Day 7: To the Land of Giants (Deosai)

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.

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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.

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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.

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CHILLUM CHOWKI

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.

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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.

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DEOSAI

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.

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SHEOSAR LAKE

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.

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KALA PANI

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.

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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.

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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).

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BARA PANI

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.

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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.

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ALI MALIK

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.

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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.

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SATPARA LAKE

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.

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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.

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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.

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DAY 6: Stunning Beauty of Tarshing & Rupal

Wazir Guest House in Rama was a gracious and decent hotel and we delivered a comfy night’s rest there. The morning was marvellous and the sky was clear too. Our today’s itinerary is for Tarsharing and Rupal, but foremost we had to have a breakfast. For that we stopped at a local restaurant in Astore city, the jeep driver told us that he needs to fix some clip in the jeep and while we have our breakfast he will read the jeep to the workshop for the fix.

Day 5: Fairy Meadows to Rama Meadows

It continuously rained all the night and we have to return from Fairy Meadows in the morning. As we woke up the rain has stopped, but the Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat were completely covered with clouds and the whole surrounding was wet and frigid. We were concerned that if the rain gets down again we wouldn’t be able to climb down the Fairy Meadows, so we resolved to leave Fairy Meadows as early as possible.

As soon as the horses were arranged our journey toward Fairy Point started on the same route by which we trek to Fairy Meadows. After spending three marvelous days we were leaving one of the most beautiful place on earth, the place that is enclosed by natural beauty under the shadow of mighty Nanga Parbat. The horses were smoothly and comfortably travelling on the stunning route that leads to the Fairy Point. Along the path there were rough patches and water streams but the horses were so well trained that they can carefully travel on that route.

Since the weather was uncertain and rain can start at any time hence we didn’t stop at any spot except at the Midway Hotel for a little while to take a break. It was a stunning journey on a dangerous but beautiful track, and we reached Fairy Point in an hour. This time we were neither tired nor out of breath, reaching Fairy Point we went straight to the dining hall, and placed an order for the breakfast. We were feeling really hungry as we left the Fairy Meadows in a rush and didn’t have the breakfast there.

The breakfast of Paratha and Omelet was served in about 30 minute, it was a good breakfast and the tea was tasty as well. Finishing the breakfast we went to wander around the Fairy Point, since our jeep will arrive at 1 PM at the pickup point to lead us back to Raikot Bridge, so possess an ample time to spare at Fairy Point. When coming to Fairy Meadows everyone has to lay out the time in advance for return journey so that the jeep can come at the point at a predefined time to pick the passengers. And this time is really critical as if the passengers are not present at pickup point at the time, the jeep will left without waiting. Visiting different places, and sitting at different points we were enjoying the time at Fairy Point.

The time goes by and now we have to leave Fairy Point and go toward the spot where we have to ride First Jeep till our pickup spot. Before pickup point there is a damaged route caused by land sliding some months ago, that route has to be crossed on foot as the road is so narrow that no vehicle can go on that route. The path was dangerous, but the locals there, help us to pass over that path. Our 2nd jeep was already present at the pickup point, and as soon as we ride the jeep our journey toward Raikot Bridge begins. This is the same rough and dirt route by which we made it here.

Later on close to 2 hours of drive we hit back to Raikot Bridge, the place from where our journey to Fairy Meadows started and reaching back to Raikot Bridge ends our expedition of Fairy Meadows. The weather at Riakot was too hot, while my family sits at a nearby hotel I started to fetch our luggage back that we stored in a shop before going to Fairy Meadows. Our program is to further visit to Rama Lake and Meadows today and for that we need to hire a jeep, but at this place the jeep rates were very high hence we decided to go to Jaglot and hire a jeep from there.

While travelling toward Jaglot on the famous Karakorum Highway our jeep driver asked us that as we are looking to rent a jeep for the trip, he can offer his services and at a reasonable rate as well. Finalizing with my family, we agreed to hire the jeep for rest of our trip. The jeep we hire is on daily basis and we have to fill up the petrol, the drive have to arrange for his own stay and food.

