After an entertaining overnight flight with PIA (and the best in-flight meal I have ever tasted - curry and chapatti) we arrived in Islamabad at 6am. Even at this time in the morning the temperature was in the high thirties and very humid. The airport is a little outside of Islamabad and it was a thirty minute ride to where we were staying. This was our first experience of Pakistani driving and it was certainly eye opening. To an outsider there seems to be little logic between the movements of cars, horses, cyclists and ornately decorated trucks. According to our driver there are few accidents, so this strange kind of dance must really work!
We arrived at Jamsine lodge, our thankfully air-conditioned guest house. After a few hours of much needed kip we met our guide and spent the afternoon driving round the city visiting officials from the Alpine Club of Pakistan and the helicopter rescue company (hopefully we won't meet again!). We spent the evening in browsing the vibrant markets of downtown Islamabad - In a vain effort to turn his life around, Tom picked up a few books including: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Watch this space! - Before meeting up with John Arran, a climber from Sheffield, working out here. Alcohol is available in Pakistan, so we had to go to a very discreet downstairs bar in the Marriot hotel to aquire our illicit beverages. It was great to meet up and share stories (and thanks for dinner!). He has recently put up the hardest sport route in Pakistan, and plans to keep breaking the record every weekend!
After an (almost) alpine start we arrived at the airport for the early flight to Gilgit. It was all looking good until it was cancelled 10 minutes before departure. The locals protested but after two hours we all gave up, and with some trepidation elected to take the notoreous Karakoram Highway. We also gained an extra passenger - sharing the bumpy ride with lecturer from Texas University - studying the traditional languages of the Hunza Valley.
A typical view on the death defying KKH - Photo: Luke Hunt.
Driving up into the mountains we passed through some eye opening scenes in the Pakistani countryside. The area is so full of life! We set off late and had to drive some of the most dangerous roads (in terms of bandits and big drops) at night. We passed through some interesting areas and at one point shared our vehicle with a Policeman, compete with AK47! All very exciting! We arrived in our guesthouse in Chileas after 22 hours on the go. Thanks to our tireless driver, who kept us bouncing and bumping along the crumbly and sometimes missing road and more importantly from plummiting into the abyss!
With the most dangerous roads behind us and our new found immunity to crumbly edges and steep drops we made our merry way up the Hunza valley. We are now staying in the Hilltop Hotel in Karimmabad - I make no exaggeration when I say this valley is the one of most beautiful I have ever been to, with soaring mountains, colourful, friendly people and lush vegetation.
Today we have been shopping for all the food we will need for the expedition. Having developed a taste for chapatti and curry, (and underestimated costs somewhat!) we are planning to live on a very traditional diet during the expediton.
The trip so far has been a richly intense experience, with a new challenge around every corner. At time of writing Hamish has just infomed us that a small landsilde has blocked the road up to Hispar Village and is about to cause us no end of trouble...
This will be our last detailed post until we return to civilisation. However, we are intending send updates via sat phone texts so stay tuned!
By Luke and Tom.