Deosai, in local language, means “The Land of Giants” is one of the highest plateaus in the world at an elevation of 4,114 meters (13,497 ft) above sea level. Covering an area of 3,000 square kilometers (1,200 sq mi) it is access able from both Astore and Skardu side. Covered by sweeps of wildflowers and a wide variety of butterflies, Deosai is the second highest plateau in the world and is only accessible in the summer. In winters it is completely covered with snow. With large inhabitant of Himalayan brown bear and its other habitat like Himalayan ibex, red fox, golden marmot, gray wolf, the Ladakh Urial, the snow leopard, Deosia is declared as a National Park in 1993.
The night at Gorikot, where we stayed was not that comfortable, the hotel was not as per standard and was smelly too, but there was no other option for us as we were too tired and don’t have enough time at night to search for another hotel. It was too cold at Grikot in the night, but in the morning the sun was shining. Today is going to be a long day travel as we will be entering Deosia from the Astore side and will travel to Skardu after crossing the Deosai Plateau.
We placed the order for breakfast and started collecting our luggage and place it in the jeep. The breakfast was ready within half an hour and we went into the dining area for the breakfast. Same as the dinner the breakfast was very delicious too. Completing the breakfast, we bought some snacks and juice from the nearby store and hopped into the jeep.
Our journey toward the Deosai begins and we were travelling on a paved road in the same direction in which we travelled toward the Rupal and Tarshring. The route toward Chillum Chowki, the entrance post of Deosai from Astore is marvelous. There were many small towns along the route, and the water stream with crystal clear water is flowing in parallel with the road. Chilum Chowki is nearly 52KM from Astore and travelling on this marvelous route with stops for some photo shoots of some places we reached Chillum Chowki in nearly 2 hours.
At the altitude of 3800 meters Chillum Chowki is the entry point for Minimarg and Deosai National Park. Minimarg with its multistory wooden cottages, fertile and leveled field with high lush green mountains leave a lasting impression on the mind. Known for heavily forested Domel, magnificent Rainbow Lake, Chota Deosai and the famous Burzil Pass is an excellent tourist destination. But entry to Minimarg is only allowed through special army permission from Islamabad.
At Chillum Chowki there is an army check post, as there is an army camp at this. There are also some restaurants, small tuck shops, car workshops and hotels for those how wants to spend the night at Chillum Chowki. While our jeep driver stops to fix a tire, we entered a nearby restaurant for a cup of tea. There were some army persons having tea at this restaurant we had a small chit-chat with them and roamed around while waiting for the tea. Fixing the tire of the jeep our driver joins us for the tea and finishing the tea our journey toward Deosai National Park started again.
The entry to the Deosai requires a payment of a small fee at the Wild Life Office, the forest officer at that place also provides us some brochure with instruction and information regarding the park and its habitats along with a garbage bag. Paying the fee and collecting the receipt, we have now entered the long awaited Deosai plain. The entry to the Deosai is stunning itself with green field all around with the view of beautiful mountains at a distance. The sun was shining bright but the weather at Deosai is very cold as ice chilled breeze coming from the nearby snow covered mountains is blowing at the plain.
After travelling for nearly 1 hour we stopped at a small hilltop, from this hilltop the famous heart-shaped Sheosar Lake is clearly visible creating a breathtaking view. Sheosar Lake meaning Blind Lake in the local language is counted among one of the highest lakes in the world at about 4,142 meters (13,589 ft) above sea level. Capturing some photo shoots at this hilltop we hopped back into the jeep and drive near to the lake. From the parking spot we have to travel a little to reach the lake, it is a bit hilly place and the lake is down below. There was some other tourist also present at this place, we roamed around this place. The water of the lake is crystal clear and the peaceful environment surrounded by beautiful plantation and the orange marmots playing around in the area and the snow-covered mountains can be seen at a distance.
After staying at this place for some time we started our journey toward our next destination of Kala Pani, another location of Deosai National Park. Kala Pani is another picnic spot and we reached there after nearly an hour drive. Known as Kala Pani or Black Water because of the appearance of the water as black liquid flowing into the river as seen from a distance. But when reached near the water is crystal clear, cold and refreshing. We stopped at Kala Pani and had a cup of tea that we brought with us from Chillum Chowki in a thermos. We found out that filling tea in a thermos from Chillum Chowki was a great decision as there was no restaurant at either Sheosar Lake or Chillum Chowki at this time of the year because of off-season.
