After I got a visa in Sost, it was to Passu for a couple days of hiking around the area. The tourist season is at it’s end, so many guest houses and shops are closed for the year.
Passu and Hunza Valley offer some of the best hiking and trekking in the world with several 6,000 and 7,000 meter peaks in the area. K-2 is not far away near Skardu, though its difficult to see because of clouds and surrounding mountains. I took a day hike near a large glacier and then to a mountain lake, and another short hike to some shaky suspension bridges. Autumn colors are in full swing with brilliant yellows across the valley.
Then several hours down the KKH to Karimabad, one of the most popular villages in the valley and for good reason. First of all, its incredibly cheap. This has to do with the season, yes, but it is still the cheapest country I have traveled. The guest houses cost from about US$.60/50 Rupees to $2/150 Rps. Most serve family style meals for $2/150 Rps that are delicious, refilling dishes (as many as 7 different ones) as much as you want.
First I stayed at Hider Inn, ran by the amazing Mr. Hider. This has probably been the best guest house of my trip. Not the cleanest nor does the electricity always work, but just friendly and great service. Mr. Hider is just one of those individuals you meet that resonates with you.
Karimabad and its surrounding villages have long been princely states enjoying a great degree of autonomy (over 900 years). Only 100 years ago these areas still derived much of their wealth by raiding caravans coming through the valley. That thankfully has given away to tourism, and the people of the Hunza and renowned for their warmth. In 1974 was it finally dissolved and absorbed into Pakistan by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Baltit Fort dates back over 700 years and is a testament to those fiercer times.
Like India, large trucks are garishly decorated with bright colors. You can hitch rides with them, but they are quite slow.
The people usually don’t mind to have their pictures taken. Children will trail after you with requests of, “One picture!” And they are so photogenic; beards, Hunza hats, shawls, and smiles. Women predictably tend not to want photos though. Young girls are very skittish. Several times I’ve moved too fast and sent several running down alleys. Kind of funny really.
And the chai! Milk tea is to be enjoyed often and just walking around town will result in many invitations. Thats a great custom!
In all, the Hunza Valley has been my favorite destination thus far. It’s just a relaxing place with stunning natural scenery, very cheap, and extremely friendly people.