The Wild West of Skard-u

The next morning saw us head towards Skardu, after a jump-start from the noise-makers. 


We stopped briefly at a chai stand for an informative and friendly chat with a family from Karachi.  We swapped conspiracy stories about 9/11 and discussed Zeitgeist.  They answered the marmot question- this was a National Park for bears.  Bears like trout.  And marmots.


We photographed the bridge that was featured on all tourist posters across Pakistan, and were pleased we had made it. 


At Satpara Lake we ate fish and chips courtesy of Peter.  It was excellent, and made up for not catching any. They were damming the lake.  Jack looked pleased. 

The roads around Skardu were a bit scary, even with our now frankly vast experience of road conditions.  We went through a river, and then wound round mountains, stuck to the side like those things that slide down windows…

Yaqoob miraculously squeezed us through tiny gaps between the heaving great trucks. 

We saw one truck inch its way metre by metre- every 5 metres a lad would have to jump out the cabin and put rocks under the back wheels so it couldn’t fall backwards.

It was a very slow journey to Skardu.  The views were amazing, but the petrol leaking out of the fuel tap was starting to make me feel very ill indeed.  I had forgotten I got car-sick.  (There isn’t really time to get motorbike-sick, luckily.  I swore only ever to travel by motorbike from then on. )

Skardu felt like the old Wild West from the films, except a conservative Shi’te Muslim one. It felt lawless and very lawed at the same time, and I only saw three women.  They were colourful and beautiful and proud, all with their hair covered.

We made it to the dusty old hotel, and spent a pleasant evening watching Extreme Adventure Trawling and Orange County Choppers on the cable TV.  By this point in time, that was precisely the level of intelligence my brain could cope with, and I was thrilled.  

We all sat out on the balcony as well, discussing the possibly full moon.  The Imams determine the start of Ramadan by the full moon, so it was nearing Ramadan time. (I gleaned this nugget of knowledge from Peter, but I think its safe to assume its true in this instance.)  We also discussed the merits of doughnuts, and the horrendous state of the electricity pole, which seemed to be being strangled.  We were all tired.  

Our driver was on turbo speed for the return journey, so we were back in Gilgit before you could say ‘Bloody hell mate, you’re going a bit fast…’

We went out to the local eatery famed for its Chappali kebabs (meat named after a shoe… I don’t know why…). 

The restaurant owner looked aghast as I walked in, the other diners muttered about me, and finally someone asked for me to be sent to a screened off room at the back of the restaurant, or the VIP room as we promptly renamed it.  I can only assume it was because I was female, and not that I had some horrendous revolting growth protuding from a nostril…

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