Pakistan: K2, Bears and the Killer Mountain
Riding through the village, we got pointed to and stared at by the whole community: chickens, goats, donkeys, adults and children.
Probably not because we were smelly and dirty but most likely for being foreigners, white skinned, on motorbikes, dirty and smelly.
They giggled, smiled, waved and said “Hello!!!” ever 2 seconds, and I don’t blame them.
Pakistani mountain villages are pristine, hard to access, unspoiled, extremely hospitable and an attraction for the whole village (and us). These children, and the majority of the adults, had never seen white tourists, let alone on motorbikes.
Soon enough, the whole village gathered around our bikes and we became the attraction of the day, week, month, year? To our surprise a fair few people could actually speak English, which was a pleasure to communicate. English is their second language after all.
On the other hand, the kids’ vocabulary didn’t reach further than a couple of words like “picturepicture!”, “whatisyourname”, “yesyes” and “chocolate” but this was well compensated by their high level of curiosity. They were darn good at checking out why we use all this strange gear, testing and inspecting it.
Our main attraction of going through the Hushe region was to hike towards a viewpoint and see the K2 but for the locals, we were the main attraction. Being so close to the second largest mountain in the world (8611m), it would have been a shame not to bring him a visit, from a distance.
We left early in the morning to hike towards the K2 view point at about 5500m. It would be a 2200 altimeter climb in one day + descending 2200m. The locals said 6 hours up and 4 hours down. Well….
Maybe for them but not for us! There should have been some kind of path but we never actually found it. One shepherd pointed across the river and left up a little goat trail while the other one sent us up along the river and then somewhere left up into nowhere.
We went for the first one, since this fitted best yesterday’s description. Soon enough the goat trail vanished and transformed into thick scrub with the odd, faint hints of a trail. We kept on bush-bashing and eventually ended up on a ridge but got stuck at about 4400m alt.
With 2PM on the clock, 1100 altimeters to go and the realization of having taken probably the wrong trail, we decided to have lunch and enjoy the view. We wouldn’t have seen K2 anyway since it was getting overcast, so we had a solid excuse to go down.
Depsao planes and Bears
After our trek to the K2 viewpoint, which we failed hard, it was time to ride back to civilization. The school kids specially came outside to say goodbye and inspect our bikes for the last time before we leave. A proper inspection before starting a long trip is always smart, and these kids did a great job!
On the way from Skardu to Deosai we got treated with some spectacular views of the sun piercing through the dense mountain clouds.
Deosai National Park & high altitude alpine plane is located at about 4120m and considered as the second highest plateau in the world. “Deosai” means “Land of the Giants” in Urdu, which is very suitable since it’s surrounded by giant mountains. Rivers and swamps divide the lush grass of beautiful planes and host several animals like hairy buffalos, marmots, eagles and brown bears.
After a good day of riding, we set up our tents on the planes and enjoy the spectacular views.
At +4000 meters it tends to get cold at night so we decided to make a “campfire”. Since we were above the tree line we made a campfire with our petrol stoves, which worked wonderful.
That evening we even spotted a brown bear!
Although it looked more like a cow some said…Anyway it was hairy, big and brown.
Killer Mountain, killer migraine
We left Deosai without bear scratches and rode towards the Nanga Parbat, or better known as “killer mountain”. With 8126m it is the 9th highest mountain in the world and “bloody huge!”.
It got her nickname due to a high number of climbing fatalities. This mainly because of the very unstable weather around the peak.
We planned to go to the Fairy Meadows viewpoint and camp there. It should be extremely stunning they say. How to reach it? First take a 1,5 to 2 hours 4×4 ride in the oldest Toyota land cruiser mankind knows. This on a very steep and in bad condition 4×4 track with a huge cliff along your side. If you didn’t vomit and are still hungry, have a quick snack and start your 3-hour hike to the viewpoint. Sounds like something pretty exciting and fun thing to do in normal conditions but not with migraine….
At that time I was suffering already for two days from some kind of heavy headache which eventually evolved to migraine. It wasn’t from altitude sickness since we stayed couple of days before on 4000+ meters without issues and now we were on lower altitudes. No single painkiller was working: codeine, paracetamol, ibuprofen, “the whole mix together”. I felt that the Killer Mountain was making a new casualty…
Arriving at the Fairy Meadows I was completely exhausted, set up my tent and went to bed at 15:00. I didn’t even have the courage to enjoy the views. later that afternoon I started vomiting, seeing black spots, tunnel vision, hyper sensitivity of light & sound and even moving my eyes felt like someone was trying to squeeze out my eyeballs. It will become a very, very long night!
I woke up a little bit better, still had a very bad headache but was able to function (slowly). During the night there were several people at a campfire keeping me up. They were laughing, playing music and having fun. On another day, I would have joined them but now, I would have killed them for this torture.
Eventually, I was able to have some breakfast and even take two pictures of Nanga Parbat! It didn’t kill me after all… I went to bed again in an effort to get some more rest and digest the food. Around 14:00 my friends woke me up and said it was time to go back down. Taking the last Codeine, paracetamol and combining all my courage, I slowly started the decent. 12 hours later in the valley, the migraine was almost completely gone and replaced with a smile on my face. First time migraine and hopefully the last time…
Ready again to continue my trip!