Wednesday, 6 November 2013


During my childhood, I used to read the words of “Himaliya” and “Karakorum” in the subject of Pakistan studies but at that time I had never thought that one day I will fall in love with these mountains and travel in the amazingly beautiful places of Northern Areas of Pakistan which is now called Gilgit Baltistan (GB). No words can ever describe the beauty of this wonderland that Almighty Allah has blessed us but in this travelogue, I tried my by best to give an idea about the incredible places hidden in the arms of Himaliya and Karakorum mountains. This was my second tour to GB. Last year I explored Fairy meadows and Hunza and before that I had traveled twice to Kaghan valley and Muree hills. But it’s my first try to write a travelogue and I hope readers and nature lovers will enjoy it and if God gives me strength I will also write travelogue of my other tours as well.

So, to quench my thrust of wilderness and adventure, this August I went to Eastern part of Gilgit-Baltistan i.e from Astore to Skardu via Deosai and then Gilgit. It was a grand jeep safari tour of 13 days from Southern most corner of Pakistan (Karachi) to Northern most places of our country. We were a large group of 23 members and the tour was arranged by one of my Facebook friend Shabbir Ahmed from Nawabshah who is a very experienced traveler and trekker and running a trekking group with the name of Rakaposhi Trekkerz. I was very excited for this tour and gathered twelve of my friends from different gatherings unlike my last tour in which we were just three guys and all were new to each other. Some more guys from other cities also joined us through Facebook event page created by Shabbir bhai. 

I started preparation for the mega tour one month before and took the responsibility of shopping for my friends who were going on tour for the first time. I made many trips to Light house Karachi and Saddar area for purchasing sleeping bags, ruksacks, warm clothes, rain coats, shoes, charging light, camera and batteries and other necessary stuff for myself and for other guys as well. We made long discussions on Facebook page and kept the page alive all the time with some interesting and sometimes controversial discussions and debates. Anyways it was all fun and excitement before the tour.


It was a big group of 23 nature lovers from different cities of Pakistan. Following ten members were from Karachi:

1. Myself- Muhammad Saud Khan: Working in National Bank of Pakistan (NBP).  Traveling to north fifth time.
2. Sufian Sagheer: My class fellow of school, working as freelancer SEO and a regular traveler.
3. Talha Zafar: My class fellow since school, working as Officer in NBP. Traveling first time to GB
4. Taha Sajjad: My batch mate of NBP. Traveling first time.
5. Kashif Farooq: Friend of Taha, working in IGI securities, also a first timer.
6. Mustafa Kazmi: My travel companion of last tour to Fairy meadows, emerging star of Pakistani drama industry.
7. Mudassir Nazir: Friend of Mustafa, working in a private firm.
8. Rao Mubarak: My Facebook friend, working in Attock Petroleum, traveling first time to GB.
9. Saad Chamdia: Already traveled before with Rakaposhi Trekkerz, doing his own business.
10. Abdul Basit: Friend of Saad, doing own business, first timer

Following members were from other cities of Sindh and their brief introduction as follows:

11. Waqar Sheikh: My batch mate of NBP from Hyderabad. Traveling first time.
12. Ghulam Sarwar: Friend of Waqar, doing his own business, first timer.
13. Imran Chipa: My travel companion of last tour to Fairy meadows and Hunza from Hyderabad, doing his own work.
14. Ahsan: Relative of Imran, waiting for intermediate result. First timer
15. Shahid: Youngest boy of our group, friend of Ahsan, studying in first year. Also from Hydeabad
16. Asif Raza:  Already traveled before with Shabbir bhai, working in Microfinance Bank, from Hyderabad.
17Shabbir Ahmed: Our Leader and owner of Rakaposhi Trekkerz from Nawab Shah, working in a courier company. He is very senior in the field of tourism and traveling to Northern areas from last 20 years.
18. Ikram Sheikh: Friend of Shabbir bhai, working in Quaid-e-awam University Nawabshah, also an experienced traveler.

Following 5 members were from Punjab:

19.  Syed Ali Gillani: From Shakhupura, already traveled before with Shabbir bhai, working as General Manager in a Sugar Mill.
20. Hafiz Naveed: From Muzaffar garh, working in PARCO, joined us through Facebook event and an experienced traveler.
21. Rizwan Maqsood: From Lahore, working as a freelancer, joined us through Facebook event and also had experience of traveling.
22. Irshad Awan: A lawyer from Hafizabad and a regular traveler joined us through Facebook event.
23.  Yasir Latif:  From Mianwali, already traveled before with Shabbir bhai, working in Atomic energy commission.

A beautiful group of 23 nature lovers at Nanga Parbat view point, Thalechi KKH
L-R Standing: Talha, Rizwan, Hafiz Naveed, Abdul Basit, Irshad Awan, me, Waqar, Mustafa, Ikram Shaikh, Taha, Imran, Rao Mubarak, Mudassir, Saad Chamdia, Asif Raza, Ali Gillani,
L-R sitting: Kashif, Sufian, Shabbir Ahmed, Sarwar, Ahsan, Shahid, Yasir.


     In this journey I visited six out of nine districts of Gilgit Baltistan including Diamer, Astore, Skardu, Ghanche, Kharmang and Gilgit. Last year I have also visited Hunza-Nagar so now there are two districts of GB which are unseen for me and these are Ghizer and Shigar. Our initial plan was to go via Babusar Pass and explore Dharamsar and Sambaksar lakes near Gitidas. Minimarg was also the biggest attraction in this tour in addition to Deosai. But due to some avoidable and unavoidable reasons we were unable to explore Babusar pass and Minimarg area. This tour was a fulfillment of my adventure fantasy as I was dreaming for Deosai from a long time and the curiosity further increased after reading travelogues of Tarrar Sb. In this tour I chased River Indus from its tail (Karachi) to its head (Skardu) and had an adventurous journey on Karakorum Highyway (KKH). A short description of each destination in my own words is given below:

Map of Gilgit Baltistan showing travel route with blue lines and stops marked with alphabets. bold red line is KKH 

1. The Karakorum Highway (KKH)

The Karakorum Highway is the highest international road in the world that connects Pakistan with China and further to Central Asia through Khunjrab Pass at an elevation of 15,400 feet. It starts from Hassan Abdal near Islamabad and passes through cities of Abbotabad, Mansehra Batagram in Hazara division then Besham, Pattan and Dasu in Kohistan division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) then entered in Chillas, Gilgit and Hunza upto Chinese ancient city of Kashgar in Xinxiang province. It passes through scenic wonderland and landscape changes after every mile. The highway meets the Indus River at Thakot, and continues along the river until Jaglot, where the Gilgit River joins the Indus River. This is the place where three great mountain ranges meet, the Hindukush, the Himalaya and the Karakoram.

KKH was built in 1979 (opened for public in 1982) after cutting the mighty mountains of Himaliyan and Karakorum Range. The brave engineers and labors of Pakistan and China took 20 years to complete this marvel of modern engineering. This highway is 1300 km long and stretched over the mountains, hills, rivers, gorges and valleys of isolated mountainous regions of Himaliya and Karakorum. Pakistani section of KKH is about 800 Km long. About 200 Chinese and 800 Pakistani workers lost their life in making this impossible highway into reality. This highway has provided easy access to the remotest and secluded places of Gilgit Baltistan and it follows a section of famous ancient Silk Route which was used for trading of silk between China to Middle East and then Europe. Some of the highest mountains of the world that can be see from KKH include Nanga Parbat, Rakaposhi, Diran, Ultar peak, Lady finger peak, Passu cones, Shespear peak and many other peaks above 6,000 and 7,000 meters. Daily buses run from Rawalpindi to Gilgit/Hunza and from Hunza to Kashgar (China). Hundreds of trucks carrying trading goods between Pakistan and China also found in abundance on KKH.

KKH is regarded as Eighth wonder of the world by travelers and tourists. Once in a lifetime experience, a tour through the rugged, barren and beautiful Highway is a dream of adventure lovers.You pass many beautiful scenic spots that offer virgin beauty untouched by the outward influence. On the other hand you come across miles and miles of barren land with rocky mountains. there is much more to tell about KKH even a book is not enough to illustrate the wild beauty of this high road to China.

KKH near Chattar plain
KKH near Besham
KKH after Dassu
Nanga Parbat view point at KKH near Thalechi, Jaglot

2. Astore Valley: 

Astore Valley is located in Astore District of Gilgit-Baltistan at an elevation of 8,500 feet. The valley lies at the Eastern side of Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft) which is the ninth highest mountain on earth. There are two entry points of Astore. One is from Karakoram Highway via Bunji and another is from Skardu via Deosai plains.  Astore lies at the junction of several mountain routes, providing ample and varied trekking and traveling opportunities. People of Astore speak Shina language.

Popular tourist attractions include Rama Valley, Rama LakeTareshing and Rupal valley which is gateway of Nanga Parbat base campChilum - the gateway to Deosai plains is another beautiful village in Astore. Minimarg via Burzil pass is also the most beautiful place to visit and there is also located Rainbow Lake but prior written army permission is required to enter in Minimarg. There are also some famous trekking routes from Astore to Neelum valley namely Shounter Pass (from Rattu), Chich Pass (from Tareshing) and Kamri pass (from Minimarg).