The scenic view of the Kala Pani was also stunning, the cold crystal clear water flowing in the river surrounded by small hills and beautiful plain with the snow covered mountains visible at a far distance. Drinking hot tea at this spot with an icy cold breeze was marvelous. We were unable to bear this freezing cold breeze so we decided to move toward our next destination of Bara Pani.
From Astore till Chillum Chowki the road was paved and smooth but after Chillum Chowki the road was unpaved, with the bumpy ride at some spots, we were in the jeep but we see many cars also travelling on this road and is easily manageable for a car to drive through this area with some height adjustment. From Kala Pani, the Bara Pani is at a distance of nearly 10 KM and it took about 1.5 hours for us to reach Bara Pani. On the way, there were many marmots roaming around and Yaks grazing the vegetation on the plain.
Marmot is also known as rock chuck is a stout-bodied ground squirrel, about the size of a housecat. The yellow-bellied marmot is one of fourteen species of marmots and is mostly found in mountainous regions typically above 6,500 feet (2,000 m). Mostly feed on plant, insects and bird eggs, they have brown fur, with a dark bushy tail, yellow chest and white patch between the eyes, and they weigh up to 5 kg (11 lb).
The scenic view of Bara Pani is astonishing, with the beautiful plantations of the plain and the river filled with crystal clear water flowing creating the stunning atmosphere. There was a single restaurant that was operational at this time of the season, the rest of them are close. Our driver informed us that the Yakhni (Soup) of this place is very tasty, but to our luck, the soup is all sold out and we were unable to taste that famous soup. We were feeling very hungry, so we ordered Channa Chawal (Rice and Bean) for us and that is the only food available at that place. Finishing the tasty food, we roamed around at this place for some time watching the flowing river, snow covered mountains and the beautiful birds hopping around for food. The weather all over Deosai is too cold and the ice cold breeze is making it very difficult for us to stay out for a long time, so we hopped back on the jeep. Our journey started again, there is a Wildlife Office at Bara Pani and they have tents for those who want to spend the night at this place, they also arrange for a hiking trip if anyone is interested in bear sighting but for watching bear one has to stay at his place for a day or two. You may also enjoy fishing in the cold waters at Bara Pani with the permission of WWF.
This is the last picnic spot of the Deosai before Ali Malik, the entry point of Deosai from Skardu side and that was our next destination. The drive toward Ali Malik is now ascending up the hills and the beautiful plain, the flowing river at different spots, the grazing yaks, the marmots running around and many different species of birds flying all over the Deosai making it a marvelous drive. We stopped at many different places for capturing some photographs and then reached Ali Malik in about an hour.
Ali Malik is a hilltop and for there a magnificent view of Deosai with lush green plain, the water streams and the snow-covered mountains can be seen. There is a single local restaurant made of wood and stones exists at Ali Malik. We opt for a cup of tea at this place and entered the tea shop, the only sitting place in this restaurant is the floor covered with carpet. We sit on the carpet, waiting for the tea to serve and having some chit-chat with the restaurant owner, the owner of the restaurant was very courteous and friendly. The tea served to us was made with the Yak’s milk and this is the first time we had the tea made with the Yak’s milk.
Satpara Lake, our next destination is one of the most famous lakes in Skardu and the road toward Satpara from Ali Malik is descending down the mountain. The trip toward Satpara was marvelous too, as the water stream is flowing in parallel with the road and at some place the mountains were barren but at the other place it is filled with vegetation. At different places herd of goats and sheep were grazing, there were many different colors of flora spread over the area creating a magnificent environment.
After driving for about an hour we reached Satpara Lake. Satpara Lake, the main source of fresh water supply to Skardu city is spread over an area of about 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles) and is situated at an elevation of 2,636 meters (8,650 ft) above sea level. A dam is built on this lake to generate electricity that also enlarges the size of the lake. The lake is fed by the melting ice of Deosai plain through Satpara Stream.
Staying for about half an hour at Satpara lake and capturing some photos we started our journey toward our today’s final destination that is Skardu city. In about 30 minutes we reached the Skardu main bazaar and waited for our friends to arrive. Our friend is from Skardu and arranged a hotel for us to spend the night a Skardu city and during the time we waited for him my wife visited different shops in the market. As soon as my friend arrives, we went directly to the hotel as we were too much tired because of today’s long journey.
Our tomorrow’s destination is Manthokha waterfall and Khaplu, so after finishing the delicious dinner cooked by the hotel staff we went immediately for the sleep.