Rama Meadows was covered with clouds and there was little rain some time before we reached Rama. Because of the weather people at that place told us to hurry and visit Rama Lake because it might start raining again. The road from Rama Meadows to Rama Lake is rough and because of rain, it has become muddy and slippery too. While moving along that road we hit a point where we have to cut through a glacier, crossing that the glacier was really captivating. The weather at that spot was intensely cold as there are huge blocks of ice along both sides of the route and we were moving in between.

At approximately 10,800 feet above sea level Rama Lake is a big lake surrounded by snow covered mountains on all sides, and other side of Nanga Parbat can also be picked up from this position. Since the area was cloudy we were unable to clearly view Nanga Parbat from that spot.

Shuddering with cold, we captured some photos and then settled to leave Rama Lake as quickly as possible because there is a great probability of rainfall. Going back along that muddy road and crossing that ice burg we reach back to Rama Meadows. Now, as it was getting dark and cold, we have to arrange for our night stay. Along the way back toward Astore there were different hotels, but we found Wazir Guest House as a reasonable and a very nice hotel to stay.

We haven’t had our dinner yet so we asked the Hotel Manager for the restaurant, but was surprised to know that their cook has already left because there were no guests in the hotel, and he informed us that we have to drive to the market for the food. But my wife had an idea and she inquired the manager if they own something that can be cooked and found that they have chicken and all other needed ingredients to prepare the chicken karhai (Chicken Currie). Recognizing that my wife resolved to cook chicken Kahlua by herself and it was after about 7 days that we delivered the dinner cooked by my wife.

After the delectable dinner, we got into the room. The Wazir Guest House is an excellent hotel with a reasonable cost, it is at a location from where one can easily drive either to Rama Lake or can reach Astore city. The rooms were clean and comfortable and the bed is neatly made, at the time we were there it was a power breakdown, but they have a backup power source (UPS) arranging. The staff at the guest house was very courteous and friendly. It was really cold outside, but they have provided us with clean blankets that help us to deliver a nice comfy sleep.

Day 4: Fairy Meadows & Reflection Lake

The morning at Fairy Meadows was alluring, and having a breakfast at this picturesque is a lifetime experience. We wouldn’t be trekking or riding to any other place today, but to roam around and explore the Fairy Meadows area.

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Finishing our breakfast we wandered around and after a while started walking toward Reflection Lake, it is on the other side of Fairy Meadows from where we were staying. Reflection Lake is a small lake at Fairy Meadows, it is famous because of its feature that one can view the reflection of the whole Nanga Parbat in the water of the lake.

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On the way to Reflection Lake, there is a big grassy plain where local boys were playing. At one side of the grassy plain there were some hotels and a camping ground, close to these hotels there is also a tuck shop and a Public Call Office (PCO) but that tuck shop only operates in tourism season. The camps that are set up at that station were very colorful and are fully ready to suit those who want to experience the adventure of camping at Fairy Meadows. Capturing some photo shoots at that place our journey toward Reflection Lake started again.

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Along the other side of the grassy plain are wooden houses that belong to the residents of Fairy Meadows. Aside from TV Channels, Mobile Phones, Facebook, and WhatsApp they live a simple and innate life. There were horses, goats, and sheep and cows grazing all around the grassy ground, these cattle belong to the resident and provide milk, butter, and meat for their daily use.

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It is very much mesmerizing to walk about in this place, the luxuriant green grass the mighty mountains covered with snow and the pine forest surrounding the field, producing an enthralling environment. Walking slowly we reached the reflection lake, during this season the water at reflection lake is really low and most part of the lake is filled with dry weeds and woods.

