We left Passu at 7am to carry on our way to the South along the Hunza valley. We took a local bus, which is actually a minivan going along the Karakoram Highway and horning when it crosses villages to tell people it is there. It was a one hour drive in the middle of incredible views.
The bus dropped us in Aliabad where we would take another bus to Karimabad which is not on the Karakoram Highway, but a bit aside and higher, surrounded by mountains. The weather was amazingly sunny, like a warm winter day. The next bus was at 10am, so we decided to walk our way to Karimabad and maybe a car would take us along. The road was not paved but the views were stunning.
After 50 meters walking, a smiling beautiful man greeted us and after a few presentations he invited us to have tea in his home. We accepted and he leaded us to a beautiful and simple house overlooking the mountains and the Hunza valley. It was paradise. He made milk tea for us with fresh milk from his cow, and invited us to sit in his home on carpets where we enjoyed the tea, bread, walnuts and fresh apples from his garden. We had a nice talk together and after an hour, we left to carry on our way to Karimabad.
After another 50 meters walking, a young girl greeted us from her garden and run to open her gate to ask us to come for tea! We accepted and entered a big newly built house belonging to a man who was principal in the school. He offered us some milk tea and again bread, cakes, almonds, and apples! The girl who welcomed us was his step daughter, she was so funny, I gave her some make up and she insisted to put some nail polish while her step sister designed a beautiful henna on my hand. We had a lot of fun together, while Alex and the father talked about more serious things about France and Pakistan.
We finally left, exchanging our email addresses. We carried on our walk on the dusty road overlooking the valley. The trees with autumn colors, the white mountains, it was so beautiful! A car arrived and the driver was happy to bring us to Karimabad. There, we found a room at the Old Hunza Inn, with such a beautiful view on the mountains! Electricity was not guaranteed, and so was not hot water, but whatever!
We went for a walk, enjoying the views and the smiles of people.
In the bookshelf at the hotel living room, I found a book and had pleasure reading it. It was called “Three cups of tea”, the story of an alpinist who failed to climb K2 and ended up in a remote Pakistani village where he made the promise to build a school. The book gave me more insights on Pakistani life and on how people in remote villages are happy with their lives even without the modern comfort. The title of the book “Three cups of tea” is also a reference to Pakistani hospitality: when you are invited by a Pakistani, the first time you share a cup of tea you are a guest, the second you are a friend and the third time you are family!”
At our hotel, we also met an Australian girl, Barbara, who was living there for a few months. She was the first Western people we saw from a long time. The next day, she invited us to join her for a walk to a viewpoint, Queen Victoria Tower. We crossed beautiful villages and hiked the mountain to get an even more amazing view on the surroundings. After that walk, we met again Barbara’s friend, Nazim, and had milk tea in his house. He invited us for a walk around and we ended up on a beautiful terrace, drinking green tea!
Then Alex and I went to have lunch in a fantastic place: Hunza Food Pavilion. It is a shed, no more than 10m² with 6 seats around a table, and there are two women cooking amazing food from Hunza region which is different food from the rest of Pakistan. On the table, there is a cookbook (not a menu!) and you can choose any dish from it! They are proud to use organic food when cooking and one of them has been to Japan to receive a training in organic agriculture. We had some pasta with spinach (Hoelio Garma), so tasty! So everyday we would go there to have all our lunches for the rest of our stay! We tried also the local pizza, Chap Shuro, a chapatti calzone stuffed with meat and vegetables. Food in Hunza Valley is so healthy, for dinner the cook at our hotel always prepared a mix of lentils with potatoes and sometimes carrots, spinach, tomatoes, and serves us thyme tea. The food is not fried and there is very little oil, contrary to what we were used to with Indian cuisine. At the end of our stay, the women at Hunza Food Pavillion gave me a copy of their cook book, a gift I will keep preciously to try to cook Hunza food when we are back in France!
We spent a few days relaxing in Karimabad, eating well, walking, reading, not counting the days.
Every morning we would wake up, open our door and sit to enjoy the sun on our doorstep overlooking the valley, eating chapatis and cherry jam for our breakfast, and being greeted by the people passing by, always happily giving us fresh apples and bread. Was it possible that we had found paradise? On a wall in the main street, we could read this quote from Anne Franck “Nobody has ever become poor by giving”. Surely the people from Hunza would give without any second thought (even when we tried to buy a postcard in a shop the seller insisted to give it to us for free!). When time came to leave, we felt very sad and promised ourselves we would go back. I left my book “Three cups of tea” unfinished on my bedtable, knowing I would come back to finish reading it someday, sooner than later.