Exotic. Mysterious. A pulsating maze of colors, sights and smells, more Middle Eastern than Chinese. How do you begin to describe this mesmerizing 3000 year old oasis and trading mecca along the Silk Road?? An ethnic blend of Uyghurs, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Han Chinese, some things in the Old Town of Kashgar haven’t changed since medieval times. Every narrow lane beckons you to explore the bazaars full of shimmering silk, knives, jewelry and carpets all moving to the rhythmic beat of metalworkers, cobblers, and weavers producing quality wares by hand; trades passed from generation to generation.
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Day 1: It was D-Day. All the ragada and today were the day everyone was waiting for. I woke up early, it was still dawn with a strange chill in the air. I sorted my stuff and started wrestling with my rucksack to fit all the stuff inside it. A half hour crazy battle with first the sleeping bag and then the rucksack, I was finally ready to go. We loaded our rucksacks on the truck and jumped on it which would take us to our staging area from where we would start our trek. That staging area is the O.P. Baba Mandir. It is believed that O.P. Baba protects our troops against any mishaps in the glacier and would also slap a soldier if he gets drowsy or sleeps while he is on guard duty. Hence nothing moves on the glacier without taking permission from O.P. Baba and for that very purpose, our starting point was the mandir.
DAY 06- PAIJU rest day.. All porters get together here and sing balti songs here that sound so sweet and makes you feel that you can understand each word they are singing. Rest day is all about meeting other groups, enjoying food and sharing experiences..This evening, the porters made their own music which went on till late in the night. The night was unbearably cold, here porters were at the peak of their creativity, belting out the Balti music to everyone around camp, through drumming, clapping, singing and dancing.. the night was the way to relax after carrying 25kg or plus their personal stuff all day.
DAY 08-URDUKAS -TO- GORO II (CAMP) It was a long walk on the icy Baltoro Glacier. Traverse the Yermanandu Glacier which flows down from Masherbrum & joins the Baltoro. Magnificent views of Muztagh, Mitre & Gasherbrum IV.. After Urdukas, we went to Goro II, A long walk on the icy Baltoro Glacier.. which was our camp site for the day.. Everyone was excited as next day we were going to reach Concordia.. It is a huge junction of Baltoro, Abruzzi & Godwin Austin Glaciers at 4000 meters. Within a short radius of 15 Kilometers, stand 41 peaks over 6500 meters. Including 04 peaks above 8000 M. The 360 view offers a panorama of peaks nowhere to be found on this Earth..
Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli, two Italian climbers, made the first ever ascent of K2 on July 31, 1954. Interestingly, it took a local team of climbers from Pakistan another 60 years to make their maiden ascent to K2. Director Iara Lee's film K2 And The Invisible Footmen follows this Pakistani expedition in 2014 called 'K2 2014 Pakistan Expedition: Sixty Years Later'. The team of six climbers from Pakistan, who were former high-altitude porters, were assisted by two Italian mountaineers to summit the peak. Iara Lee's film unearths the story of these porters in the Karakoram Ranges who are the heroes easily forgotten behind years of successes of climbers on the second highest mountain in the world.
Land of ImmortalityIf Kashmir is the Heaven on Earth then Gilgit-Baltistan is the palace of the Gods. The Hunza Valley region is one of the most beautiful place of this region, a place of arcadian beauty. The Shangri La resort is a beautiful resort named after the famed Shangri-La, the land whose people live for a hundred years, a land of eternal peace.
DAY 07- PAIJU -TO- URDUKAS (CAMP) We had to begin our trek after an early breakfast. Traverse the junction of Paiju - Baltoro Glaciers through crevasses & lunch below Liligo, the traditional camp under the muddy cliffs with fine views of rock spires. Cross the Khuburse torrent early morning and ramble over two glacier moraines to reach the grassy slopes of Urdukas offering splendid views of the Trango, Uli Biaho & Bial Groups.. It was longest day of trek as glacier starts after one hour of trek, its Baltoro glacier which the biggest glacier outside poles and can be seen from space. After 6 hours of rocky and up down trek we reached Khuburche which is lunch place.. There is a small shop there too for tea and cold drinks. I remember we had to face heavy rainfall here, and stormy wind...Rest place is little higher than trek which gives you good view.. We were (Me & my team) lucky enough to meet a climber who had just finished climbing of all 8000 meters plus peaks.. We left Khuburche quickly for remaining part of trek to reach camp site before sun set. This camp site is called Urdukus which means Sad Rock as there is a big rock there which looks sad for some reason not known to anyone. You get the first glimpse of K2 from here but only possible if weather is clear..
Camp 1 - Grahan
Kasol to Grahan Date: May 5 2014 Feet: 6500ft to 7700ft Kms: 9 kms Time taken: 8:30AM to 3:00PM Difficulty: Easy to Medium Terrain: The big day is your 4th day at Kasol. This is the day you start your first hike. I had fallen ill the previous night (bad stomach – apparently some people cannot handle the minerals in Himalayan Water) and ran out of energy within the first couple of hours of the trek. Though you cover good number of kms, this trek is relatively easy. You walk through forests with Parvati River on your side almost for the entire journey. The entire stretch is green with scenic walkways, plateaus for good breaks, pahadis with their herd of sheep and cows, beautiful burass red flowers to make the whole stretch magical. Towards to end, you will meet Pahadi children who call you Candy Man as they know you have Mango Bites in your bag (given by YHAI). So, we spent time sharing our candies with them, taking some pictures and trying to ensure they did not litter the place with candy wrappers. Experience: Most people found this stretch relatively simple. I, was on a trip of my own with some bad health but Zoheb supported me throughout, waiting for me and ensuring I don’t take too many breaks. Sometimes, it becomes very important to have THAT one person who motivates you and stays with you. Towards the end, we had no guide and had to figure out the route ourselves but YHAI has red arrows on enough number of rocks which makes “getting lost” a little difficult. We reached the camp site at around 3PM and immediately put our feet in a stream near-by. You can’t stay there for long as the water is COLDDDDD. But, this small dip in Parvati was extremely refreshing. Grahan Camp: The only camp which is close to a village. After this, there are no human settlements. Loved the view from the tent. We had enough time to walk around the camp area and look around. This lady selling maggi had kept the place warm for us with fire. Next morning we had piddus – a local delicacy with burass chutney and I swear I think it fixed my tummy :) A green camp with snowclad mountains in the background, Grahan was a great start to Sar Pass.
Karakoram Highway which leads over Khunjerab Pass (14,400 ft.) to Pakistan is the perilous route used by caravans for centuries along the Silk Road. Khunjerab means ‘valley of blood’, reliving the terror of bandits who took advantage of the terrain to steal the wealth of the caravans and slaughter the merchants.