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Featured Image: Magnificent Glacier Riven Mustagh Ata, 7546m, 1995
Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 May 2022
Rain and Danger in Sust, Pakistan: Our Trip 5, 1995
This is the sixth article in travelling the Karakorum Highway series. The others are: 1 The Karakorum Highway (KKH), 2 The Lower Karakorum Highway, 3 Besham to Gilgit, the Terrain, 4 Extreme Polo in Gilgit, 5 Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4. The Kashgar Sunday Market article is also relevant.
In my last article Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4 I said that we left for the border in the rain. We’d had rain in Gilgit and were fortunate that we saw the best of Karimabad before the rain began again.
We took the last places almost in a Wagon from Gilgit to Sust. We left at 10.30 am and the trip (70km) was much longer than anticipated — four hours — we arrived at Sust at 2.30 pm. Because of the rain the rocks looked grey and dreary, Passu in particular looked like the end of the earth and one wondered why anyone would bother staying there. We had lunch at a Hotel up near the border post. It was a surprisingly excellent goat and dhal dish (they called it chicken). Some of the goat was white meat and some on the bone was brown but tasted bacony like a ham hock (although in the present company of hajis, it wouldn’t be polite to mention this).
We’d known of the dangers of rain whilst in Gilgit and we were very careful, when walking around the irrigation channels on the outskirts of Gilgit, that we kept away from the edge of the hills. Rain loosens rocks that can come thundering down from above. Major landslips are also common in the rain. My journal continues:
The rain continued heavily all day and we were a bit worried about landslides up the highway. We’d crossed two recent landslips. On the way up and near Sust rocks were falling onto the road in several places (the ones we saw were small), which was quite harrowing. It was worse for the conductor of the wagon, who had to rush ahead into the rain and remove the larger ones so that we could drive through.
A Near Death Experience (31 May, 1995)
A near death experience, not ours fortunately, as my journal relates:
That night, at the Mountain Refuge, we met the foreigners who’d tried to go to China that day. Sam (Dutch), Ilse (American — Swedish Passport), Al (American), Ben (Dutch) and Jason (English). Jason was wrapped in a large blanket because he’d left his gear on the bus.
They’d had a very frightening day in a bus that only got 8 kilometres.
Sam, Ilse and Al were searched very thoroughly by customs at the beginning of the day, which surprised us, and upset them. The worst part was that the search was conducted in an open tent and all their possessions were thrown about on the wet muddy ground.
In their forward progress on the bus, they stopped three times and all the passengers had to run out away from the cliff face as rocks rained down and fell around them. They were eventually stopped by a big landslip. When the bus turned around, they were stopped by another huge avalanche which must have happened shortly after they’d passed, within ten or twenty minutes and had marooned them.
We met the group over dinner. Jason had walked back to Sust through the rain leaving his pack locked on the bus. He was shivering and had no clothes other than what the others had lent him. The others were rescued by another bus and they had their gear at least.
Like us their packs had been out in the rain all day on top of the bus and everything they had was either wet or damp.
In their descriptions, there was neither bravado nor exaggeration. It had been an amazingly frightening experience. They’d been crouching behind rocks or running while fist sized rocks crashed nearby like missiles. We were impressed but also pleased to enjoy the experience vicariously, because we were glad that it hadn’t happened to us.
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Written under Covid quarantine, in Canberra