Above: Tom at a shepherd’s hut.
That night we had vegetarian spaghetti, very tasty. The porters enjoyed a nice fire, they like this spot.
It rained again all nite. The porters were up at dawn cooking chapattis
sipping tea, we had our breakfast and off we went with nephew . We
backtracked a kilo or so to a gap in the morraine, which is the long gravel
and dirt ridge on either side of the glacier left as it bulldozes along. We
now had to cross two glaciers that had merged, the first one gravelly and
the second mostly ice. We scrambled onto the gravel one and the crossing
was much like the Hopar glacier. The icy one was another matter. The
crossing has to be chosen carefully. Icy glaciers are icy because they are
fast moving, bringing ice down from high mountains faster than it can melt,
and they have fissures and hummocky areas that make crossing a chore. They
also moan and groan a lot as they inch along. It's not much different than
crossing icy streets in winter, except this thing was full of little hills
and valleys and a mile wide. Each kid and Nance had a porter hold their hand
and off we went. Nance enjoyed it but I fell a few times and was glad when it was over. We crossed the morraine on the far side and descended into the opposite valley,
where we had a lunch stop and dried our boots over a fire.
Above: Typical glacier crossing in snow zone.
After lunch we followed the glacier valley for a bit then cut up hill on a cliff side on a narrow trail hacked out of the rocky hill side, the glacier 300 feet below.
Above: Our guys on the trail. No slaves to fashion, most of their clothes are castoffs from clients.
After crossing a stream, we climbed part
way up a green sheep meadow to some stone huts, this was camp, cold and raining.
We were chilled and all got in one tent to listen to a
book and have "cuddles" . The shepherds knew Nasir and were glad to see us. They live in cramped stone huts surrounded by their sheep, the floors of the dark huts are sheep dung, the walls are blackened by dung cooking fires, not much better than stone age. They have no wood for cooking so when Nasir gave them a few liters of kerosene they smiled big toothless grins and jabbered. One brought out an ancient kerosene lantern and lit it, now he could stay up and read the New York Times.
Working in the energy business and travelling in poor regions you come to realize the difference a little modern energy like kerosene makes in people’s lives.
Above: Final camp at the shepherd’s meadow. Large tent is cook
tent, small ones are ours.
Next morning was our last day. There was no milk for coffee so Uncle caught a nanny goat and milked it expertly, it was delicious.
Above: Uncle gets milk for coffee, the kids run to look.
We got going early, and the porters were all eager to get back to Hopar and collect their money. We descended steadily till lunch, which we had at some shepherd huts. Then descended some more and crossed our last glacier, and could see Hopar on the other side.
Above : Trek’s nearly over so everyone smiles
Above: The view towards Hopar.
Two hours later we were at the Hopar Hilton drinking a
Fanta(no beer, it's Pakistan) and rubbing our feet. All total we hiked about 60
miles, 30 before the trek in the Margalla hills and 30 on the trek itself. Nasir
paid the porters and we ponied up some tip
money for a job well done. We got in the jeep and headed back to Karimabad,
passing the happy, well-paid porters on the way. We followed the Karakorum Highway again, enjoying the spectacular scenery.
Two days later we were back in Islamabad. The monsoon had arrived in force
and it was cloudy and cool, and no power cuts, thanks to Allah. The Beenham’s
cook Sonny made us a special dinner with lemon meringue pie, quite a welcome.
Near Islamabad, the modern capital, is the old working class city of Rawalpindi, or “Pindi” as tourists call it. We went with our hosts a few days later to do a bit of shopping. Leather is a great deal here, you can select a hide from a stack at a tailor and come back in a week for your coat. We saw the famous truck painters, who decorate trucks and busses in Pakistan.
Above: Typical busy street in ‘Pindi.
Above: Truck painter does a labor of love.
Above : The finished product.
The Beenhams took us to their rug merchant, a young man of Turkmen origin with a shop in Islamabad. His father travels thru Afghanistan buying rugs from ladies in remote villages. Nance looked at dozens of rugs, selected several , and he invited us for a very nice chicken dinner served in his shop, on a rug.
We took a quick trip a few days later to the frontier town of Peshawer,
only 60 km from the Afghan border . This was the major resupply point for the Afghan
fighters during the war in the '80s. At one time dozens of shops sold AK-47s
and live grenades. There are fewer guns available now but it is perfectly
legal to own a machine gun and many do. One small town is famous for its
gunsmiths. They make perfect copies of M-16s, Kalashnikovs, you name it. You
can test fire them too, for a few rupees. It was high on my list to visit but
when we arrived in Peshawer our hosts the Beenhams got deathly sick with
food poisioning, major DB and vomiting. They must have eaten something dirty
although they are very careful. We checked into our 200 year old hotel, the Khan Klub, a
B&B converted from a merchants house, and did all we could to make them more
comfortable. They were miserable and the next morning we drove back to
Islamabad. I imagine they told Sonny to wash the lettuce a few more times or maybe boil it.
Back in Islamabad Nance collected her rugs, did a bit more shopping for antiques and jewelry, and we prepared to leave. We had a fun visit with them (they are now back home in British Columbia), they were sure great hosts.
Above: Tom and Margaret at the Khan Klub
Above: Dining on the floor at the Khan Klub, no relation to the KKK.
Note: I am updating this in December 2002, obviously a lot has happened. Very few westerners are still in Pakistan, and almost no tourists. I imagine the trekking companies have disbanded, they’re scratching out a living some other way.