Rama Lake, Astore
Rama Valley, Astore
Rupal Valley, Astore

Tareshing Village, Astore
Chilum Village, Astore

3. Deosai Plains: 

The land of giants-the dreamland also known as the second highest plateau on earth is the most amazing place in Skardu district of Baltistan. It is located at an altitude of 13,500 feet above sea level and it is covered with heavy snow almost 9 months of the year. It is placed between the western massif of the Himalayas and the central Karakoram Range. It is a vast plain with area of 3000 Sq. Km. Normally it is opened for tourist from July to September. Deosai is famous in all over the world for its mesmerizing tree less landscape, snow capped peaks of Burji La, lush green meadows, colorful flowers, rare specie of Himaliyan 
brown bears, golden marmots and trout fish of Bara Pani River and Sheosar Lake. Because of its uniq
ue wild life, government has made this area as a national Park and any type of hunting is strictly banned here. The Deosai Plain is also home to the ibex, red fox, wolf, the Ladakh urial, the snow leopard, and a number of resident and migratory birdsThe temperature is extreme cold here even in summer season you can’t afford to go without warm clothes. The beauty of Deosai is at peak in the month of July and blooming flowers are found everywhere. There are two ways to enter in Deosai. One is from Skardu via Sadpara village and another route is from Astore via Chilum chowki. In Deosai there is no human population and no any means of civilization. However some nomads come and stay here with their animals in summer season. 

Bara Pani, Deosai
Blooming flowers of Deosai (captured by Syed Ali Gillani)
Sheosar Lake, Deosai
Golden Marmot of Deosai (captured by Syed Ali Gillani)

4. Skardu:

Skardu is the capital town of Baltistan and lies in the Skardu district of GB at the bank of River Indus at an elevation of 7,500 feet. It is located near some of the highest peaks of the world therefore it is a hub for trekking and climbing expeditions. Baltistan is also known as "Little Tibet" for its resemblance in geographic and cultural features with Tibet. This region remained under the influence of Buddhism until the 15th century, when Islam arrived. Balti language is spoken here and all over Baltistan which is ancient form of Laddakhi and Tibetan language. A 100 km thick wall of majestic mountains separates it from China in the North. To the South is the mysterious Deosai Plateau. In the East lies Laddakh region of Indian occupied Kashmir and in the west is Gilgit and Hunza. 

Within an area of 26,000 sq. km lie 60 mountain peaks of above 7000m. Five of these are above 8000m including K-2 (8611m), the second highest peak on earth. These mountain peaks tower over the greatest concentration of glaciers outside the Polar Regions. There also runs a daily flight from Islamabad to Skardu but it is highly dependent on clear weather. Byroad you can reach Skardu via KKH after taking right turn near Jaglot which will take you to the Skardu road. Also you can reach there from Astore via Deosai plains.

Popular tourist attractions near Skardu are Sadpara LakeKharpocho fort (view point of Skardu city), Manthokha waterfalls in Kharmang valley, world famous Shangrila Resort, Kachura Lakes and Shigar fort in Shigar valley from where famous trek to K-2 and Concordia also starts.

Kharpocho Fort, Skardu
Shangrilla Resort, Skardu
Upper Kachura Lake, Skardu

Manthokha Waterfalls, Kharmang (captured by Syed Ali Gillani)

4. Khaplu Valley: 

Situated 103 km East of Skardu at an elevation of 8,400 feet is another high mountain wonderland, the valley of Khaplu which is also capital town of Ghanche district of GB. Khaplu town is good in size and almost everything is available here. Daily bus, wagon and jeeps run from Skardu to Khaplu on Kargil/Siachen road along River Shyok. Khaplu was 2nd largest kingdom of Baltistan during past dynasties and entry point to Karakoram Mountains including Gashebrum, Mashebrum & Hushe valley to Mighty K2. Its climate is cooler than Skardu, with the friendly character of the people and superb walks along irrigation channels.

In Khaplu there are many historical places like Chaqchan Mosque (700 years old founded by Syed Ali Hamdani, the first Islam preacher in this area), Raja Palace (200 years old, built by the Yabgo Raja Daulat Ali Khan) is a beautiful Tibetan style building in Khaplu. 

Chaqchan Mosque, Khaplu
Raja palace/ Khaplu fort

Khaplu Nala

 5. Hushey Valley:

Situated at the foot of Masherbrum peak at an elevation of 10,500 feet is the dream valley of Hushe which is by far the most beautiful and the last village of the Ghanche District. Hushe is about 30 Km North of Khaplu town and a jeep trek alongside Shyok River and snow-capped peaks passes through beautiful villages of Machlu, Marzigond and Kandey will take you to this wonderland. Climbers and trekkers that come all the way from Baltoro GlacierConcordia and K-2 via Gondogoro Pass, descend into Hushe village to reach Skardu city.

Hushe is famous for its closeness with Masherbrum, K-6, K-7, Laila Peak, Saltoro Kangry and many other sky kissing peaks of central Karakoram Range. There is no such other village in the world from where you can access so high and so many peaks. Hushe is a dream of tourist and mountaineers because it is gateway to adventurous treks like Masherbrum Glacier/Base Camp, Gondogoro, Charaksa, Chogolisa, Nangmah Valley and Glacier.

A stunning view of surrounding valleys on way to Hushe (captured by Syed Ali Gillani)
Hushe valley


Here is day wise itinerary and my travel experience along with pictures.

Day 1, 12/08/2013:  Departure from Karachi

As usual, I took 15 days annual leaves from my work this time right after Eid. Every year I travel in the month of June but Deosai area is not opened in June and the holy month of Ramzan was in July, therefore we planned for tour in monsoon season which is personally not desirable for me but we had no other option. It was fourth day of Eid, I said good bye to my family and my 10 months old little princess Inaya to whom I would miss a lot throughout the tour. It was first time after her birth that I am going away for such a long time. Also I was remembering my last year’s time of departure from home when I was leaving home for Fairy meadows and at that time my late mother was alive and she gave me prayers. But his time I am going on travel without my mother’s prayer. With mix feeling of grief and excitement I left home for railway station. We choose to depart from Karachi to Rawalpindi via Shalimar Night coach train. For the sake of saving two hours, we decided to go via Faisalabad instead of Lahore. Me and my school friends Talha and Sufian reached Karachi cantt station where four members (Rao Mubarak, Saad, Taha and Kashif) joined us. Three other guys of Karachi i.e Mustafa, Mudassir and Basit were coming by air to Islamabad. We were lucky enough that train came on platform just one hour late. So we left Karachi around 7 PM evening. Then six members joined us from Hyderabad. Then Shabbir bhai and Ikram bhai joined us from Nawabshah. We had a chit chat with all members and everyone become friendly with each other. Then we had one-dish dinner party in train, we played cards and then everyone slept.

Waiting for train at Cantt station, Karachi
Playing cards in train for time pass
One dish dinner

Day 2, 13/08/2013: Faisalabad to Rawalpindi

In morning it was too hot in train as we were traveling in Punjab and also in economy class. I woke up around 8 am and had little brakfast of tea and biscuit. Everyone was moving 
here and there and it was difficult to sit on seats due to heat. Sufian gave an idea to go in dinning wagon of train where AC was providing cool environment. So we sat there for half an hour, had a bottle of Coke then I show some cleverness and moved to AC compartment where two of my friend Taha and Kashif was traveling as they did not want to travel in economy class. So I went there and had a perfect sleep for 2-3 hours before reaching Faisalabad. Train was five hours late and we reached Faisalabad at around 2.30 PM where rain welcomed us and gave company till whole journey to Rawalpindi. Me, Shabbir bhai and Asif went to booked hi-ace for onward travel to Rawalpindi from outside railway station. It took one hour in booking and then leaving from Faislabad due to shortage of vehicles and large number of people who were going back to their work place after Eid holidays. We also had lunch in Faisalabad and then journey started on motorway at around 5 PM. Then we had tea break near Kallar Kahar interchange. Weather was very pleasant with slow rain throughout the journey and it must have been more enjoyable if we traveled in day time. Any way we reached Rawalpindi at around 10 PM then got fresh in hotel near railway station where other members from different cities also joined us and then we fixed in the booked coaster for overnight travel on Karakorum Highway (KKH) as Babusar road was closed due to heavy rains. It was first set back for us because we want to travel from Naran side and we had plan to explore Dharam Sar and Sambak Sar lakes located in Babusar valley. I have also not seen this area before and I got upset but we had no other option. So Babusar is still unseen destination for me :(

Sleeping guys captured by Sufian
Train standing at a junction near Faisalabad
Rain caught us when we reached Faisalabad 
On Islamabad Motorway
Tea break at Kallar Kahar interchange
Me and Waqar with our Hiace at kallar Kahar
At Tayyaba hotel Rawalpindi
Our coaster ready for the adventurous journey on KKH

Day 3, 14/08/2013: Rawalpindi to Chillas

We traveled whole night in a rainy weather on KKH upto Mansehra and early morning saw the magical greenery of Shinkiari, Chattar plain and lower Kohistan areas. The rainy weather made our journey more amazing and grief of not going through Babusar also washed away. We had breakfast at Chattar plain then journey continued on KKH with lush green views of Batgaram, Thakot and Besham. Here one unpleasant incident happened when we few members were trying to take pictures of Thakot bridge but they were spotted by KPK Police. Here it is important to bear in mind that whenever you are travelling on KKH or in Northern Ares do not take pictures of any bridge without permission as these bridges are located at sensitive locations and under control of army as well. So after  big apologies with the angry policeman and soldier they allowed us to go after 
checking our cameras and our identity cards. This wasted almost our half hour as we were already getting late because we had to catch the convoy at Besham. This convoy system has been introduced on KKH from Besham to Chillas after some sad incidents of killing Shia community in this area in passenger buses traveling to Gilgit. So from last two years all passenger buses travel in a convoy with one police mobile leading the convoy and another following the convoy. So this is a major issue while travelling on KKH and by any means if a bus is late to join the convoy the security forces will not allow it to travel onward until the next convoy is ready. This may take 6 to 8 hours or may be more. However cars and other small private vehicles are exempted from this restriction and they can travel any time on KKH.

