After the Rakaposhi base camp experience and our farewell to Minapin and Osho, we returned to Gilgit, which will be your “base” point of any Gilgit – Baltistan trip. The second time we decided to search for another place to stay and we ended up at a small hotel named Ahmed Guesthouse for 1200 rupees a night, without hot water but with perfect WiFi.
Gilgit became our meeting point with the world, internet, electricity and guaranteed rest. After a couple of days working and giving the bike another oil change we left for our next trip, our plan was to make the round passing through the Astore Valley, crossing the Deosai National Park, reaching Skardu and back to Gilgit. A few kilometres on an unpaved route and at significant heights.
We started our way to Astore through the valley, a stunning landscape that runs along the side of the river, the valley goes for at least 120 km net to the river, we would only make about 40km on that road. After about 5 hours on the bike we arrived in Astore town in heavy rain, we passed a passport control where it was obvious the policeman could not understand why two foreigners were driving a Honda 125 in those places (curiously, the same bike that everyone else in the country but not common for foreigners until recently as most of the bikers go there with their own big European or American bikes). They asked us for a piece of paper, a paper that apparently we should have received when crossing the Babusar pass but as we probably had gone unnoticed we never got to hold our hands.
The rain did not stop, the police gave us shelter and a couple of hot teas in their little cabin. The checkpoint was still about 4 km from the city centre and, once it stopped raining, one of the men escorted us on his motorcycle to the city police station, where we should re-register.
Our Beast had hard moments, in the middle of the city Jesper almost has an accident when trying to climb a slope and lost against it, a couple of passers-by ran to help us push the bike uphill. We arrived at the police station, we did our passport registration and they asked us where we would go in the following days, to which we responded with inconclusive information as it was nor really clear for us when we would continue the way, especially if the weather continued as it did.
Right in front of the police station there is a guesthouse that receives foreigners, the rooms are comfortable and in good condition, it also has a restaurant where you can buy some food at Iftar time, we paid for a double room 1000 rupees.
The next morning we were lucky, although the sun was not shining, it seemed to have cleared, we took the motorcycle and went out to Rama Lake following another unpaved road. The bike took us to a point where we decided to park it and continue walking to the lake. We were alone, there was not a single soul on the way, the lake was covered with snow that melted as summer was coming. It was beautiful.
Gradually the temperature began to drop and the rain announced its return. We walked back to the motorcycle and from there drove to the room. At night and hungry, we went for a walk in Astore town, it was nothing like the lively Karimabad that we had passed a few days ago. To make thing a little bit worse the electricity had not made its presence all day, apparently, a problem of heavy rains. Walking through Astore, being a woman in the dark I realised I might be the only one. The small towns of Pakistan at night are a good way to show someone what a world without women would look like, and let me tell you, it’s scary.
Finally, we found a restaurant lit by candles on the tables, everyone looked at me in amazement as we sat down to order food, remember that in some places they sent us to “the family area” as the rest of the place is “not for women”. By their looks we could assume the place did not have a family area or a woman had not entered the place in a long time.
We asked for anything not spicy they could do, the food was delicious and bu the end of the meal the tense atmosphere became quite friendly, a group smoked in the back while eating on the floor while laughing. We finished our meal and returned to the hotel in the dark.
We woke up early the next day with the intention of leaving, the fog had dispersed and it was a good opportunity, we just learned that Deosai Park had opened its mountain pass to the passage of motorbikes and 4X4 just a couple of days ago, it was time to go back the road.
Our next stop would be the Deosai National Park.