The northern areas of Pakistan, located in the Himalayan Mountains, has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  I had never been there as these areas were very difficult to access while I was growing up. So, when my brother Rafiq said that he was going there for some work I jumped on the chance to accompany him. He was going to be working in Gilgit and I could go further (another 2 hours by road) to Hunza. In my biography I have mentioned that when we first came to Rawalpindi we stayed at the house of the King of Hunza and picked on the princes. Well, the king has passed away and the Prince Ghazanfar is now the king (called Mir) of Hunza.

I took a bus from Lahore to Islamabad on February 16th. It started raining that morning. but I hoped it would stop soon. It rained all the way to Islamabad. I left Lahore at 9 am and arrived in Islamabad around 1:30 pm and visited some old family friends. Then one of them dropped me off at the Margalla Hotel, where Rafiq had just checked in after arriving from a training he had conducted in Peshawar. The next morning we knew there were no flights flying to Gilgit/Hunza as it had not stopped raining for one moment. Rafiq called up the guy who was going with us. He said that he had made some calls and that the roads were open so he was coming over with a Toyota Land Cruiser. We left Islamabad around 8:30 am. There were 6 of us guys in the Land Cruiser. On the way we saw buses from Gilgit, which was encouraging as it meant that the road was open. It never stopped raining for one moment so I was limited to taking photos and some videos from within the car. We stopped in Bisham (which is about halfway) for lunch. Just as we were leaving Bisham, we ran into a van that was coming from the north. We asked their driver how the road was and he said he was only coming from a short distance away, but that he had heard that the road was blocked up ahead. We went to an FWO (Frontier Works Organization, which maintains the roads) office and had them call ahead to find out the condition of the road. Sure enough, the road had gotten blocked by falling rocks at about 8 in the morning. That's why the buses from Gilgit had made it through as the road was still ok when they were going through in the night.

FWO was not planning to send out a crew until the next morning (maybe not even then as they might wait until the rains stopped) to clear the road so we decided to turn back. On the way back, we saw many rocks on the road, but they were not enough to block the road. Then there was a huge fallen tree that was blocking the road. Four of us, including me, got out in the rain and tried to pull the fallen tree to one side but we couldn't do it. So we started breaking off branches and then we held the rest of the branches back enough so that the Toyota could pass. Of course we were soaked. After about another hour of driving in the dark and lashing rain we came across another fallen tree. This one was so huge that we didn't even try to get out to move it. A villager came up to our car and said that about a mile back there was a small road that circled around and met up with the main road up ahead. He volunteered to go with us if we would drop him back on the other side of the fallen tree. The little road turned out to be under construction with mounds of gravel, stones etc lying on it. Fortunately the Land Cruiser was able to go through, around and over all obstacles and we made it back to the main road. We dropped the villager back at the fallen tree and gave him Rs.100 for we would never have found the road or the way around to the main road as there were so many off-shoots off that road and he had to guide us as to which turns to take.

We finally made it back to Islamabad around 10 pm at the Margalla Hotel. Rafiq went straight to bed while I ordered some soup as I wanted something warm in my belly. The next day, due to continuing rain, flights had been cancelled to Lahore so we took a bus back.
Later we read about the devastation that had been caused by the rain all across the country, killing 29 people. Even a week later that there were 700 people stranded in the northern areas so our decision to turn back was a wise one.

After seeing the road and the scenery (even in constant rain) I am determined to go to Gilgit/Hunza some day by road and not by plane.

Our trusty Land Cruiser
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Scenery along the way
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The rest are stills from the video so are not very good quality.


Karakoram Highway, also known as the "Silk Road" because of its link with China
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A river snaked its way along the road for most of the way
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We ran into some think fog
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Passing through little towns along the way
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A scene at Bisham. This is where we turned around
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On the way back we saw fallen rocks
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Hanging bridge built by the Chinese
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View from bridge
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First fallen tree on the road. We managed to break and pull back the branches to get past it
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This tree was too big and solid to try to move. We were very lucky when a villager helped us get around it
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