So luckily we joined the convoy on time and it was all because of a flash flood on KKH due to which all buses got stuck near Besham. It was a medium size flash flood but very risky to cross. There was a danger of drowning a vehicle in River Indus which was flowing with full swing below some hundred meters. But fortunately buses and big vehicles managed to cross it. Everyone was calling God while crossing it. Here I came out from the coaster for taking photo and looking at the scenario but my group mates started to poke me that I am getting frightened by this situation. Anyways I did not give clarification for this and let them enjoy. After that the journey with convoy continued and then we had lunch stop at Dasu. After Dasu the boring journey on barren part of KKH along River Indus continued for Chillas. On way we saw the location of proposed Diamer Bhasa Dam where the construction is abandoned  from a long time.   Here our coaster also got some mechanical problem due to which we reached Chillas little late in evening at around 7 PM and Stayed in Panorama Hotel Chillas. Here Mujeeb ur Rehman bhai (our facebook friend) from Chillas welcomed us who is very nice personality and a journalist by profession. The hotel was good with big rooms and one room was shared by four persons. Talha, Mustafa and Mudassir were my room mates.

We were little bit frightened with Chillas because of recent killings of foreign climbers at Nanga Parbat base camp Diamer face which was very near from this area but we found everything fine in Chillas. That brutal act was surely done by criminals who wanted to disgrace Pakistan and Islam in all over the world.Pakistan has already suffered a huge loss of tourism industry after 9/11 and this incident further deteriorated Pakistan’s image for international tourists and mountaineers So, after getting fresh we had dinner prepared by Shabbir bhai and then awesome cup of tea with Taha, Waqar, Kashif and Sarwar at nearby Shangrila hotel Chillas. Late night gathering with Shabbir bhai, Sufian, Naveed, Irshad bhai and Rizwan who became my very good friends in this journey. After that I go to my room where Mustafa, Mudassir and Talha were already sleeping on bed and there was no space. So I slept on mattress after talking to my wife on mobile. I also told her that there will be no mobile signal for next three days and I will be in some remotest areas of Pakistan. I slept while looking at photo of my daughter on mobile as I was badly missing her. It was a comfortable sleep after two nights of continuous travelling from Karachi to Chillas.

KKH  near Shinkiari

Chattar plain Bazar in a rainy and foggy morning
Breakfast at Chattar plain
A fascinating view behind the restaurant at Chattar plain

Flash flood which disturbed KKH near Besham
Convoy of buses at Besham
Me and Naveed near Besham
A beautiful three step waterfall near Besham

Spectacular views of mountains and mighty River Indus in a romantic weather made my day

Amazing houses of local Kohistanis high above the mountains near Pattan
River Indus came very close to us somewhere near Dasu
Some more amazing mountain accommodations at Dasu 
Lunch at Dasu
Enjoying the magnificent views of Dasu
The Lion River- Indus at Dasu
All members out after Dasu when the journey started on arid zone

Evening tea at Jatial while our coaster being serviced
Local Kohistanis playing cricket at Jatial
Me and Imran at Harban Nala
Group members at Harban Nala
Location of Diamer Bhasha Dam
A colorful evening near Chillas
Dinner at Chillas
      Late night tea at Shangrila hotel                                              With a preserved Markhor in our hotel                   

Day 4, 15/08/2013: Chillas to Rama Valley, Astore

We got up early morning at around 8 am. After breakfast we left Chillas for Bunji mor on two Hiaces because our coaster was not repaired last night. So we fixed into hiace for Bunji mor where our jeeps should have been waiting for us. We reached there after two hours of journey while enjoying antakshiri game. We passed Gonar farm, Bunar Das and Raikot before reaching Bunji mor. While crossing Raikot Bridge me, Mustafa and Imran was talking that it was the same place where we were last year and how fast the time is passing. Last year, it was really an amazing tour of Fairy meadows with Imran and Mustafa and Inshallah I will also write the travelogue of that tour very soon.

So we were at Bunji mor at around 12 noon from where onward journey on jeeps had to be started for next 7 days. But due to some blockage at KKH on Gilgit-Thalechi section our jeeps reached one hour late from Gilgit. Shabbir bhai booked five jeeps and two cooks for this tour from Indus Logistics manged by Mr. Toqir from Gilgit who is nephew of Mr. Rehmat Nabi Raikoti. What a nice person he is and all his jeep drivers were very friendly. While waiting for jeeps, we enjoyed the beautiful views of Nanga Parbat at Thalechi, took pictures at view point and had a cup of tea on road side dhaba. Soon our jeeps reached and we fixed into it for journey towards Astore. We were six guys in jeep namely me, Talha, Waqar, Talha, Kashif and Sarwar and our jeep driver was Asghar who is a very nice guy from Hunza-Nagar. I was very excited because the travel onward was all new for me and it was always my dream to explore these areas. Specially after reading travelogues of Mustansar Sb. I got more crazy to see Deosai. So, after taking right turn on KKH and crossing bridge over River Astore we came on Astore road. It was 2 hours of rough journey along Astore River. We reached Astore where we had lunch in Astore Bazaar and also did some shopping. We also purchased bat-ball though we did not get a chance to play cricket anywhere because of our tight schedule. We wasted couple of hours in wandering around bazaar and left for Rama valley late at around 6 pm evening.

Rama valley is situated at the Eastern side of Nanga Parbat at an altitude of 10,800 feet. It is a thickly forested area with beautiful tress of pine, cedar, fur and juniper. The valley is covered with heavy snow for more than 7 months each year but in summer it becomes a lush green meadow where shepherds come with their animals. There is also a PTDC motel and one rest house of PWD but camping is more popular activity. Rama Lake is the main tourist attraction here in which one can see the magical reflections of the Killer Mountain- Nanga Parbat.

So after half hour of upwards drive we were in Rama valley and the views of green fields of the valley were amazing but due to darkness we were unable to capture good photos and did this job next day while leaving Rama. It was dusk time when we reached Rama meadows and we fixed our camps in torch light. In Rama there is no electricity and mobile signals. It was very cold there in Rama valley and we were feeling more because it was our first camping night at such a height. Also the closeness of Nanga Parbat made the environment chiller for us. We choose the big camp suitable for six persons but Shabbir bhai said it is for eight persons so we six jeep guys and Mustafa and Mudassir camped in it. After adjusting our luggage in camps, we played cards and had fun talks. Then we had a night walk in moon light around Rama meadows. We were telling horror stories and having fun. Some guys were doing night photography with their DSLR cameras. Then we had dinner which was a mix of bar-be-que chicken and Karahi and taste was very strange for us. Anyways we ate it because we were very hungry and some guy named this dish as "Rama Chicken" which became a fun tale for us throughout the tour. We had a tough first camping night and also our camp was over loaded. We took out our sleeping bags and adjusted in it. Anyways we passed that uncomfortable night and tried to sleep.

Breakfast in a  garden of our hotel
A beautiful view of Chillas from roof of our hotel
Ready to satisfy our wandering souls
Outside view of our hotel
Sufian and Mujeeb Bhai and our hiace. I was in grey one
At Raikot bridge, KKH
Newly constructed section of KKH after Raikot
The killer beauty of Nanaga Parbat from Thalechi view point
Waiting for jeeps at Thalechi, KKH
Finally jeeps arrived and we chose the red one driven by Asghar
Jeeps leaving KKH and going to cross Astore bridge

A Welcome board of my organization at the start of Astore Road made me feel good
At Doiyan checkpost Astore. River Astore flowing on left
Astore Bazar. This road going upward to Rama valley
Waiting for lunch at Astore Bazar
Sheeps and goats surrounded us on way to Rama valley
A wonderful evening view of Rama valley 
Some Yaks enjoying the treat at Rama meadows
Three school friends at Rama meadows
Excellent scenic view captured by Riwan Maqsood
Camps being setup by the help of torch and head lamps
One of our cook Naib preparing dinner while our drivers taking rest in kitchen tent
Playing cards in our camp
The famous and unforgettable Rama Chicken ;)

 Day 5, 16/08/2013: Rama Valley to Tareshing and trek to Rupal village

We woke up at around 7 AM, got fresh by freezing cold water of stream coming from Nanga Parbat, and then we moved for Rama Lake and decided to have breakfast in return. It was half hour jeep drive untill we reach Rama lake who welcomed us with magical reflections of Nanga Parbat peaks. It was really an amazing place to see and we were lucky to reach on right time to see its reflections. I was very inspired by the lake as I was not expecting such beauty after reading M.H. Tarrar's travelogue in which he said that Rama Lake is not very attractive. Anyways we took some wonderful pictures on lake and after spending one hour there we drove back to our camping site. Meanwhile breakfast was being prepared; Me, Talha, Waqar and Sarwar went to explore the lush green Rama meadows and surrounding forests. We took some very nice photos and visited PTDC motel Rama and also used its wash room which was a source of relief for us. When we returned back to camping site, breakfast was over. But never mind we had a better utilization of our time in exploring Rama meadows which other guys missed and breakfast is not a big thing for us to miss, we did it ourselves from Astore bazaar while going towards Tareshing from Rama valley. So, we left Rama valley and reached Astore Bazar at around 11 am. we asked our jeep driver Asghar to stop at dhaba so that we could have breakfast and also charge our camera batteries because there will be no electricity for next 3 days in Tareshing, Minimarg (that time included in our plan) and Deosai. After spending one hour in Astore bazzar we left for Tareshing village via Gorikot. One the way we experienced beautiful views of Astore River and also saw the amazing scene of convergence of Rattu Nala and Tareshing Nala. From this point one road on the left side is going towards Rattu cantt along side Rattu Nala. From Rattu cantt there is a 2 days trek across Shounter pass that will lead you to Neelum valley- the queen of valleys which is still my dream. Rattu Nala was extremely beautiful with bluish green color. We took some photographs there and I was looking at Rattu Nala wistfully and thinking that this water is somehow coming from Neelum valley and I have still not been to this heaven. Well lets see when Neelum valley allows me to enter in its heavens, I am desperately waiting for that time. Anyways we were on way to Tareshing and after 30 minutes of further drive we reached Tareshing village at around 3 PM.

