Friday, September 7, 2012
For the soft adventurers, the prospect of climbing, rock repelling and trekking in mountainous terrain of Northern Pakistan can thrilling as well as daunting. Compared to a backpacking in and around Murree or bush walking in Cholistan, exploring high hills in northern Pakistan is an altogether different experience. Rather than jumping into the wilderness to get away from it all, you walk into thinly populated countryside free from roads and modern day civic amenities.
Mountain villages are caught in a time warp, their terraced fields stacked up huge hillsides. The paths are timeless caravan routes, trails between villages or tracks to high grazing pastures. It is an incredibly beautiful natural world. Only higher up in the alpine valleys are the villages left behind, to be replaced by herder's hutsand higher still, the ice castles of the lofty mountains.
Now consider this; on every side rise up ten of the world's thirty highest peaks. As graphic in names they are foreboding in majesty, the Himalaya translate as "The Abode of the Snows", The Karakoram, the "Black gravel Mountains", and the Hindu Kush, "The Slayer of Indians", the Pamir Knot and the Kun Lun joining in at what is called the Roof of the World. Where these six ranges merge in is a wide swathe. This area is the most impressive mountain landscape in the world. Amidst towering snow-clad peaks with heights varying from 1,000 meters to 8, 000 meters, the regions of Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan recall Shangri-La and Tirich Mir or Broghal in district Chitral. Among these magnificent peaks one finds the largest glaciers outside the Polar Regions. Which is why the Northern Areas are is mountaineers' paradise?
There are challenges for the less savvy; the first is the physical effort required. Accompanying the inspiring low mountains are huge hills, some of which must be climbed to move ahead (most can be bypassed through longer route though). Although hopefully lightly laden, hill-climbing still means plenty of heavy breathing and sweat. Pleasure still can be had from frequent rests; admiring the scenery which, even after a mere 10 minutes uphill battle, alters satisfyingly and often dramatically. Take comfort too in the frequent teahouses which are often strategically placed. Or look for the pony walls that may be following behind.
That said; adventurous Northern Pakistan is not only for the tough outdoorsy types. Like rucksacks and cameras, treks are available in all shapes and sizes. Trekking is physical but certainly not beyond the majority of people. Most important is one should have the will to enjoy the outdoor sport - grandest of all. Bring along a traveller's curiosity and a sense of seeing, ramble with an open mind and gentle heart, accept with grace and gratitude the diversity you encounter, and before you know it you will relish the thought of another trek.
The facilities in the hills may be better than that in Marco Polo's time, but the trails are the same. On the map each day's march looked pitifully short. In such country there is no monotony. Up to the ridge ahead or down to the next river there is always something to go for and something fresh to see.
Tags: Travel, Northern Areas, Pakistan
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 1:29 PM,
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