Leaving Pakistan

After the detour to the polo festival, we had to race back north and ended up with only one night in the beautiful village of Passu about an hour past the Hunza Valley. The village is squeezed between two giant glaciers and surrounded by jagged mountains which have over the years contributed to its stagnant size. Passu is an Ismaili community and we arrived on the eve of the Aga Khan Golden Jubilee. Villagers were decorating their storefronts with the green and red flags of the Ismailis, kids roared around the village and the local town hall was bursting with activity. With our day in Passu we planned on doing a small trek, taking in other local villages and crossing over two death-defying suspension bridges (well, they SEEM death defying). The trek is aptly named the "two bridges walk" and was supposed to take about 5-6 hours. We set off with Derek, an American, and turned the two bridges walk into the one bridge walk, covering about 6km in 5 hours, what a team! The bridge that we did manage to find is really an incredible sight, it's long, it's falling apart, and it's used by locals to move between their village and the pastures across the river where they keep their animals. All three of us felt that we should make the trip across the bridge and back, I was the only one who was unable to do so. With my short limbs I could barely stretch my arms out wide enough to grip on to the two cables that would keep me standing, so I turned back after a few feet. Yann, Mr. Vertigo, didn't heed my warnings and took a really really long time to make the trip. The bridge is made up of old broken wood planks that are joined together unevenly by wire cables. It's impossible to do the walk without watching where you step, but then you are faced with the swirling, raging river below you, which basically makes you want to puke. By the time we got back to Passu we were tired, thirsty and sunburned. I had worn a t-shirt for the first time in months and both my arms were bright red. We still had to eat, get back to our guest house, pack our things and flag down a bus heading to Sost. It was late by the time we got out to the highway and we weren't certain we would be able to move on. Sost is the Pakistani border post and if we were to get into China the next day, we had to be there that night. We were told that there were no more minibuses running, and we ended up being picked up by a private vehicle, a large jeep with just enough room left in it for two people and their huge bags. The driver dropped us off at a hotel in Sost, of course free of charge, and extended an invitation to a sheep roast dinner. It turns out the jeep full of men were on a search for a sheep, they had been driving around from village to village looking for someone who had a sheep that wasn't up in the mountain pastures. The hotel manager finally promised to get them one, but when we went to bed it still hadn't arrived.

Before bed we had watched Golden Jubilee celebrations, torches being lit all around the village. Volunteers spend days trekking into the surrounding mountains, in a coordinated effort, hundreds of torches lit up the valley. There were even a few burning tires hurled down the mountainside, a hilarious eco-friendly activity.

The next morning, after a full check of our baggage by Pakistani officials, we boarded a government minibus and began our journey towards China and the Khunjerab Pass. With only seven passengers in the bus, the ride was pretty uneventful until we got to the Chinese security check. Each of us had our bags checked, REALLY checked. Even the hardboiled eggs and boiled potatoes from one guy's lunchbox were cracked open and smelled. The whole process was so slow it was just silly. One guard inspected everyone's bags, he seemed more curious than anything else. Meanwhile the other guards boarded our minibus, put in their music tapes and goofed off. When a Chinese truck driver arrived at the post with gifts of hard liquor they rejoiced, waving the bottles in the air. The truck passed through the gate without a security check, in the meantime our hard boiled eggs were still being sniffed. When we crossed the border into China, the gravel road became a 'super highway'. It was actually quite pitiful how modern the Chinese road was compared to the Pakistani one. The trip from the Khunjerab Pass to Kashgar crosses through Tajik and Kyrgyz communities with close up views of both the Karakoram and Pamir mountain ranges. We were now in China, but this was definetely a different China from the one we had seen before.


Anonymous said...

coucou a mes deux amours,

Quand j'ai vu les photos de ce pont, je me suis dit que moi personnellement, j'aurais fait ca... dans mes culottes. Courageux.
Tres tres belles photos. Je vous embrasse et ON S'ENNUIE DE VOUS.

la belle matante et le beau Raymond.

super-maman said...

Bonjour à vous deux,
wow, j'ai enfin reconnu mon Yann, quel bel homme!!! Les photos sont superbes, elles respirent la sérénité. Mais , le pont suspendu au-dessus de la rivière, était-ce nécessaire de le traverser? J'en ai le vertige juste à y penser.
Très beau blog et photos
Je vous embrasse
Maman xxxxxxxxsuper-maman

2par4 said...

Three hundred days. That's a long time.

"For that instant, he looked like his own paddle. There was a song in his heart. It crept to his lips but only the water and the wind could hear. You little traveler, you made the journey -- the long journey. You now know things I have yet to know, you little traveler. You were given a name, a true name in my father's lodge. Good medicine, little traveler. You are truly a paddle person."

Paddle to the Sea

2par4 said...

Missed you at Sunny Hill.


paradiso(angry) said...

I'd like to try that rope bridge if only 2 c if my fear of death is intact. There is a trick to looking down but not ALL the way down. Félicitations sur les trois cents jours.



YandE said...

Nicole, non ce n'est pas necessaire de traverser le pont, mais une fois traverse, il faut revenir!

Honestly this 'two bridges walk' is very popular with tourists and I think people cross it just to say they did it and they weren't scared. It scared the crap out of me, my fear of death is definetely alive and kicking.

Geneviève said...

I can't believe it... 300 days. How will you ever go back to the 'hard-life'???