Tareshing is a small village lies under the arms of Nanga Parbat at an altitude of 9,500 feet. It is gateway to Rupal valley from where there is one day trek to Latoba meadows and Nanga Parbat Rupal face which is the biggest mountain face in the world. There also a trek to Mazeno pass from Herlig Koffer base camp which connects Nanga Parbat Rupal face to Diamer face. A large glacier beside the Rupal river is also part of Tareshing from where one can see the spectacular views of Chongra and Raikot peak of the naked mountain.

In Tareshing there are only 2 hotels and the most famous and oldest one is Nanga Parbat hotel, where we stayed. I was very desperate to trek to Rupal village so just took out my luggage from jeep, and moved for short trekking to Rupal. The actual charm of the trek is upto Herlig Koffer base camp of Nanga Parbat but it requires one whole day of trekking and this was not possible for us in this tight schedule. So, we took a local boy with us for the trek. Some guys wanted to relax in hotel so they did not come with us. Six of us (Talha, Mudasir, Mustafa, Me, Taha and Kashif) left first for the trek then seven more members (Sufian, Asif, Rizwan, Waqar, Imran and company) also attempted the trek and they met us when we were returning from Rupal. One the trek, we experienced a close encounter with Nanga Parbat, and enjoyed the magical beauty of Raikot and Chongra peak. We crossed Tareshing glacier and reached lower Rupal village. It was one hour trek and we really enjoyed it. We were short of time as darkness and also rain was about to began so we just went upto Rupal School, got relaxed and had some refreshment in fields, we also met with some local people there who were very welcoming and they offered us to come to their house and had a cup of tea. We were getting late otherwise we would definitely accept their offer.  So after spending half hour in Rupal, we returned with a promise to come back again and complete the whole trek upto Nanga Parbat base camp and Latoba meadows.

We reached back Tareshing just at the time of sunset in our hotel. We did not take the lunch in afternoon so we ate Biryani cum Khichri and then had a chit chat with all members. Rain was also started and the second party who went for Rupal did not come back and everyone got worried for them as it was complete dark all around. They managed to reach at around 8.30 pm. Then the grand night gathering started in bonfire and our jeep drivers, cooks and local people of Tareshing made the night unforgettable with their traditional dance and Shina songs. We also participated in dance. Everyone enjoyed the 3 hour long party a lot and it was atmosphere of some festival in Tareshing. One of our driver Tahir AKA Disco was the real hero of this night who amazed everyone by his  "Shaman Dance" which is very famous in Northern areas. One German woman also came to our hotel to enjoy the celebrations from a nearby hotel. She was going to the base camp next morning with her team and She was very excited for Nanga Parbat. I was very happy to see her love for nature that in such circumstances when few days back foreigners got killed by terrorists at Nanga Parbat Diamer side she is here. She told me that for nature lovers and adventurer nothing can stop them to fulfill their dream whatever may be the situation. I appreciated her for the courage she has shown to come to Pakistan which will boost confidence of other tourists as well. So we enjoyed the time alot and after that we took dinner and tea and then go to sleep.

The temperature was cold but better as compared to Rama. Also now we have become used to for cold weather. We had set up camps in camping site of hotel but due to availability of rooms in cheap price, most of the guys choose the room. Talha also insisted me to take the room as it was rain outside and we had a restless last night in Rama. So I and Talha slept in the same room in which Mustansar Sahab stayed some 20 years back. The room boy told me about this story that when Mustansar Sb. visited Tareshing this hotel was under construction and only our room was usable to some extent. I have also read the same thing in his travelogue "Nanga Parbat". So it is a matter of honor for me that I followed footsteps of the great writer of Pakistan. The room was very small and dark as well but candle was providing little light. I was feeling little flu and fever so I took medicine, put alarm on my mobile and saw my little princes pictures and it was the best use of mobile at that time which had no network coverage in Tareshing. 

A fresh morning and our campsite view. We were in the biggest one
Getting fresh by freezing cold stream coming from Nanga Parbat
Ready to leave campsite for Rama Lake
Amazing views Nanga Parbat East face on way to Rama Lake
Getting excited after witnessing the fascinating beauty of Rama Lake.
The magical reflections of the killer mountain
The naked beauty of Naga Parbat trying to cover itself by clouds
Some more reflections at Rama Lake
Sarwar, Waqar, Me, Mubarak and Ahsan at Rama Lake (L-R)
Enjoying the captivating views of Rama Lake
Another small pond cum lake near Rama Lake
A cow grazing in Rama meadows near helipad. PWD rest house in background
Enjoying our time in exploring surrounding forests

Me and Talha getting relaxed at PWD rest house lawn
PTDC motel Rama
A group photo that we missed at camping site when we were exploring the surrounding areas
Pack up from Rama valley for next destination 

The elegant Rama valley in day time.
Back to Astore town. A sign board here showing our next destinations 

A bakery in Gorikot another big town of Astore district
Capturing some beautiful views on way to Tareshing

Asghar- very nice and cool minded driver
Finally fulfilled my wish of walking on a hanging bridge at Tareshing Nala.
The stunning view of converging Bluish Green Rattu Nala into Tareshing Nala.
Here comes Nanga Parbat again on Tareshing road
The phenomenal views of Nanga Parbat peaks from our hotel
Me and Taha with our little guide on Rupal trek. Tareshing village left behind
The spectacular view Of Tareshing and surroundings
Our group with local baba jee who was indeed much quick trekker then us
The rocky middle part of the trek
The first view of Rupal village after climbing half way 
Some glaciers on the trek
Me, Mustafa and Kashif at glaciers point
A mosque in Rupal village surrounded by wheat fields
The shy kids of Rupal. A school can be seen in background. Trek to base camp is behind mountains
Refreshment at Rupal
A group photo with friendly locals
A close encounter with Nanga Parbat Raikot and Chongra Peak
Disco and Yasir in action while everyone is enjoying the bonfire carnival
Enjoying cold night with hot Sheesha
Dance with some locals
Day 6, 17/08/2013: Tareshing to Deosai