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Along the position of the lake where we were standing there is no clear reflection of Nanga Parbat in water, but on the other side in that respect, there is small mound from where reflection can be seen clearly so we walk around the lake to arrive at the mound. From that place the reflection of the whole Nanga Parbat is clearly visible, creating a ravishing ambiance, we caught some pics at that spot and then climbed that mound and sit on it. The lake in front of us looks like a large mirror lying on the floor in which one can clearly see the reflection of the spectacular Nanga Parbat, the Pine Forest, and the surrounding region.

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While we were sitting on the mound, my wife decided to visit the residential area. At that place the children were playing all round and the women busy in their everyday jobs. The women there were so pleased to see my wife among them, and they were so courteous that one of the women invited my wife to her house and attended to her with their local bread and tea. Not only she served the tea to my wife, but she also sends tea for me and my son on the mound. The tea was prepared with the goat’s milk and tastes great, this is the first time in our life that we had a cup of tea prepared with goat’s milk.

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At the rear of the mound there is a pine forest that leads down into the valley, and below in the valley, there’s a water stream flowing, creating a breathtaking scenery. While sitting on the mound we observed that clouds started to appear around the Nanga Parbat and it’s surrounding trying to curtain Nanga Parbat from our eyes.

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Roving the area, capturing some photos and enjoying the stunning panorama we slowly started to return to our hotel. It was midafternoon and the Fairy Meadows is fully covered with clouds, the clouds were so deep that the Nanga Parbat peak that was clearly visible few hours back is now totally disappeared. While arriving at our hotel we didn’t run into the room despite we wander around the field close to our hotel. Gradually the Pine Forest also disappears into the clouds and the clouds are now drifting down in the vale.

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Suddenly it began to drizzle and enjoying that fascinating climate, we take back to our hotel and sit in the corridor. It was raining outside with loud thunder and while we were adoring the view, the night started to cover the Fairy meadows with darkness and nothing can be seen outside the corridor except the darkness and only the sound of the raindrops can be heard with the cold blowing wind.

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Now is the time for dinner and the kitchen was a little far from the rooms and it was continuously raining outside. With the help of umbrella that we brought from Karachi, we manage to go till the kitchen and place the order. We return back to the room and waited for the dinner to serve while discussing the next day plan.

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After about an hour the dinner of Biryani (Rice and Meat) was served. It was simply a nice Biryani (Rice and Meat) but it was after a long time we had a food that tastes good. The night was too cold outside but the blankets and the structure of the room do not let us feel the coldness and we have a nice comfortable sleep.

Day 3: Fairy Meadows to Bayel Camp

On day 3 we traveled from Fairy Meadows to Bayel Camp.

Fully exhausted and tired we reached Fairy Meadows last night. The night was very cold outside the room, but we bore a full night’s sleep because the room was comfortable as it was completely made of wood and we were supplied with blankets and sleeping bags.

The morning at Fairy Meadows was marvelous but cold and the water in the tap was freezing cold too, but we were relaxed to know that in a nearby washroom there is hot running water available. At that place, hot water is available for a short period of time only in the early the morning because of the lack of electricity which is generated by nearby water turbines and there is no gas available too so they fire the water geyser with wood.

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There were wooden tables and benches outside our room, so we went outside and sit on those benches waiting for our breakfast to serve. Finishing our breakfast of Paratha, Omelet and tea we went inside to prepare ourselves for our today’s destination of Beyal Camp.

Bayel camp, next to Rakhiot Glacier is a small romantic camping ground surrounded by Pine Forest in the shadow of Nanga Parbat at an altitude of about 3,500 meters. We picked our backpacks and hiking sticks and began our trek toward Bayel Camp. According to locals, the Beyal Camp is just a 2-hour walk and easy to accomplish. Bayel Camp can either be reached by trekking or on horses, this is the 2nd time we again made the dumb decision to trek to Bayel Camp.

