After crossing the China-Pakistan border at 4800 meter high at the Khunjerab Pass, we arrived in Sost, where our new Pakistanis friends took us on board a minivan to Passu, a few kilometers away. We found a hotel in Passu (maybe the only one open), overlooking the Hunza River. We were now in the Upper Hunza Valley, closely surrounded by mountains. It was cold but not as cold as we expected at 2500 meter high, and not as cold as in China. During the night, the wind arose and we woke up under big wind gusts. We had a breakfast of Pakistani omelet (with onions and green peppers) and pratas (stir-fried flat bread), and the man serving us started to tell us stories about hiking high mountains.
Yes, life here is totally different from what we are used to in Europe or South East Asia. We are surrounded by peaks at 6000, 7000 and even 8000 meter high, that people climb and sometimes do not come back from. The man told us how he used to be a guide, how he used to climb high mountains, how he was once hired by a family to find the dead body of their son, dead 3 years ago on the mountain, how he nearly died when one of his client insisted to climb the mountain not at the right time. He was proud to have climbed Mount Nanga Parbat (8100 meters), and in 2017 he had decided to try K2 (8611 meters), the second highest peak in the world after Mount Everest (8848 meters). He told us that to go from 7000 to 8000 meters, it can take two months, that after 7000 meters your body does not feel hunger anymore and he used to eat only chocolate, and that when he climbs his backpack weights 30 kg! (we carry 12kg and it is already a hassle when we carry it for 2 hours) It made us think about the perception of life from these mountaineers. They are able to take the risk of loosing their life for climbing mountains. The death rate on Nanga Parbat is 21% (meaning that 1 person out of 5 dies when trying to climb the summit), and on K2 it is 30%! But the feeling they have when they succeed to climb to the top must be above anything else…
Our new friend guide also told us that tourism in Pakistan has felt down since 09/11. Today they have less than 10 tourists coming every month. Before 09/11, Pakistan was a touristic country. We could feel how this decrease in tourism affected him and a lot of people we met. When leaving us, he warmly thanked us to have come to Pakistan.
Even with the wind, the weather actually was not too cold and it was even sunny, so we went for a walk in Passu village. The village was made with stones and has barely electricity. The views around were just truly stunning.
We walked along the Karakoram Highway, spotting from time to time the Pakistani trucks, beautifully decorated. Truck art is everywhere in Pakistan. Drivers ask professionals to paint their trucks with colorful scenes and poetic calligraphy.
Walking on the road, a jeep stopped next to us and the men inside asked if they could help us. It appeared that they knew a Pakistani we were looking for from Couchsurfing, and so they gave us a ride along the KKH to reach another beautiful village, Husseini, where a suspended bridge is.
This bridge goes across the Hunza River and again we were stuck by the beauty of this place, with clear blue water, grey mountains becoming yellow under the sun, and snow white peaks. After only a few hours in Pakistan, we were just in love with the country and its inhabitants!