I woke up in morning at around 7 am, then after getting fresh and breakfast we left Tareshing for Chilum from where we had plan to explore Minimarg area. We were quite unsure whether army would allow us to enter Minimarg or not as we did not have prior written permission for it and also there was tension on line of control with India which is quite near from Minimarg. We were hopeful and praying for the best. Here I changed the jeep and joined Sufian, Naveed, Saad and Basit because in our red jeep we were six guys and here in Toqir bhai's jeep there were 4 persons so now both the jeep got balanced. On the way to Chilum we enjoyed the beautiful views of Crystal color water of River Astore and lush green mountains. We had a stop near Khurmey das at Zail village where we took beautiful pictures of Chilum Nala. Then travel continued until we reach the Chilum check post.
That was the most critical time for us and everyone was confused whether we would camp in Minimarg or in Deosai tonight.  Shabbir bhai, Gillani bhai and Yasir went to talk with army officers for permission. Meanwhile I was praying to Allah for good news as I was very excited for Minimarg since the announcement of tour. At that time Shabbir bhai assured us that army permission is not a big issue and we will get it. But now he was confused as he did not get prior written permission from Army and only had oral assurance by local police SHO or may be not that I doubt. We waited almost two hours there and talked with army guys regarding Minimarg. It was 2 pm so we also took lunch at small hotel in Chilum meanwhile Yasir was using some source back in GHQ Rawalpindi via satellite phone of Army. After lunch we heard the bad news that we are not going to Minimarg. It was not in our fortune so we missed it. Everyone was very upset and I was feeling quite sad. It was second setback of the tour after Babusar. But this time not because of nature, it was lack of planning and dependence on irrelevant sources otherwise we could be able to see the virgin beauty of Burzil top and Minimarg from where a dream trek goes towards heaven of Neelum valley. There were islotaed villages, amazing streams, lush green mountains, colorful rainbow lake and much more but all of this not in our fate and we missed Minimarg. Yes that was truth we missed it from very near and now going to Deosai.
So from Chilum we took left cut to Deosai National Park which is the biggest attraction of this tour. However while entering Deosai I was having mix feeling of happiness and sorrow. Sorrow of not going to Minimarg and Happiness of traveling in the heavenly beautiful and amazing plains of Deosai for which I always dreamt of. After Chilum The landscape changed very rapidly and we were feeling as if it was dream. The weather was also getting bad and soon rain started as we reached Sheosar Lake after one hour of jeep drive. This lake is one of the highest lakes of Pakistan at an altitude of 13,500 feet. The miracle of Sheosar lake is that it has not any entry and exit point of water. Here trout fish also found in abundance. It is really a wonder in the wonderland of Deosai. But due to rain we did not stay there for long time. We took some beautiful photographs and moved for Bara Pani camping site which was still one hour away. On the way we enjoyed the green treeless meadows of Deosai, saw a lot of golden marmots and some wild horses and other cattle of shepherds as well. We were searching for brown bears however we were aware that they are not found along jeep road and you have to go deep in Deosai to watch these bears. 
Finally we reached Bara Pani at the time of sunset after crossing the newly built concrete bridge. The old suspension bridge was damaged but still exists there. Shabbir bhai and other members were already reached Bara Pani and our jeep was last to reach there. It was really very cold and rain also made the atmosphere chiller for us. We were desperate to do night camping here at the second highest plains of world and we did it. Everyone was hiding in the tent hotel available there for rent meanwhile three camps and kitchen tent were set up. Due to darkness, cold and rain it was difficult to set up more tents so Shabbir bhai hired 3 camps available there. We took a relaxing cup of tea from the tent hotel and had chit chat with hotel guys. They told us that few days back a brown bear came to the camping site and tried to enter in kitchen tent. We got anxious and worried after hearing that and had a discussion on this topic. Then after getting relaxed we took out our luggage from the jeep. We got into the same big camp but this time six members (Me, Talha, Kashif, Waqar, Taha and Sarwar) and set our luggage in the camp. Just after settling everything we noticed that rain water is coming inside our camp. Soon more water was leaking from 3-4 places and it was all due to outer ply was not properly fixed. So we rushed to Shabbir bhai for help. He told us to leave that camp and go into rented tent. So we took out our stuff and got settled in rented camp. Mustafa and Mudassir also came in our camp for gathering. So we played cards and had fun. Meanwhile dinner was being prepared by cooks and Shabbir bhai. I was having need of wash room and a small tent washroom available there which was set up by Wild life. It was located above small hill above the camping site. I,  and Sarwar took the head lamp and went to fulfill our need. While Sarwar was inside washroom I was getting fear if a bear come here what should I do. Also i was having slight fear due to complete darkness all around. I got some relaxation when Mustafa came there to use wash room. So after getting free, we took soup, Haleem Rice and custard in the camps. We hardly ate few spoons of Haleem Rice. But at the roof of the world it was enough for us to fill our tummy. Everyone was passing custard plate from one to another but no one wanted to eat or I should say drink it. So we put the plate aside and after trying to eat our level best we also put the Haleem Rice in waste bin available at camping site. After dinner we played Truth and Dare game and everyone chose truth but when it was Mustafa's turn he chose Dare so we ordered him to drink that custard plate in one go and it was the biggest punishment on can gave. This punishment was worse than sending someone to Bara Pani river in a cold rainy night to wash his face or to bring a glass of water from there. So thumbs up for Mustafa who completed this hectic challenge and solved our problem as well. Before my turn came I asked the guys that everyone is going to sleep so we should also sleep now. So, we took out our sleeping bags and arranged ourselves to sleep. Here one bad scene happened with Saad and Basit. Rain water came inside their camp and there was no vacant tent available and also all rented tents were full. So they passed that night by sitting in their camp and did not sleep. They were very annoyed and angry but we were unable to help them out. Everyone was feeling sorry for them. We slept thinking about the story of brown bear that hotel guys told us. So we recited some verses of Holy Quran and slept. It was continuously raining outside whole night in Deosai and weather was getting extremely cold.
Good morning from campsite of our hotel
Breakfast in hotel
Ready to leave Tareshing. I stayed in the room just behind me
Beautiful kids of Tareshing
Crystal clear water of Chilum Nala
Rain caught us again. Nice click by Rizwan
The magical view of Chilum Nala at Zail village on way to Chilum
Me, Waqar, Taha, Naveed, Kashif and Sarwar at Chilum Nala
Just see the water. It was the best drinking water on earth
My friends asking me to join them again in this jeep but I was feeling  OK in another one.
Road to Chilum is paved and well maintained by army
A small settlement near Chilum while the way to Minimarg in background along the stream 
Shabbir bhai, Me and Toqir on way to Chilum

A sign board at Chilum check post
A small restaurant in Chilum where we took lunch
A not so happy Welcome after missing Minimarg for me atleast
Entry and tickets of 23+7 members for Deosai at Chilum check post 
My lucky foot steps on Deosai road
Some most fortunate guys of the world playing cricket along Deosai Road
A big herd of animals grazing on world's second highest plateau
Finally captured the shy and innocent golden Marmots of Deosai
The first glimpse of heavenly beautiful Sheosar Lake
Another amazing view of Sheosar Lake surrounded by rain clouds
Thinking whether its reality or I am watching a dream
Some horses of nomads grazing in Deosai
I am somewhere out of this world.
Bara Pani camping site.
Sitting in tent hotel for tea
Shabbir bhai and our cook Shukarullah preparing soup and rice

Day 7, 18/08/2013: Deosai to Sadpara, Manthokha and then Khaplu
I woke up at around 6 am in morning and when I came out from my tent the view was out of this world. Rain was stopped and beautiful clouds and bright blue sky were playing hide and seek around green mountains while birds were flying over Bara Pani River. I got fresh from freezing water, packed my luggage and then went to explore Deosai. We took beautiful pictures from hanging bridge over Bara Pani. Then me, Talha and Imran went for a long walk to the camping site of Walkabout Films who were shooting a documentary on Deosai and its brown bears. We met with the guy named Yasir who told us about their documentary and gave information about brown bears as well. According to him after some positive measures taken by the government to protect the specie of bears, their quantity has been increased from 30-40 to 60-70 which is a good sign for the wild life of this area. We took some pictures of surrounding areas and then returned back to our camping site and on way passed through the camping site of Wilde life team. We were getting late so we did not go to meet the officials of wilde life.

When we reached back breakfast was finished and only tea was available. But never mind. We better utilized our time once again as we did in Rama meadows. We were feeling hungry so I took out biscuits and nimco from my bag and took it with tea. I was also having headache and flu maybe it was due to height. So I took Panadol and Joshanda with tea. Then we put our rucksacks into jeeps and left the camping site with promise to come again and spend few days here to fully enjoy the beauty of Deosai. Here I again joined my friends in red jeep of Asghar. Rain was again started when we were leaving the campsite and clouds surrounded the whole area of Deosai. After rain stopped, on way we also stopped at a beautiful spot and took photographs. Everyone was exited after witnessing the fascinated beauty of Deosai and we started dancing on Shina songs being played in our jeeps. After little enjoyment and group photo we moved for Sadpara Lake. So after one hour of jeep drive we said good bye to the magical world of Deosai and came on Sadpara road.
Another one hour downward journey on Sadpara road took us to Sadpara village and there came the beautiful blue Sadpara Lake which has now become dam. Some years back there was a small and beautiful heart-shaped island in center of the lake which was a nice tourist attraction and people used to enjoy boating here. There was also a restaurant on the island but all this attraction was no more here after construction of dam which has its own advantages. We spent two hours at Sadpara Lake, plough some apples from the trees and had a cup of tea at the only lake side restaurant available there. Some guys were feeling hungry so they took refreshments and then we moved for Skardu city from where we had to travel to Manthokha Waterfalls in Kharmang valley.

Shabbir bhai and our cooks already moved for Skardu to arrange lunch and camping site at Manthokha in order to save time. After 20 minutes of drive we reached Skardu city and were feeling very strange because we were out of civilization from many days. Our mobiles also got alive when signals came in Skardu. Everyone took out mobiles and talked to their family. I talked to my father and wife and informed that I am alright and enjoying the tour but I was badly missing my family and specially my daughter. After looking at big shops and restaurants in city our hunger increased and we want to have some metropolitan food in lunch because we were having some unusual type of food from many days. I and Kashif wanted to have fast food so after searching we found one fast food restaurant in Main bazaar. Talha, Waqar, Kashif and Sarwar wanted to have some conventional food so they went to another restaurant. The prices of fast food items were very high as compared to Karachi. So we just had chicken Showarma which was very tasty and left some space in our stomach for lunch at Manthokha. Then we went to other restaurant where our jeep mates were having Chicken and Mutton Karahi. So we tasted some food there also and then got in jeep for travel to Manthokha. We found that other group members also wandering around in Skardu bazaar and they told us to come at Concordia hotel where some more members were waiting. Here Saad and Basit who had a very bad camping experience last night at Deosai decided to discontinue the tour and they went to Skardu airport for checking if any flight to Islamabad is available but surely it was not. Anyways we all said good bye to theses two guys and moved for Manthokha valley at around 4 pm

On way to Manthokha we enjoyed amazing mountainous scenery of Skardu valley along River Indus flowing on our left hand. We also saw the road which is going towards Shigar where there is a small village of Askole and from there the dream trek to the kingdom of Karakoram mountains starts which will lead you to Snow lake and Concordia and from where you can see 4 of the 10 highest peaks of the world including K-2 the savage mountain and the dream of every climber. At that time I was thinking that if God gives me strength one day I will also do this trek to Concordia. Well here I would like to write English translation of a famous couplet of Mirza Ghalib that completely suits on me:

"There are thousands of desires, each worth dying for,
Many of them I realized, yet I yearn for more!"  