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The lush green forest, the cold water streams, the grassy land, the glacier from Nanga Parbat and the waterfalls all making the path to Bayel Camp most beautiful trek we ever made. We were climbing upward on the mountain and after walking for some time on this stunning path we started feeling tired and out of breath, this is because of the inclined nature of the course. We have to cease to take a breath every 10 to 15 minutes. We also stop at different water streams to drink pure, fresh and cold water from the running steams coming above the mountain, this is the pure mineral water.

We have covered about halfway to Bayel Camp where we meet a boy with a horse, first, we asked the children to take the ride till Bayel Camp but they resisted, so my wife who is much tired and breathless decided to ride the horse. Now only I and my children were trekking toward Bayel Camp and after almost 3 hours of walk over this stunning path we reached Bayel Camp.

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Turning over this astonishing and wonderful place we all forget our tiredness. At that place were different hotels and restaurants where one can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, coffee or a bowl of soup. The hotels there were constructed with wood with rooms also available for those who want to spend a night or two at Bayel Camp. Nearby there was also a residential area and the houses there were likewise made with pure wood and clay and the life of the people there is totally dependent on the tourism. They too do some farming and rear cattle, but that is just for their daily living.

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We wandered about this stunning area enjoying every piece of it. We ordered tea for us and Noodles for children while exploring different parts of this fascinating meadow. The fantastic weather, the open view of Nanga Parbat and the woods all around giving us one of the most beautiful time of our life, the same feelings we experience when we visited the Hunza valley on our last trip. You can learn about our trip to Hunza Valley on my blog “From the South End to the North End of Pakistan”.

There were many other travelers in groups hiking toward base camp or even further. There luggage were carried by some porters and even loaded on donkeys and some travelers were also riding the horses. Sticking around here for more than 3 hours now is the time to turn back to Fairy Meadows but this time we decided to hire horses instead of trekking back. The plan was to ride till the Nanga Parbat Viewpoint first and then return back to Fairy Meadows.

The route to the Viewpoint was rough and rocky, but it’s a short path of around 30 minutes. This is the spot from where one can hold a clear view of Nanga Parbat, Rakhiot Glacier and the Karakoram Ranges. After holding a photographic session our return journey toward Fairy Meadows started. The journey was on the same beautiful route by which we reach Bayel Camp. With beautiful view all around, crossing marvelous water streams and pine forest we reached Fairy Meadows before sunset.

Day 2: Chilas to Fairy Meadows

The 2nd day was a very exciting day for us, as we will be travelling to our destination, Fairy Meadows. The route to Fairy Meadows is in three steps, 1st till Raikot Bridge on Karakoram Highway, then in 2nd step Jeep ride to Fairy Point on Nanga Parbat Mountain and then the 3rd and final step is a long trek to Fairy Meadows.

We woke up early in the morning, packed our luggage and got downstairs for breakfast. Before we moved downstairs, my friend called me and informed that he will be coming to pick us and will drive us till Raikot Bridge as we should hurry since the route to Fairy Meadows is very long.

We ordered Parathas, Omelet and tea for breakfast and before we finish off our breakfast my friend arrived and began keeping our luggage in the trunk. Directly after eating our breakfast we ride in the car and started travelling toward Raikot.

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We cut across the primary market of Chilas and then we go through the residential area of Chilas. This is the first time we see the Chilas main city and found out that Chilas is a great township with many houses, workshops and farmlands. Most of the people of Chilas are farmers and one can see many harvested lands and garden all around, this makes this part of Chilas very beautiful.

Crossing Chilas town we join back the Karakoram Highway and now travelling in the direction that leads to Khunjerab Pass, the highest border of the world. But we will simply be travelling till Raikot Bridge as at present we don’t have any plan to visit Khunjerab, as we had visited Khunjerab on our previous trip. You can read about our trip to Khunjerab on my travel log “From South End to the North End of Pakistan”.

