20th October 2015
Tour leader Max Wood recently led our Karakoram Adventure group tour through China, Pakistan and India. Below Max talks about his visit to the Hunza Valley.
Five years after a massive landslide blocked the Hunza river at Attabad and formed a 22km long lake, a tunnel (or actually five separate ones) has been opened to bypass the lake, making for a much quicker journey along the highway to the Hunza area. There are still lovely views across the lake but the experience of a water crossing is unfortunately no longer available; at least in the short term the security authorities wouldn’t let us take one of the now redundant boats and we had to travel with our coaster bus through the tunnel. For the locals living north of the lake it is a great bonus after so long, as food and transport costs have almost been cut in half.
We'd had pretty poor weather since arriving from China; drizzle rather than driving rain, but the low cloud meant that much of the mountain scenery was hidden. The views from our accommodation at Eagles' Nest were still impressive though. The fields high above the valley floor were being harvested for potatoes and the apples trees were full. It was the Eid holidays as we enjoyed the four mile walk down from our hotel at 2850m to Altit village and fort at about 2400m. In the village many children were eating sweets or crisps and playing with balloons bought with the loose change they had been given at Eid. Goats were being paraded around town in garlands; they were to be sacrificed, cooked and shared with neighbours later on in the evening.
Next day we saw whole families back in the fields. From 8 to 80 years old, with up to 15 people working through the individual fields extremely efficiently, each with their own particular job, not a single potato was left undiscovered. As we continued along the Karakoram Highway we saw the trucks laden down with huge sacks of these potatoes driving to the markets in the cities further south.
We had been worried about the forecast for poor weather on our climb up to Fairy Meadows. It's approximately a 650m ascent on foot after a seemingly perilous two hour jeep ride along an extremely vertiginous private road up a side valley from the Karakoram Highway. In the end there was no rain and the cloud cover and fresh breeze made for the best conditions. Once we were there the weather finally broke and we were rewarded with some stunning views of Nanga Parbat at 8124m towering over our cabins.