So driving for 2.5 hours on Kargil-Skardu road, we passed through villages of Husainabad and Gol and then reached at Mehdiabad check-post which is entry point to Kharmang valley. Here we had one more bad scene. The SHO of police station at Mehdiabad did not allow us to camp at Manthokha and gave false reasons for it. We had a long argument with him after that he allowed us to visit Manthokha waterfall and return before sunset. He also took written undertaking from us that we will not camp there otherwise administration is not responsible for any mishap. I did not yet understand what was the reason behind such anti-tourism act by Police. 

Finally we reached the beautiful valley of Madhu Pur where Manthokha Nala welcomed us with its crystal clear water. Further drive of 5 minutes on rough road along this water channel lead us to the surprisingly beautiful waterfall of Manthokha. In my opinion it was around 130 feet high and 30 feet wide waterfall with amazing flow of crystal clear water. There was also a restaurant there and restaurant owner told us that you can camp here and there is no problem at all. However he also informed us that no one camp here and it is just a picnic spot. Actually this waterfall came into existence just few years back after some water connection passed from above the mountains over Manthoka Nala. So there is a conflict of opinion that it is natural or artificial waterfall. But whatever it was its simply out of this world. Everyone was very happy to witness the beauty of this waterfall and I was feeling pride of myself because this place was added in our plan on my advice. But we were also unhappy for not staying there for night. Shabbir bhai who reached there before us had already set up kitchen tent and two camps and preparing for lunch there. We told him the whole story that we were not allowed to camp here. So he wrapped up all the setup into jeep again. We explored the valley for just one hour as sun was about to set and after taking some of the best pictures of the tour we left Manthokha with deep grief of not staying there. It was another upset of the tour for all of us.

Now we have no other option but further traveling to Khaplu in night because it was waste of time and fuel if we return back to Skardu and next morning come again on the same route for Khaplu. The road to Khaplu starts from Keras which was just half hour drive back on Skardu road from Manthokha. Further travel of 3 hours by crossing the famous bridge over River Indus along River Shyok will lead you to Khaplu valley. We wasted more than half hour at the same police check post in disputing for what they did with us. Because it was senseless to stop us for camping at Manthokha. At the end the police SHO apologized with us but what can we we do now. Another half hour wasted at another check post which was at the entry point of Ghanche district. They noted NIC no. and other details of all 23 members and jeep drivers and cooks as well. We were feeling exhausted  after such a long journey which is still continue and most of the members did not take lunch so they were extremely hungry. We six guys were lucky enough that we had lunch from our personal expense at Skardu otherwise we would be also dying with hunger like other guys.

After a non stop drive in darkness on Shyok River road finally we reached Khaplu at around 11 pm where all hotels and shops were closed. Luckily we got rooms in Karakoram lodges at upper Khaplu but food was not available there. The hotel was very nice and rooms were also very good. Everyone was very tired after 10 hours of jeep travel from Deosai to Khaplu. The hungry guys were looking very angry as well with the miss management. But it is all part of travel and we have to accept all types of difficulties and challenges which is the main lesson that traveling teaches us. But this lesson was really very tough. So after settling our luggage in room we got relaxed meanwhile cooks and Shabbir bhai was busy in preparing dinner for us which took further 3 hours. My roommates were Talha and Sufian but all members came in our room then we had funny and sarcastic discussion about today's hectic situation. Everyone was laughing with anger like crazy and that feeling is unable to describe in words. We the lucky ones (I, Talha, Waqar, Kashif, Taha and Sarwar) who had taken lunch in Skardu were now also feeling hungry but also very tired and sleepy so we did not wait for dinner and slept at around 12.30 am. The dinner was served at around 3 am. So those who were waiting for it only know how they managed to control their anger and irritation. This was the total failure of management and it was the toughest day of our tour for sure. Signals were coming in Khaplu so I just texted my wife and slept.

A refreshing good morning at Bara Pani
Me on the famous suspension bridge over Bara Pani River
One of my personal favorite clicks of Deosai
The crystal clear Bara Pani River. A golden Eagle flying above can also be seen in background
A nice click of blooming flowers and sky by Sufian Sagheer
Standing on a newly built concrete bridge while the old hanging bridge is abononed
Talha and Imran standing at camping site of Walkabout films who were making a documentary on Deosai
A dream walk in wonderland of Deosai
A superb view of Bara Pani and surrounding areas
Campsite of wild life department at Bara Pani
Time to leave the heaven of Deosai
Rain caught us once again while leaving  Bara pani campsite
Another awesome view of the land of giants
A memorable group photo of all members, drivers and cooks at Deosai
Feeling cold after rain
The dance of wandering souls
The joy and craziness after witnessing the beauty of Deosai

Getting sad while leaving Deosai. One day was not enough  to explore this fantasy

The last picture of Deosai taken by me
A sudden change of landscape. After Deosai the downward journey on Sadpara Road begins
The first glimpse of Sadpara Lake after one hour of jeep ride
Sadpara village 
A nomad shepherd with his goats coming from Deosai
Sadpara Lake which has become a Dam
You can enjoy the view from top only as the way down the lake is closed
Blue water of Sadpara Lake 
Another stunning view of the Lake. Deosai is behind the middle mountains

The first sight of Skardu and surrounding hills from Sadpara Road
Back to the civilization after three days
At Concordia hotel Skardu, waiting for other members to reunite
Yes! We are in Baltistan now
Mighty Indus meet us again. Kharpocho fort can also be seen on left hill (View from Concordia hotel)
Journey towards Manthokha waterfalls in Kharmang

Gol village on way to Kharmang
Road on the left side going to Ghanche district and Khaplu 

Here comes the refreshing crystal clear water of Manthokha Nala
A surprisingly beautiful spot beyond everyone's expectation
Feeling sad once again because of not having a night stay at this amazing place
The enchanting Manthokha Waterfall
A well maintained restaurant is available here
The view of this water land is awesome from here 
Getting excited after witnessing the waterfalls from so close
A wall post also made us realize that this is not a perfect place for night camping
Another group Photo at Manthokha Waterfalls
Keras bridge over River Shyok at the entrance of district Ghanhce. Khaplu is still 3 hours away
A distance board near Khaplu. At last we reached there.
Finally checked in hotel after a tiring and long journey from Deosai to Khaplu with empty tummies
The most wanted dinner of the tour served around 3 am morning. Just look at the faces of poor nature lovers  ;)

Day 8, 19/08/2013: Khaplu to Hushe and back

After the most comfortable sleep of our tour we woke up very late in morning at around 11 am. I don’t know about others but that sleep wiped all the sufferings of last day. After breakfast we got ready for Hushe valley which was a nice surprise given by Shabbir bhai as a replacement of Minimarg. So we left Khaplu around 12.30 pm. We witnessed the beauty of River Shyok and surrounding peaks, crossed suspension bridge over River and reached Machlu village after one hour of travel. It was very beautiful and historical village. The houses were built in very amazing way there. There were apricots tree everywhere. We plough many apricots and then journey continued. On the way we witnessed the village life of people living in the faraway villages of Pakistan. It was hard to believe that this is all Pakistan. We met with cute balti kids and saw women and men working in wheat fields. All locals were looking at us with welcoming eyes and flying their hands. The landscape was amazing and looks like as if we were traveling in Tibet or Ladakh. After crossing villages of Kandey and Marzigond we reached the last and the most amazing village of Pakistan-Hushe. The weather was cloudy and Masherbrum peak was hidden in clouds. So we were unable to enjoy the view of Masherbrum peaks. All the kids of Hushe surrounded us and they were very happy with our presence. We gave them sweets and apricots that we plough from Machlu. There were just 2-3 small hotels in Hushe and one small shop from where I purchased sweets for the kids. We explored the village, took pictures of the beautiful views and then came to the hotel Mountain Lodge for lunch. This hotel was newly built by a Spanish NGO and the income received from it is spent on welfare of Hushe village. Shabbir bhai also brought cooks and food here and they prepared spaghetti and served Tin packed Haleem. Here we also met with the famous Abdul Karim also known as Little Karim who is very popular among mountaineers and climbers in all over the world. He was a high altitude porter and took 25 Kg of weight upto 8000 meter.  He has also climbed many peaks of Karakorum Range. French documentary film director Laurent Chevallier directed a film in 1985 naming “Little Karim”. This film is very famous in Europe and other countries and got first position in documentary film festival in France. Little Karim shared his experiences over different expeditions of K-2 and Concordia. He was a very nice personality and we enjoyed his company a lot. He was also looking after administration of the hotel as well. After spending 2 hours in Hushe we returned back to Khaplu as it was getting dark.

We reached Khaplu at around 10 pm. We had chit chat and then we took dinner. Late night gathering with Shabbir bhai, Ikram bhai, Sufian, Mustafa, Waqar and Sarwar. We enjoyed Sheesha and Thadal which is a unique drink of Sindh. After that we went to our rooms. Late night I talked with my wife which reminded me days before marriage when we used to have long phone calls. I also asked wife to put phone on my daughter’s ear. I talked to her and she was just smiling as she was just 10 months old and can’t speak. After half hour of call I slept as tomorrow we have to wake up early to explore Khaplu town and then move to Skardu.