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https://karachitokhunjerab.wordpress.com/

We were travelling on Karakoram Highway Chilas on our right-hand side and River Indus on our left-hand side. With the length of approximately ‎3,200 km (2,000 miles), Indus River is one of the longest rivers in Asia. It flows through Pakistan, India, China and Western Tibet. Originating in the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar, the river runs a course through the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, towards Gilgit and Baltistan and then flows in a southerly direction along the entire length of Pakistan to merge into the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi in Sindh. It is the longest and national river of Pakistan.

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The route to Raikot is rough terrain and the weather was too hot outside the car. Along the Karakoram Highway, there are small towns, petrol pumps and some tuck shops. We stop at a shop for mobile pop-up and to purchase some snacks and went along our journey toward Raikot. A few kilometers from Raikot we have to stop behind a long queue of traffic and found out that there was a land sliding on the Karakoram Highway in the morning and the road is blocked due to that land sliding. Only we were relaxed to get the good news that heavy machinery is clearing the road and the road will be clear for traffic after 15 to 20 minutes. It was a long waiting line of traffic that includes a large number of trucks but as the road opens they first let all the cars to pass, so our journey starts again after wasting of nearly 45 minutes.

We reached Raikot in nearly 2 and half hours, Raikot is a point from where the 2nd tone of the journey starts and from here one has to depend upon a jeep to travel to Fairy Point. Fairy Point is a place halfway before Fairy Meadows. We cannot take our luggage to Fairy Meadows so dropped our luggage at my friend’s known place, pick our backpacks and ride on the jeep.

The road to Fairy Point is a very narrow, rough and dirt road, and our journey starts with a lot of jolts and jumps as we start going upwards on the Nanga Parbat Mountain. Every bit we were going up the River Indus and the Karakoram Highway down blow started disappearing slowly. It is a dangerous road, but the excitement to reach Fairy Meadows is giving us courage. It is about 2 hours of a ride with High Mountain on our right side and deep valley along the left. The road is so narrow that only one jeep can go at a time and if another jeep comes from the front then one of the jeeps has to break off at the side of the mountain to give way to the other.

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After 2 hours of the drive, we hit a stage where a month earlier there was a land sliding that has entirely ruined the road at that point. This spot is nearly 10 KM from Fairy Point and here one has to get off the jeep and need to walk over a very narrow, rocky and dangerous path, there was a very low fence on the side made by the local residents to provide some safety. The local people at that place were really helpful and they aided us to pass over that dangerous path.

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Along the other side, there was another jeep waiting for the passengers to get them to Fairy Point. Then we ride on the jeep and in less than 30 minutes to reach near Fairy Point. The jeep drop us at the edge of a valley and the Fairy Point Hotel is on the other side, once there was a bridge that links both sides of the valley but now it is destroyed and people have to walk down into the valley, cross the water stream and then climb back on the other side to reach Fairy Point Hotel and the trek route of Fairy Meadows.

Fairy Point is at Jeel (also known as Tattu, Tattu village is on opposite side of Fairy Point) is a place with a restaurant, a hotel and a mosque. From this point the actual trekking to Fairy Meadows start, where one can hire a porter to carry luggage and can too engage a horse to ride till Fairy Meadows (if one do not want to trek). While we were crossing the stream to reach Fairy Point a boy aged nearly 13 reached us took our luggage and helped my wife and children to cross the watercourse.

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Reaching Fairy Point we sit in the restaurant and asked for the lunch. We were informed by the waiter that only “Mash ki Daal (Bean Curry)” and “Roti (Bread)” can be made available only later an hour because the chairman of Gilgit-Baltistan is travelling toward Fairy Meadows and will be at Fairy Point soon and everyone will become engaged with him. So we inquire for a room and move there to take some rest. It was a neat and clean room built with wood and plaster, the room has two beds and an attached bath.

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After taking a nap and roam around the area for about an hour we were informed that lunch is ready and we can move downstairs to the dining room for lunch. Finishing our lunch we got outside to arrange for a horse for kids but it didn’t set because of the fare and kids also resisted to ride the horse. We only hired a porter for our luggage and began to trek toward Fairy Meadows, this is the dumbest decision we have made as we have no idea of the length and toughness of the path.

