From Skardu the way to Gilgit was hard, the path runs alongside a river and is mostly unpaved, it took us about 7 hours to make the journey (counting the stops to rest) and we arrived at the city exhausted.

While we were checking a couple of little things and had a small rest in town to regain strength while we were looking for a place to rest. It was our third time in Gilgit, we had already slept in a couple of places but we wanted to give a try to new options as none of them was exceptional.

While we were on the streets Baba appeared and spoke to me in a weird perfect Spanish, he told me that he had a store at a few meters from where we were and invited us for a tea. We decided to follow him, after all, Ramadan had already ended and he seemed like an adorable guy. His store is called *Xama Stores*and it is located on the main street, he sells some local products and some jewellery that he makes. Qayum (his real name, although everyone knows him as Baba) lived for many years in Spain, where he travelled the country and the continent selling his crafts. He is quite a character.

After a long chat, he showed us his visitor’s book and offered us his house to rest, a Guesthouse where he received foreigners. We looked at each other to make sure we both knew what we wanted and we nodded at him. We paid 1200 rupees for two beds in a shared room where no one else was (he also offers private rooms for a little more).
Baba’s house (Serena Guest house) is located on the outskirts of Gilgit, right next to the Serena hotel in the area, it is a white house reminiscent of Andalusia with a well in the middle, gardens and it has a special feel. It has a kitchen that allows guests to use without problems and the most reliable internet we had in Gilgit (keep your expectations low).

Baba’s house was what we were finally looking for in Gilgit, I wish we had found it earlier, it is an oasis and Baba is a very particular person who loves to practice his Spanish (he also speaks English). If you visit the city and want to have a nice chat, even if you don’t sleep there, go to his store, you will not be disappointed.

As the guest house is a little bit far (not really with a bike or so but just in case you do not have your own means of transport) Baba has a jeep and will take you and bring you to town if he is on the way. He may give you a tour in the area at a previously agreed price. His phone is +923465466101, as I said, he speaks perfect Spanish and some English. Feel free to tell him that you come from Valen and Jesper, I doubt he will remember us at this point but hey, who knows, you will probably see us on his guest book.

We stayed Gilgit after only a couple of days, with the intention of visiting Nanga Parbat from there. We had to pass through Gilgit to get our energies back, take money from one of the only ATMs that worked for us in the country (The Allied Bank in Gilgit) and we left for Raikot Bridge

The infamous Fairy Meadows road

To get to Fairy Meadows it is only possible to do it with a hired Jeep, the road is a dangerous route on the edge of a cliff and the Jeeps in the area have a monopoly, they do not let pass anyone else (and honestly seeing the state of the road does not surprise me either) . The problem is that each Jeep is about 80 USD for the round trip, which obviously becomes cheaper if the Jeep is full, about 4 people to 6 people (depending on how candid the driver is) but being only two was our of our budget.

Days before our trip we published a group search on the Karakoram Club Facebook group where we met Farzan and his friends, some founders of the group, all boys from Lahore who would go up to the area during that weekend. We decided to meet before trying to get on any Jeep because the Jeep drivers are not very open to people standing waiting to find a group there.

We did not count on the policemen just before Raikot noticing our arrival. Once on the bridge they were waiting for us to cross the checkpoint, register as foreigners and escort us to the area. Everything happened very quickly and without realizing we found ourselves inside a Jeep almost against our will (again the communication problem and the culture shock regarding security). Finally, after a short tens talk we managed to get off and we could explain that we were waiting for some friends.

At least an hour passed until the rest of the group arrived, Farzan, Andy, Hamad, Bud, Hamzi and Marcos, an Australian tourist who was already with them. We were 8, our idea was to divide ourselves into two Jeeps, 4 and 4 each, but when we tried to separate they insisted on putting the foreigners in two and the rest in another, claiming that the escort had to get on and we couldn’t fit in the Jeep anymore. After another talk with the police and the help of our new friends, we managed to divide ourselves into two Jeeps just as we had planned and began the climb.

The road, as I said, is pretty scary and you won’t get used to it. If you are afraid of heights, I recommend you go to the right side of the car while the way up or everything you will see from the window is a cliff that will appear to be less than half-meter from your door. On the other hand, prepare for the jumps as the road is bumpy, thy don’t drive precisely slowly and there will not be a single moment when you are not bouncing on the stones of the road.

How to reach Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat

Raikot Bridge it is about 78 km south from Gilgit in the middle of the Karakoram. If you are not on a motorcycle, you can go by bus from both Gilgit and Islamabad and ask the driver to drop you off there. It is a well-known stop. There is a hotel just right there but we were asked 4000 rupees for a night one day we tried to sleep there.

Once there you have to hire the Jeep, they told us that it would be 7000 Rupees but it was actually 8000 Rupees because it was the star weekend of the area (just after Eid). The Jeep is hired for both ways, so you will do the down road with the same driver (or his colleagues). You have to agree beforehand a departure time and get their phone number. The last part of the road is done walking so you must take into account when scheduling your trip.