A very good morning with empty tummies but fresh minds.
Everyone looks fine at breakfast after the tragedies of last day
The view of River Shyok from our hotel
There were many good schools and colleges in Khaplu
Leaving Khaplu for half day excursion to Hushe
Saling bridge near Khaplu which connects Machlu and Khaplu
Views of River Shyok and sky kissing Karakorum peaks are simply amazing from here
Another angle of Saling bridge captured by Sufian
Kids swimming in a pond at Machlu village
Beautiful and innocent Balti kids of Machlu village
Some more kids of Machlu
The hardworking men of Machlu village busy in harvesting of wheat
Me at Picturesque Machlu village 
Enjoying apricot treat from fully loaded trees which are found in abundance in Machlu
Our jeeps passing through Haldi village
Entry of all members before Kanday Checkpost while kids surrounded our jeeps
On way to Kanday village
Jeeps passing through Kanday
Another suspension bridge
Amazing mountain scenery on way to Hushe
A small but  wonderful village before Hushe
Golden wheat found everywhere around whole valley
Spectacular view of Hushe River and surrounding valley on way to Hushe
Finally reached Hushe after 3 hours of  fascinating journey
Cool breeze and cold cloudy weather welcomed us at Hushe
Me and Talha wandering in the streets of Hushe village.
There were two good hotels in Hushe for climbers and trekkers coming from Gondogoro La
There were lot of beautiful kids in Hushe
Masherbrum peak hidden in clouds
Distributing some sweets among kids
Some more cute Balti kids. They all were well educated
Me and Little Karim- the famous high altitude porter and climber from Hushe
Sufian distributing apricots to the kids while I and Talha enjoying the scene.
One of the best lunch of the tour
Asif and Irshad bhai with Little Karim
A beautiful and old mosque (Khanqah) in Hushe
Some wheat fields and cloudy Masherbrum in background
Another view of mosque
Our jeeps standing outside the hotel while kids surrounded the area. They all were excited to see tourists
Lost in the kingdom of Karakorum mountains
Finally captured the Masherbrum mountains but main peak on left is still hidden
Night approaching us while leaving Hushe. Looks like a full moon
Naib ready to serve vegetable rice in dinner
Late night gathering of Sheesha and Thadal

Day 9, 20/08/2013: Khaplu to Skardu

I woke up by alarm at around 6.30 am and awaken other members as well. After getting ready all members except Shabbir bhai, Asif and Sufian left the hotel to explore Khaplu.  On way we met with cute balti kids going to school. We enjoyed the morning walk along water channels of Khaplu. To me Khaplu looked similar to Hunza valley but there was no such sky kissing peaks in Khaplu like Rakaposhi, Diran, Lady Finger, Ultar and Golden peak. There were apricot and apple trees all aroud Khaplu. First we visited 700 years old Chaqchan mosque which was built by Syed Ali Hamdani in 1340 A.D who was the first preacher of Islam in this area. The mosque is very unique in design and architecture and its a mix of Tibetean and Islamic art. Then we went to Raja Palace also known as Khaplu Fort. This palace was built in Tibetan style and from any angle it does not look like that it exist in Pakistan. We spent one hour in Palace and saw the historical belongings of Raja of Khaplu. There was also Sarena hotel inside Palace which provides luxurious accommodation with royal traditions. After exploring Khaplu town for 3 hours we returned to hotel where we took breakfast and packed our luggage into jeeps. We left Khaplu at around 11.30 for Skardu. On way we enjoyed spectacular views of Shyok river road road which we crossed in darkness when we were coming to Khaplu. But in day time we enjoyed the travel upto Skardu. On way we had a lunch stop at Ghowari then after 3 hours of journey we reached Skardu and checked in hotel Baltistan Continental situated at Benazir road behind main bazaar.

After getting fresh we went to visit Kharpocho Fort in evening which is at the distance of just one kilometer from our hotel. Kharpocho Fort (meaning King of forts) is situated on Khardong hill overlooking the Skardu town. It was first constructed in 15th century by Maqpoon Bokha and then further developed by the great ruler of Baltistan Ali Sher Khan Anchan in 16th century. This fort was built for defensive purpose as it was on top of the hill and there was only on way to enter the fort and on the other side is River Indus from where it was impossible to attack. At that time there was a beautiful palace, a mosque, many rooms and everything that a fort has but Dogras from Kashmir destroyed it when they attacked Baltistan in 1840. Now there are just remains of the fort but this fort provides birds eye view of the entire valley surrounded by River Indus

It was a steep hike of 20 minutes and we reached at the top of Khardong hill where the fort was situated. There was nothing in the fort to see as everything was demolished and not properly maintained but the views of Skardu town and River Indus from there were amazing. We took pictures and enjoy the beautiful evening there and then trek back to the town. There we saw football match in ground and asked some local men about traditional local foods of Skardu. They advised us to visit hotel Diwan-e-Khas which is specialized in local traditional food. We ate Chicken Mashkoot which tasted little bitter and Trout wish which was very very tasty. Then we walked to our hotel. It was nice to wander around roads and streets of Skardu at night. After 

A board in our hotel showing map of Khaplu 
Moving up to explore Khaplu town. It was a steep road upto the Chaqchan mosque
A cute Balti girl going to School
It was a nice morning walk around the valley
Me in front of historical Chaqchan mosque
The entrance of Chaqchan mosque
It was a small but beautifully designed mosque
The view of Shyok River and surrounding areas were awesome from the balcony of mosque
A perfect example of marvelous art and architecture
our group sitting inside the mosque
A breathtaking stream on way to Khaplu fort
Another amazing view of Khaplu
Finally reached Raja Palace
The Tibetan style building of fort was worth watching
Reading some handouts describing history, culture and places to see in Khaplu
The building consists of 3 floors built with timber, clay, mud bricks and soil mortar
Some historical belongings of  Yabgo Raja Daulat Ali Khan
Guide describing us the history of the fort
playing with some 200 years old gun
The beautiful garden of Palace
Sarena hotel here provides royal accommodation with modern amenities
This is how The Raja would see the valley from Balcony
Another entrance door inside the fort

Sarena Hotel provides luxury but expensive accommodation in the fort.

The Raja with his family
Me and Rizwan with his DSLR
This cute baby was very confident and she liked my company
Another awesome view of River Shyok 
Three brothers going to school
An old Balti man. He was very happy and amazed to see us who came from Karachi.
Time to say good bye to Khaplu. It will always remain in my heart
Lower Khaplu chowk
Khaplu Bazaar. Everything was available here
A close encounter with  River Shyok which only captured by me
Travel along River Shyok was a very nice experience in day time
The road was well maintained but dangerous too
Lunch at Ghowari on Shyok River road
The best team I have ever seen. Five drivers (Asghar, Haji, Arif, Disco, Toqir) and two cooks Shukrullah and Naib (L-R)
At entrance or you can say exit point of Ghance district
Keras bridge that connects Ghanche district to rest of the world 
Rain started again on Skardu road
On way to Skardu
Welcome to Skardu 
NBP Skardu branch. I wish I could be transferred here (for summer season only)
VIew from terrace of our room at Baltistan continental hotel
Luckily captured a rainbow on way to Kharpocho fort
It was 20 minutes steep hike on Khardong hill to reach the fort
It was a nice hiking experience on a rocky hill
The stunning view of River Indus and surrounding hills
The whole valley came in our foot steps from here
Finally reached the top
Evening was the best time to visit this fort
It was really a big fort at such a height
The demolished fort and surrounding areas
A small mosque on left side. There was an army camp above the hill
Another splendid view from the back side of the fort
This is how Raja would see the valley from the fort
Skardu town- A bird's eye view

River Indus with a natural frame
A historical building on way back to Skardu bazaar
A football match being played between local teams. We came back from Kharpocho on the left hill
Getting advice from locals about local food of Skardu
Reached hotel Dewan-e-khas as advised by locals
Had trout fish and Chicken Mashkoot there. I can Still feel the taste of trout fish
Me, Talha, Kashif and Mustafa

A beautiful Balti doll who came to attend a party in our hotel
Late night sitting on roof of our hotel. 

Day 10, 21/08/2013: Skardu to Shangrila/ upper Kachura and Gilgit

I woke up at 8 in morning, took hot bath and then arranged my luggage. Then we took breakfast and after packing, we finally left Skardu hotel at 10 am for Shangrila resort which was just half hour drive from Skardu city on Skardu-Gilgit road. On way we enjoyed the beautiful views of River Indus and then reached the incredible Shangrila Resort. In my opinion it is the best honey moon spot or family visiting place where you can stay in beautiful huts and cottages and enjoy the views of deep blue water of lower Kachura Lake. The beauty of Shangrila resort is due to its Chinese style building with the name of Pagoda Resturant. It’s a luxurious artificial place surrounded with natural views of mountains, lake and trees. It is truly a heaven on Earth as it is famous. After taking some amazing photos we had refreshment there and then we moved to upper Kachura lake. It was 15 minutes jeep drive above the Shangrila Resort passing through Kachura village and then further 15 minutes trek upto the lake. The color of water was same green as lower Kachura Lake. But the view of whole lake was not clear from the bank of lake so we decided to enjoy boating and explore the lake. I, Talha, Mudassir and Mustafa went for boating on motor boat and enjoyed the broad view of the lake. We also saw a mountain at which word “Allah” was clearly written. We took pictures and came back after 20 minutes of boat ride. Then we trek back to jeeps and then left Shangrila resort for onward journey on Gilgit-Skardu road.

On way we enjoyed the incredible views of River Indus and surrounding mountains. We took light lunch of sandwich and tea at Tungus and then journey continued for Gilgit. We passed the time by chit chat among all jeep members and our driver Toqir bhai. 