It was a marvelous path with Nanga Parbat covered with snow in our front, the beautiful green forest on the sides, the river flowing down in the valley and the Karakoram Ranges at the back. First, the walk was so wonderful, we were talking to each other and porter was telling us about the surrounding areas and nearby villages about the life of the people and their daily routines, but suddenly we started feeling out of breath and tired this is because of the inclined path that we were going up. The route was really beautiful, but tiring and we bear to stop to hold a breath every 10 or 15 minutes, but our porter continuously motivated us.

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From Raikot (Karakoram Highway) where we began our journey toward Fairy Meadows there were no cell phone signals, neither at Fairy Point and we were told that there will be no cell phone signals either at Fairy Meadows. Only during our trek, we arrived at a stage where we were surprised to know that we can make calls or SMS from this place as this is the only 6 x 6 foot area where mobile signals of all service providers are available able despite being in that respect is no mobile towers nearby. We made some calls to our family members back at home and then went on our trek.

We reached a place where there is a restaurant, the restaurant was completely constructed with wood and it is named as “Midway Hotel”, our porter told us that we are at the midway of our trek and we will have a break here for snacks and tea. We placed the order for tea and noodles for children and then sit on the wooden benches for having some rest.

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Our trek to Fairy Meadows again started after concluding the tea. The path we were travelling is exceptionally beautiful the snow-covered mountain, the lush green forest, the cold water streams coming from the mountains and the sheep and goats of the residence grazing around. On the way we saw a power turbine installed by locals on a water stream to provide electricity to Fairy Meadows and surrounding.

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It was getting dark, so we increase our speed and we reached Fairy Meadows few minutes after the sunset. Extensively tired and out of breath we reached our destination “The Fairy Meadows”. It was totally dark and the weather was excessively cold, we all were wearing Jackets, Mufflers and Gloves but still shivering, only there was bonfire arrangement and we now sit around it to get ourselves warm. We haven’t booked any room in advance, hence we have to look for the room but fortunately, the place where we were sitting around the bonfire there were rooms available so we went to check the rooms and decided to stay there. Our porter placed our backpacks in the room and after sitting for a short time around the bonfire we went into the room to have a deep sleep. And that concludes the 2nd day of our trip.

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Day 1: Rawalpindi to Chilas

Rawalpindi commonly known as Pindi among people of Pakistan is a city in Punjab adjacent to the capital Islamabad. It also acts as a center point for the travelers who wish to travel to Northern Area, Kashmir or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. There are numerous expensive as well as budget hotels and restaurants in Pindi so one can stay effectively in Pindi for whatever length of time that one wish, there are various places in Pindi that can also be visited. After staying for one day in Rawalpindi, we begin our excursion toward Gilgit-Baltistan on 7th September, 2017.

Our first destination is Fairy Meadows. Fairy Meadows, named by German climbers (German Märchenwiese, ″fairy tale meadows″) and locally known as Joot, is grassland near one of the base camp sites of the Nanga Parbat, located in Diamer District, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. At an altitude of about 3,300 meters above the sea level, it serves as the launching point for trekkers summiting on the Raikot face of the Nanga Parbat. To make it to Fairy Meadows we first have to spend a night in Chilas city so that we can travel toward Fairy Meadows in the morning. Chilas is a town between Naran and Gilgit. It is a point at which the Mansehra-Naran-Chillas highway connects with Karakorum Highway, with hotels, restaurant, and marketplace this town serves as the short-term stop or even for a night stay for those travelling on Karakorum Highway. And to go to Chilas, on the previous day I contacted different Rent-a-Car services and agreed with a guy to ride to Chilas in his car, as he is giving the minimum rates.

