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Once again, Rado and Marta were my neighbors. We shared food--apples fresh from the tree, stuffed naan dishes, or walnuts--and chatted from our patios overlooking the valley and its mountains. At night, the Hunza Inn and neighboring guesthouses served all-you-can-eat dinners--rice, vegetables, beef, chicken, apricot soup, apples, daal, pudding. Ramadan was over, so eating like this was now a treat.
I walked around the valley, visiting the old town of Ganish and Karimabad, with its Baltit Fort. The scene took me back in time, to when different valleys were fighting each other.
For one day, I had to make a detour because the parcel company made a mistake and returned a package to my Gilgit hostel. The people working at the company didn't really know what they were doing. I joined the Madina Inn staff for a cup of chai and some conversation, though. The recurring theme was how the people of Pakistan were kind and generous and the politicians were all corrupt, leading Pakistan nowhere. On another note, somehow all the Karimabad photos dematerialized, so nothing here.
Make a batter with eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, oil, and warm water.
Oil a pan.
Pour the batter over the heated pan.
Add walnuts and sugar on top.
After a while, attempt to flip everything over. If successful, then congratulate yourself.."you are special!" If not, stir everything up until you get chunks of walnuts, caramelized sugar and cake.
When done, eat the tasty chunks, pretending you meant to do that.
After the Walnut Mess, I made a Macaroni Stew for dinner, overlooking the sunset on the jagged Tupopdan mountains behind Borith Lake, where ducks flew in and out of the lake grasses.
Boil the macaroni. Set aside.
Fry garlic and onions in vegetable oil, cut with the Pakistani Dir knife I bought in Gilgit (Rs 150).
Add salt, MSG, herbs, dried tomato, curry mix to the fry.
Pour the macaroni with its water into the frying pan.
Add flour to thicken.
Nearby, as I ate the stew, a group of men chopped an apricot tree under a gibbous moon for the wedding. That night, some wild animal called from the nearby slope.
For breakfast, I ate mulberry, walnut, and cheese stuffed chapatis.
Mulberry, Walnut, and Cheese Stuffed Chapatis
Rehydrate dried cheese and mulberries overnight
Boil mulberries, cheese, and walnuts with sugar until thickened
Make dough with flour, salt, and water.
Press the dough into thin circles.
Add a small dollop of walnut, mulberry, and cheese mix to the center
Fold the circle and repress the stuffed chapati.
Fry the chapatis with oil.
Top the chapatis with additional mix and honey.
Breaking camp, I walked around the lake, past a small settlement (where were all the people?), and down a lateral moraine, following a goat and sheep trail down the steep sides. Soon, I had views of the white Passu Glacier, with its silty lake at the head. There, I purified some water using Ferrous Sulfate and Calcium Hypochlorate, which isn't the easiest method, but the only one I could find in Pakistan. I add the chemicals to a 1.5 L water bottle, shake to create an orange flocculation, then slowly filter the water using a bandana....drip...drip...
In the morning, I ate the chilled custard and pancakes with honey and mulberries. Descending to cross the Batura Glacier, I looked to the east to see one of the longest glaciers outside of the arctic. The mountains were hidden behind clouds. The glacier was covered in grey rocks in its lower reaches. This is where I crossed.
The traverse wasn't technical and there were cairns, but the loose rocks required constant attention to avoid tripping or slipping.
The weather continued to deteriorate, becoming colder with more clouds. I continued up the side valley adjacent to the glacier, finding more Snow Leopard tracks on the way. A few snowflakes fell as I passed Yashpirt Village, empty for the cold months. The valley was dry, though I passed a mill, evidence of a summer stream. The willows up here had lost their leaves, giving a stark appearance to the grey landscape. Finally, I found a stream coming from a side valley, though the stream vanished into the ground. I camped up where the stream was clear and strong.
After some custard with mulberries and chapatis with walnuts and cheese with sugar, I left and climbed another four and a half hours. A Wallcreeper flew by with its scarlet wings as I climbed up and down next to a stream, with several challenging places where the trail was about an inch wide on a steep slope. Lammergeyers flew overhead with their massive wings; more Snow Leopard tracks.
For dinner, I made more rice and daal with mountain tea in the bitter cold and snow. All night, the snow continued to fall. In the morning, I saw the yaks go by--heading back down the valley. After some thought, I decided to follow them back, as the snow and clouds were not abating, and the resident yaks would know better than me. Singing "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," I followed the yak tracks in the snow, finally camping under the same willow tree as two days earlier.
To end my stay in Pakistan, I went to the Khunjerab National Park in Dih for the night, but wasn't able to camp as they allow camping, but the director five hours back in Gilgit needs to give written permission (As if we're supposed to know these things. I was thinking how people would react if they went to Yosemite to camp but were told they needed to go back to San Francisco for a permission letter from the director!).
Where I stayed