After 6 hours of drive finally we reached Gilgit at around 8 pm. On way we had a stop at Toqir bhai's office on Jatial road then we took dinner at hotel Ramzan and after that checked in Jamal Hotel . It was our last night of the tour. I was equally happy to go back home and sad that tour is ended so quickly. After settling everything in our rooms we had chit chat with all members. Everyone had his own plans. Imran, Asif, Ahsan and Shahid were going to visit Hunza valley, my friends Taha, Waqar, Kashif, Mudassir, Mustafa and Sarwar wanted to do some shopping and also wanted a day trip of Naltar meadows. Sufian also wanted to go Hunza to meet his friends. I, Talha, Rao Mubarak, Irshad bhai, Naveed, Rizwan, Shabbir bhai, Ikram bhai and Yasir wanted to go back to home on next morning. Here it was the same issue that after 10 am morning no public bus was allowed on KKH and all buses move in a convoy for security reasons. So we were praying that we got a seat for bus to Rawalpindi as we did not have prior reservations of seats. But Toqir bhai had talked for seats with some guy and he told us to come to bus stand early at 9 am. So we were ready to leave the dreamland in morning. My room mates were same guys Talha and Sufian. I talked late night with my wife and informed her about my return plan. She was very happy that finally my tour is ended. I slept at around 1 am while thinking that I have seen so much beautiful and amazing places in this tour for which my unrest soul always dream of and now the tour is completed. All it looked like a dream to me and now the dream is almost finished.

breakfast setup was on roof of the hotel
Sitting in hall and waiting for the pack up
Our hotel was located near Alamdar Chowk Skardu
River Indus and the island of sand
Entrance of Shangrila Resort
An abandoned plane that was crash landed here some years back now turned into a dinning hall

There were lot of grapes but unripened
A breathtaking place for stay
Lower Kachura Lake at Shangrila Resort
bluish green green water of lower Kachura Lake

The mesmerizing beauty of Shangrila Resort

There were lot of beautiful flowers and fruit tress all around in Shangrila
Accommodation is quite expensive here but luxurious too
One of my favorite click of Shangrila

Pagoda restaurant- a Chinese style building that gave fame to Shangrila

PIA flight from Skardu to Islamabad luckily captured by me.

Some refreshment arranged by Shabbir bhai
Kachura village on way to upper Kachura Lake.
Little walk in Kachura village 
Here comes the lake but the view of whole lake was not clear from the bank
Going for boat ride to enjoy the beauty of upper Kachura Lake.
It was a big and beautiful natural lake
Word "Allah" written on surrounding mountain
Me and boat driver who was a very nice person
Going back to lower Kachura for  onward journey to Gilgit
View of Shangrila from Upper Kachura
Skardu-Gilgit journey started
Lunch break at Tungus on Skardu-GIlgit road
Our jeep drivers having lunch at Tungus

A village along Skrdu-GIlgit road.
The journey on Skardu-Gilgit road was similar to KKH
A Doli built by locals for crossing River Indus. Must be a very adventurous experience to cross it
The famous point on Gilgit-Skardu road which is must to capture 
Just look at the mountain which was cut down for the construction of road
Free and natural car wash beautifully captured by Rizwan.

River Indus was our companion through out the journey on Gilgit-Skardu road
Reached Gilgit and visited Toqir bhai's office on way
The last dinner of the tour at hotel Ramzan, Gilgit

 Day 11, 22/08/2013: Gilgit to Rawalpindi

I woke up at around 7. After getting fresh we did last breakfast of the tour and then said good bye to all members. I, Talha and Rao Mubarak who had to travel to Karachi were together while Irshad bhai, Naveed and Rizwan were going in another coaster. Shabbir bhai, Ikram bhai and Yasir were together and they joined our coaster. So total 9 members were going to Rawalpindi in public coasters and remaining 11 members were staying there. We left Gilgit around 10.30 am and then a never ending journey started on barren and rocky KKH. We reached Chilas and had lunch there and then it was sunset when we crossed Dasu. After that we slept and whole night travel on KKH along River Indus. We skipped dinner.

Waiting for last breakfast of the tour at Jamal Hotel, Gilgit

Leaving hotel for catching our bus to Rawalpindi. Just look at the size of Rao's Rucksack :D

Day 12, 23/8/13: Rawalpindi to Karachi

I woke up at 4.30 near Mansehra, had little breakfast and then further travel of 4 hours we reached our first destination Rawalpindi. Welcome back to the dirty world. We were feeling quite strange to return to our lives after the fantastic tour of some remotest places of Pakistan where life still exist in its natural form. I didn’t want to waste more time to reach home so we did not take any rest and caught the AC coach for Karachi from Pirwadhai bus stand. We were very tired but still we continued our journey for further one day without taking any rest. Here we all members who were traveling from Gilgit said good bye to each other. All caught the buses for their respective cities. Shabbir bhai and Ikram bhai who had to travel to Nawabshah preferred to go by train from Lahore so they caught bus for Lahore. Rao wanted to travel by Daewoo bus so he moved for Daewoo bus stand. I and Talha were now together for onward journey to Karachi. We traveled further 24 hours and most of the time passed in sleeping. It was dam hot in Punjab and we were feeling more because for last 10 days we were in northern areas and we got used to for cold. Well that was an amazing thing  that at one part of country the temperature is extreme cold and on other part is extreme hot. One cheap act of intercity coach mafia and hotel mafia which I must share here is that coach drivers stops the bus on highways at third class restaurants where there are no other hotels to eat. The prices of food was so high that even a middle class person thinks many time before ordering any thing. They sale pathetic qeema aalu for Rs. 180, tasteless single biryani Rs. 200 and there was nothing to eat below Rs. 150. This is a common practice by B and C category coaches and their drivers get commission from restaurants. So my advice to all of you who travel on intercity buses is to arrange some food before traveling or eat biscuits/nimco and other refreshements instead of having such third class food.

Day 13, 24/08/2013: ****Home Sweet Home*** :)

We were at Nawabshah when my eyes opened at around 7 am morning. It means we were 2 hours late as there was some problem in bus and it was moving slowly. Very hardly we reached Hyderabad at around 9 am which was our time to reach Karachi. Here bus driver wanted the bus to get repaired. We took breakfast and then waited for one hour but it was taking more time in repairing gear box of bus. We were very exhausted after 3 days and 2 nights of continuous road journey. So we did not waste more time and caught Daewoo bus from Hyderabad to Karachi. After a smooth and relaxed journey of 2 hours, we reached our home town at around 12.30 noon. We took Riksha from Daewoo terminal and reached home at 1.15 pm. It was really a strange feeling while entering in my area. I had travelled to the remotest places of our country and now I am back to my home. I was dreaming for this tour from a long time and now I am returning back from the tour. The time has passed so quickly that I was thinking whether I went to the tour or it was just a dream. In these thoughts I reached my home. My wife and daughter welcomed me at the door but my 10 months little daughter was not recognizing me as my face was totally spoiled and also I was away from her for 2 weeks. But no worry, she recognized me after I took the most wanted bath. I took the lunch prepared by my wife and feeling strange because we were having different types of food from last 2 weeks. After two days of rest I joined my office and came back to the routine life but with a sense of accomplishment and unforgettable experience which is unable to describe.                                                          


In this tour I experienced travelling on land equal to sea sea level upto 14,000 feet of height. I passed through the coast of Arabian Sea, witnessed the deserts, plains and green fields of Sindh and Punjab, I enjoyed the magnificent beauty of KPK, I followed the River Indus from Hyderabad upto Skardu. I saw different landscapes, cultures, people and places. I traveled almost 4,500 Km on land. I met with new people and made many good friendships and also tested old friends. We are so lucky that Allah has blessed us with such a vast land where there is so much variety of places, cultures and people. I am more fortunate to witness this beauty from my own eyes. Its simply an amazing experience and unable to describe the pride I feel after exploring such wonderlands of our wonderful country.

There was a time back in 80’s and 90’s when tourists and climbers were crazy for our Northern Areas and found in abundance everywhere. Also you will find a lot of international books and travelogues written at that time by foreign writers. Due to presence of some highest peaks of the world, secluded valleys, beautiful lakes, adventurous treks, diverse landscape, remains of ancient civilizations and rich culture with friendly and hospitable people, Pakistan was a heaven for international tourists. Also it was very affordable and economical with tourism friendly environment. But the circumstances after 9/11 ruined international tourism in Pakistan. Now it’s a dilemma that a country with such an immense natural beauty and world’s highest mountains is totally ignored by international tourists. I believe our government is equally responsible for this damage because of complete negligence of this industry which can earn millions of dollars for this poor nation. Sometimes I got so much upset after visiting northern areas that why our government is sleeping and not developing and promoting the hidden pearls of Pakistan. I bet there is no other country in this world with such an amazing places, people and culture. Local tourism has no doubt increased due to internet and Facebook which is playing vital role in promotion of tourism in Pakistan. Here I would also like to mention contribution of great writer and adventurer Mustansar Hussain Tarrar who with his wonderful writings during 80s and 90s introduced us about unknown and remote places of our northern areas. It is because of his Urdu travelogues that our people started traveling to these places otherwise people of Pakistan were unaware of Gilgit Balistan. He is also responsible to transfer this virus of adventure and wilderness to me. Now I wish to follow his footsteps of traveling and writing as well, lets see how much I will be successful in it.