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Himalaya Expedition – Day 23

Expedition Day 23 Written By: Alex & Basil

The young explorers are no strangers to long journeys. The much anticipated day has arrived where we would get the opportunity to travel hundreds of kilometers on the Karakorum ‘Highway’, also known as the KKH.

After saying our final farewell to our lovely assistant guide, Javed, we packed our luggage on top of the bus, a practice that is not commonly seen in the countries that we live in. The bus, though insignificant, would be our key to the adventures on the KKH.

The first hour of our journey brought us through the town of Skardu. The lively, dusty town was bustling with life. Sights of children on their way to schools, herds of goats blocking the traffic and locals on their way to work made us wonder what we would experience down the road!

In the meantime, Erwan, our beloved mountain guide, was sitting at the top of the bus, ‘camouflaged ‘with the luggage. The sights and sounds of the town died down discreetly as we entered the valleys of Northern Pakistan.

The Indus River roared mightily beside us the whole time. The crashing of the currents coupled with the sheer size of the valley made us understand that this river is not something to be reckon with. Ironically, this majestic river is the mother of many civilizations that mushroomed around it in the earlier days.

As we travelled down Pakistan with the Indus, we were greeted by small areas of lush greenery that sprouted sporadically along the valleys. The locals built terraces to grow crop such as wheat. So how do the locals travel to the other side of the valley without getting washed away by the mighty Indus? Easy! Ropes are the key! First, the locals amazing managed to get cables across to the other side. Next, they place a basket that could be used to store goods or even children to be sent across to the other side! Amazing feat we must say!

After about 6 hours of driving, we finally entered a portion of the 1500KM KKH. The KKH links Western China and Northern Pakistan and it was part of the ancient Silk Road. Today, modern vehicles ply the important route and the KKH is also a popular spot for adventure seekers. Even though the KKH was built in the 1970s, landslides are the enemies of the Highway. While travelling on the KKH today, we witnessed major constructions along the KKH. Even after 30 years, the KKH has not been completed due to force majeure. However, there was one reason we thought about there was not linked to nature. We noticed that the workers on the KKH were taking their time in doing the work! Perhaps the repair works could be done a few years ago!

Lunch was first suggested at this extremely rundown street-side café. However due to the unhygienic conditions we saw, we decided to skip it and search for another café. We finally settled for a rundown café which appeared slightly better than the first one as we did not have much of a choice! Lunch was simple Chapatti, rice and Dhaao, Pakistani style!

After lunch, we felt the winds started to gust. We rushed back into our bus and soon after raindrops started to fall. We felt fortunate to be in the bus as we saw the trees swaying wildly in the gusting winds. After travelling for a few minutes, we witnessed the most incredible phenomenon ever. The winds were so strong that it lifted up volumes of sand into the sky. It was similar to a sand storm, however, this was different. The sands were forced into columns and brought up hundreds of metres into the sky. The entire place was extremely dusty and visibility was close to zero. The driver had to stop the bus a few times as he could not see what was directly in front of him. One wrong move and we could be swimming in the Indus River down below. This was indeed an adventure for all of us! Even our guide, who has been travelling on this
highway for close to 30 years, have not experienced such an act of Nature before!

After 12 hours on the road, we finally arrived at Chilas. Everyone was thankful that today’s bus journey has come to a halt. We checked into a luxurious motel that oversees part of the Indus River. Tomorrow we will continue our journey to Islamabad! It was rumored that the bus ride would be longer than today’s!

Let’s see what adventures and happenings will we encounter tomorrow!

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