We woke up at 5 AM and started to get ourselves ready for the journey. We have asked the driver to arrive at 6:00AM so that we can start our journey early morning and reach Chilas before sunset. But the driver was 30 minutes late as he was unable to find our house in Sallay Valley and me and my cousin have to reach a nearby market to drive him till our house.

We place our baggage in the car trunk and our long awaited journey started on Pindi-Peshawar motorway. At that time there was less traffic and we were travelling smoothly. We were getting a charge out of each snippet of it as well as every one of us is exceptionally amped up for this excursion. At Abbottabad Mor, our car took a right turn and now we are travelling on the Eighth Wonder of the World, “The Karakorum Highway (N35)”. Previously we have travelled on this highway on our trip of Khunjerab Pass. Details of my trip to Khunjerab Pass can be read on by post of “From South End (Karachi) to North End (Khunjerab Pass) of Pakistan [-12ft to 16002ft]” [https://karachitokhunjerab.wordpress.com/]. As of Wikipedia, The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is one of the highest paved international roads in the world. The 1,300 km (806 km in Pakistan) long highway connects the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China and Gilgit–Baltistan of Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass. Due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions in which it was constructed, it is referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Since this part of Pakistan is mountainous, our car now started ascending up the hills. After travelling for nearly an hour toward Abbottabad our driver told us that he has to have breakfast and we stop for some time at a roadside restaurant. It was a nice restaurant and while our driver was having breakfast, we opt to have a cup of tea.

As soon as our drive finishes his breakfast our journey toward Chilas started again. Crossing many small towns, rivers and travelling through green forest we reached Abbottabad city. Abbottabad is a city located in the Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province at an altitude of 4,134 ft. The city is bounded on all four sides by the Sarban hills, from which residents and tourists can see breathtaking views of the region and city. The location of the city and the hills allows Abbottabad to experience pleasant weather in the summer and cold winters. The Dor River flows south of Abbottabad through the town of Harnol, eventually reaching Tarbela Dam, situated west of Abbottabad.

The weather in Abboatabad was extremely hot and there was also a very severe traffic jam in Abbottabad and that squandered our part of the time. We also need to buy a thermos so we stop in Abbottabad for about 30 minutes before proceeding toward our destination.

Travelling through beautiful valleys of Mansehra, Balakot and Kaghan we arrived at Naran nearly about 2:00 PM. Our driver stopped for lunch, but we were not feeling hungry so we bought some biscuits and juices and wander around for a while.

At Naran, the sun was shining with its full strength and it was exceedingly hot, but the wind blowing was cold which is making it very difficult to stay there. Immediately after our driver finishes his lunch we started our journey again.

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As soon as we attain Batakundi, another most marvelous spot of Kaghan Valley the weather suddenly changed and it starts raining creating a stunning environment. Our journey becomes magically beautiful as we are travelling in a valley surrounded by snow covered peaks, lush green mountains covered with pine forests and the river Kunhar travelling in parallel.

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We were having an awesome drive along the beautiful valley and after sometime, our car stops at a spot called Jalkhad. It is an area where at one side of the road is High Mountain and on the other side is Kunhar River, with its fresh and clear water flowing toward Naran. We were told by our driver that we will stop here for 10 to 15 minutes before moving forward toward Chilas. We rambled around for a while captured some photo shot and then had the thermos filled with tea at the famous Moon Restaurant and then continued our journey.

In this area, there are many lakes and the two most popular lakes, the Payala (Bowl) lake because of its appearance that resembles a bowl and the Lulusar Lake, passes along the itinerary we are travelling along. After a 2 km drive we stop to view the Payala Lake, the lake is deep down from the road but it can be seen. Another lake that rests on this route is Lulusar Lake. Lulusar is a group of mountain peaks and a lake in the Kaghan Valley. At 11,190 ft. it is the primary headwaters of Kunhar River, and is some 48 kilometers from Naran, on the road ascending toward Babusar. With mirror-like water reflecting the surrounding snowcapped Lulusar Mountains, it is believed the biggest lake in the Kaghan Valley.

