Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Batura Glacier Trek

The Karakoram highway is incredible. It is impossible to aptly describe the mind boggling scenery that you witness as you weave your way through deep valleys, alongside the hunza river, surrounded by massive rock walls on both sides of the road. Half the time is spend navigating the bus around rock slides that have covered much of the road.

Every few days the highway is closed because of new rock slides. THe costs of keeping this road open must be significant, but both CHina and Pakistan benefit considerable from the trade that can occur because of the route.

My first stop in Pakistan is Passu, a very small town about 100k south of the border. As soon as i arrived i found my first trekking companions, whom were sitting in the front garden of my shtty hotel negotiating with a local guide to trek the Batura Glacier . 5 minutes later i was in on the conversation, and 12 hours later i was trudging up the Glacier in my (soon to be destroyed) trail running shoes.

Batura Glacier is a massive 65km long, and is surrounded by 7000+ peaks on both sides. The 70km trek runs accross the glaciers edge, up to a meadow which lies half way up the glacier. During the 5 day trek I camped under the stars most nights in my bivouac, surrounded by mountain goats, Yaks, and possible snow leopards. One morning i was rudely awoken by a cow trying to rub its nose against my face. It wasn't a pretty thing to wake up to! I told her i wasn't interested.

On our way down the glacier we ran into a group of 50 local Islamic women that were trekking for the first time. Our guide Zakir (pictured above leading his cows) told us that this was an important occasion for Northern Pakistan, as it was organised by a new 'womens' group that has been formed by the local government. The formation of this womens group, and this organised trekking event, marked a significant occasion for the people of Northern Pakistan. I felt very lucky to bear witness to the event.

Women in Pakistan lack the freedom enjoyed by women in the west (its very sad). But the Islamic people in the North are Ismaili Muslims, which are a minority, and are quite liberal compared with the SHiites and Sunnis. Even so, the husbands and fathers of the women were asked permission before these women were permitted to come on the trek.

We camped in a village where the women were staying. We enjoyed a picnic with them. Later i was asked, as a kiwi, to umpire a cricket match between the local men and women. I came under heavy critisism on the final ball when there was a controversial run-out by one team. I think one guy on the losing team may have put a Jihad on me. THey take cricket very seriously here.

These ladies were having the time of their lives. THey even played tug-of-war. They sung lots of local songs throughout the day. It was pretty sweet to see really.

My guide Zakir and I had some good trekking races (running/stumbling with our packs on). He kept trying to shake me off but I stubbornly stuck on his heels.


Janelle said...

Hi J
How fantastic and entertaining. That scenery looks awesome. I loved the bit about the cow and the cricket match.
Mt Ruapehue won't look so big when I'm up there this weekend and the tramping hutt will seem luxurious
Reading your blog entries is a major distraction from cleaning the showers.
Somehow I've stuffed up my password Dad will be pleased
Take care Love Mum

Peter said...

jase i glad your bivowac is snow leopard proof