Rain, Danger in Sust, Pakistan: Our Trip 5

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Featured Image: Featured Image: Magnificent Glacier Riven Mustagh Ata, 7546m, 1995

Featured Image: Magnificent Glacier Riven Mustagh Ata, 7546m, 1995

ORT_Logo 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.

Continue reading “Rain, Danger in Sust, Pakistan: Our Trip 5”

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Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4

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Lady Finger and Hunza Peak, Karimabad, Hunza, KKH, Pakistan 1995

Featured Image: Lady Finger or Bublimating (6000 metres) and Hunza Peak (6270 m) above Karimabad, Hunza Valley, Pakistan. Ultar Peak (7388 m), Bojahagur Duanasir II (7329 m) are within 5 km. Rakaposhi (7788 m) and Diran Peak (7266 m) although around 27 kilometres away dominate the horizon across the river and the Karakorum Highway, KKH, May 1995.

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 18 January 2022

The Hunza Valley, Karakorum Highway, Pakistan: Our Trip 4

Introduction

In my first article about the Karakorum Highway I said that I’d been always fascinated by the Hunza and Nagar Kingdoms since I first heard about them in obscure books about South Asia and 19th century British India many of them out of print.

However, there are still many terrific books available about the Karakorum Highway and associated areas referenced in my articles, which are either still available in print, or historical books available as downloads on the Internet.

This is the fifth 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.

I found Hunza a magic place from my reading and had wanted to go there from quite a young age, before I persuaded Denise to make her first trip to Asia in 1995. The actuality of Hunza was not disappointing. It met expectations and fantasises.

Continue reading “Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4”

Extreme Polo in Gilgit Pakistan: Our Trip 3

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Shandur Pass Polo, photo by Shipton TrekkingFeatured Image: Shandur Pass Polo Festival, photo by Shipton Trekking, the polo ground is at 12,300 feet (3800 metres) and the mountains rise up to 8,000 feet higher

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 August 2021

Extreme Polo in Gilgit and surrounding areas on the KKH 1995: Our Trip 3

This is the fourth article on our trip up and down the KKH. The first is The Karakorum Highway, the second The Lower Karakorum Highway and the third Besham to Gilgit the Terrain.

We arrived in Gilgit on 18 May 1995 at 7pm in the evening after a long day’s travel from Besham and were snagged or touted at the bus stop by the delightful Mr Ibrahim owner of a new lodge called the Mountain Refuge (more of whom later).

We enjoyed our stay in Gilgit marred only slightly by intermittent rain. We even hired a motor-bike. Though the state of the roads meant that we could not travel as far as we would have liked and bits kept falling off the bike, sometimes making the travel uncomfortable.

We left Gilgit on 27 May when the rain seemed to have set in permanently. Surprisingly, at our next stop in the Hunza Valley the rain stopped and we had delightful weather during our stay there, though the rain began again immediately we left and we saw almost no scenery up to the Pakistan border post at Sost.

Whilst in Gilgit, one of the things we most enjoyed was the series of polo matches in a tournament several of which we managed to see. These matches would eventually lead up to the famous Shandur Pass match in July.


History of Polo

Polo probably began as a simple game played by Iranian equestrian nomads in Central Asia. In time polo became a Persian national sport played by the nobility. Women played as well as men.

The first recorded tournament was in 600 BC (between the Turkomans and the Persians – the Turkomans were victorious). The name is supposed to have originated from the Tibetan ‘pholo’ meaning ‘ball’ or ‘ballgame’. Although all of this is debatable.

Polo Persian Miniature 1525-30, MOMA New York
Polo Persian Miniature 1525-30, MOMA New York

The modern game was derived from British tea-planters observing it in Manipur (located between Burma & India). The first official rules were not created until the 19th century by an Irish Captain in the 13th Hussars and the modern International Rules are based on them. The size of the polo pitch (nearly 10 acres in area; the largest field in organised sport) has not changed since one was built in Isfahan Persia in the 1500s.

Each team has four players and each player must have at least one spare horse. The game is played over 4, 6 or 8 chukkas. Each chukka lasts 7 minutes with a break of 3 minutes between chukkas and a five-minute break at half time. More chukkas normally require more spare horses.

Polo mallets are made of wood. The head is of a hardwood called tipa and the shaft of varying types of wood and flexibility. The mallet must be exactly 2 foot six inches in length. The ball was originally bamboo, then wood and has mainly been fibreglass since 1990. The object of the game is to score goals by hitting the ball through the goal posts. The game is fast, furious and exciting. There are a range of tactics, strategies, allowed manoeuvres and fouls.

As with most equestrian sports the need for a number of horses and equipment make polo an expensive sport to play.

This is the same with polo played in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The upkeep of the horses is expensive. Although less horses are required.

Denise used to play a game in Australia called polocrosse (a cross between polo and lacrosse) which is more widely played and is less expensive than polo because it requires only one horse. Another similarity with extreme polo is that the game is also played with six players on a smaller ground. Continue reading “Extreme Polo in Gilgit Pakistan: Our Trip 3”

The Karakorum Highway KKH

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Featured Image: Nanga Parbat, Killer Mountain, KKH 1995

Featured Image: Nanga Parbat, the ‘Killer Mountain’ 8126 metres, from Fairy Meadow, 1995

ORT_LogoBreadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 2 April 2021

The Karakorum Highway (KKH) in 1995

The Karakorum Highway (KKH) runs from around Rawalpindi in Pakistan to Kashgar in China a distance of about 1300 km, through some of the highest mountains and deepest valleys in the world.

The KKH is sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world as a tribute to the engineering feat when it was constructed. Like similar roads in similar regions, for example Nepal and China, the KKH requires extensive maintenance to keep it open. Nowadays, in China there are endless spectacular engineering feats high bridges and roads that make the KKH seem old-fashioned.

The KKH threads its way through a ‘knot’ of four great mountain ranges: the Pamir, the Karakorum, the Hindu Kush and the [western edge] of the Himalayas, all of them part of the vast collision zone between [the Asian and the Indian tectonic plates]. (Lonely Planet)

Chinese Danyor Bridge, Constructed 1960s, Gilgit, KKH, 1995
Chinese Danyor Bridge, Constructed 1960s, Gilgit, KKH, 1995

The highest peaks near the KKH are Nanga Parbat (Himalaya 8126 metres or 26,660 feet), Rakaposhi (Karakorum 7790 m), Batura Peak (Karakorum 7785) Mt Kongur (Pamir 7719), un-named peak at the head of the Passu Glacier (Karakorum 7611), Muztagh Ata (Pamir 7546), Malabiting (Karakorum 7450), Haramosh (Karakorum 7400), Ultar Peak (Karakorum 7388).

There are many others slightly lower. In the Northern Areas of Pakistan there are about three dozen peaks over 7000 metres. K2 (Karakorum 8611 m or 28,250 feet), the second highest mountain in the world, near Skardu is not far from Gilgit in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Continue reading “The Karakorum Highway KKH”