The road to Chillas goes above the mountains and passes through the highest point in Kaghan Valley, the Babusar Pass, which is the highest peak in the Kaghan Valley (13,700 ft.). Equally, we were going upward on the mountain the weather is getting colder & colder. At the time when we were at Babusar Pass, the weather was sunny but windy and the temperature was very low making us feels really cold. We stopped there to hold a cup of tea and some snacks and then after capturing some snaps we ride back in the car to precede our journey.

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We were at the highest peak of this route, now the road toward Chilas started ascending. Running up & down, left & right, crossing bridges & water streams flowing along the road from the mountains, mesmerizing the green plains, the trees and the potato & corn crops harvested by the locals we reach at the point where Mansehra-Naran-Chilas road meets Karakoram Highway. For there we took a left turn and start travelling toward Chillas. There are two parts of Chilas the one that is along the Karakoram Highway and it has Hotels, Restaurants, Shops, Banks and Automobile Workshops for those travelling on the highway. And the other part is the main city which is about 15 minutes’ drive from Karakoram Highway up on the mountain.

I had an awesome friend in Chilas and as we have to spend a night there so he has arranged us a Hotel room in the main city of Chilas, near DC Choak. It was a decent hotel and being a recently constructed hotel it is a neat and clean one. After having some chit chat with my friend we went downstairs to have the dinner of Biryani (rice) and Qorma (curry). Completing the supper and saying farewell to my friend we returned back to our room to have some sleep as we need to wake up early in the morning to go toward Fairy Meadows.

Karachi to Rawalpindi

On 5th September 2017 we arrived in Rawalpindi by Tezgam Express a perfect budget train with AC coaches. Rawalpindi is a major hub for those who like to go to Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous

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On 5th September 2017 we arrived in Rawalpindi by Tezgam Express a perfect budget train with AC coaches. Rawalpindi is a major hub for those who like to go to Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

As a frequent traveler, I and my family have gone to numerous spots inside Pakistan, and also on several foreign tours. On our last trip toward Northern Areas of Pakistan we cover the Gilgit side of Gilgit-Baltistan region and visited lots of places including Abbottabad, Mansehra, Balakot, River Kunhar, Naran, Saiful Muluk, Lalazar, Batakundi, Jalkhad, Lulusar Lake, Piyala Lake, Babusar Pass, Dalain, Chillas, Tata Pani, Confluence of River Indus & river Gilgit, Junction point of Karakorum, Hindukush and Himalayas, Raikot Bridge, Nanga Parbat View Point, Jaglot, Gilgit, Rakaposhi View Point, Aliabad, Karimabad, Baltit, Ganish, Attabad, Naltar, Hopper, Altit, Dauikar, Gulmit, Passu, Sust, Borith Lake and accomplished our objective of reaching Khunjerab Pass at Pakistan-China border.

This time we decided to travel toward the Land of Fairies (Fairy Meadows) and cover the Sakardu side of Gilgit-Baltistan. Fairy Meadows is at the height of 10826.77 ft. (3,300 meters) and is the first stopover for those travelling to Nanga Parbat peak. And for Skardu side, we visited Rama, Astore, Tarashing, Rupal, Deosai, Khaplu, Sakardu City, Kachura and then toward Hunza.

Following is a brief description of my visit:

  • Family Members: Me, my wife and 2 Kids (a 15 years old son and 10 years old daughter)
  • Transport Used: Train, Private Car (Taxi), Jeep
  • Dates: From 4 September 2017 till 23 September 2017

The voyage started out on the 4th of September 2017 from Karachi to Rawalpindi via Train. By traveling on Tezgam, a perfect budget train with AC coaches, we reached Rawalpindi on 5th September 2017. We stay at my sister’s home in Pindi on 5th and 6th of September. Our real adventure begins on 7th September 2017 from Rawalpindi.