The Jeep ride is an hour and a half depending on the enthusiasm of the driver and the Jeeps that are in the area. We, without knowing it, decided to go when all Pakistan was on holidays (the days after the end of Ramadan are crazy in the country) so that seemed like a parade.

Once the road ends, your Jeep leaves you in a kind of mountain house where you can buy some things and continue on the road on foot. Depending on your physical condition it will take you about two hours to reach the top. 2.30h if you go with Pakistanis and 1.30h if you are used to these things. The path is VERY easy and it has small stops during the tour where you can have a coffee or a drink. Come up early, or it will be dark on the walk and you do not want that. And please, do the world a favour, do not leave rubbish along the way, nature does not need it.

We arrived at Fairy Meadows almost at night, the truth is that it was between a great pleasure and torture to do it accompanied, on the one hand, our new Pakistani friends were wonderful to chat, on the other, not so wonderful to walk. Still, we had a good laugh and the whole trip was unique thanks to them. The truth is that if we hadn’t done it in their company, we probably would have enjoyed it much less and paid much more.

 

 Where to sleep in Fairy Meadows

You can sleep in small cabins or in a tent. If you don’t have a tent they will rent you one. We had ours and as we left a big part of our luggage in Gilgit we made most of the road only with the essentials.

There are several “resorts” in the area, we stayed at Greenland Resort where prices are usually around 1000 rupees per night if you rent a tent, but for Eid the prices were at least 4000 rupees per cabin and around 2000 rupees per tent, we paid 1000 per night and food included (for both), which perhaps is common outside the high season.
If your budget is limited take food and drinks with you, the prices up there are expensive and it is to be expected after seeing how hard is to reach the place.

Upon arrival they were waiting for us in a lovely wooden house restaurant with some food, as we were part of a group we let ourselves be carried away by what they had planned, after all, they were the locals. Apparently they make the trip annually and have good contacts in the area, so the prices they handle with them, especially during that time of year, are lower compared to the rates for that specific weekend.

We enjoyed a delicious plate of lentils, a coffee and we prepared a bonfire in which with tea and good company throughout the camp. We talked for hours about a thousand things and it was a great experience to understand this crazy society a little better from the hand of a younger generation. We went to sleep ready to do the walk to the Nanga Parbat Base Camp the next morning as early as possible.

 

How to reach Nanga Parbat base camp

From the tented camps to the base camp the walk is about 4 hours, this means a return walk will take you about 7-8 hours depending on your physical shape. We woke up early with the idea of leaving as soon as possible but that did not seem to be the general agreement. Everyone woke up on a lazy Sunday style and we did not manage to leave until noon, not a great time if you do not want to come back at night.

Just before we left a guard appeared for our escort, the whole thing was being a mess, everything was taking longer than expected and the last thing we wanted was to add another problem to our list. We refused the scort and this resulted in at least another 30 lost minutes of conversations, the guard did not understand well why we were refusing, we did not get why it would be necessary as there were more people on top of that mountain than in any other place we have been in the country, our friends did not understand what was happening… Finally, we managed to “take responsibility” for us and our Pakistani friends backed up our decision.

Apparently, in 2013 there was an attack against 10 mountaineers at base camp, the only attack the area has suffered, and since then they worry that it will not happen again. It is understandable, but for us, especially that day, was truly a pain in the ass. We left as a group and without the guard.

The first “checkpoint” is the Behal camp, it is a little less than half-way and the road till here is very easy, quite flat. I do not know if you can stay overnight there, but in any case, it is an ideal place to make a short stop and recharge.

From there the path steepens until you reach the “German View point”, if you go with more people or it is a busy weekend like ours you will see that 99% of walkers end their path there, from there to the base camp you still have an hour or an hour and a half *and it is honestly worth it*, but the climb is much more complicated so if you are not in good physical shape, maybe this is where you should finish.

We realised reached the base camp was never on their plans, so we had to do the last part of the way as fast as we could while most of them waited on the view point.

 

Nanga Parbat base camp

After the viewpoint you start walking next to the glacier, you go down the slope of the adjoining mountain and finally cross a small “river without water” to reach the camp.

Only us and the Australian guy made it to the top and we did not have time to enjoy the moment as it was starting to rain and the sun was going down. On the way back we picked most of the rest of the team in different stops, one of them didn’t even make it to Behal and we managed to reach the tented camp just before dark.

Upon arrival we had another campfire and managed to talk to the morning guard who turned out to be a most cheerful guy, we didn’t want to make him feel bad for our choice but things turned out funny when he told us that his need to accompany us more it was not really about security but about the fact that Pakistanis are not good walkers and because of the timing if we wanted to get to the camp we would have to do it at a much faster pace. He was indeed right.

The next morning and without a rush we started our way down to take our Jeep and had our last chats before we jumped on our bikes back to Gilgit. Our next destination would be the remote and mysterious Kalash Valley

From Skardu the way to Gilgit was hard, the path runs alongside a river and is mostly unpaved, it took us about 7 hours to make the journey (counting the stops to rest) and we arrived at the city exhausted.

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Somos Valen y Jesper, almas de este blog y compañeros de viaje y de vida. Si quieres saber más sobre nosotros puedes hacerlo aquí

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