12. apr. 2010

Pakistan - Baba Ghundi, Rawalpindi,...


If you want to fly the Himalayas in Pakistan the best place is Kharakorum and the best time to be there is summer. We arrived in Karimabad at the beginning of October and just missed the pioneers who recently began flying in this huge resort of high mountains.

Karakorum highway

We checked the area, listened to the stories of locals and tried to imagine 6000-7000 m high flights. Mountains in Hunza valley like walls surround Karimabad, which itself is at high altitude already. Rakaposhi (7788m), the golden peak to the east, Lady Finger and Ultar II (7388m) just above the Karimabad.

A Herd of Yak in front of Pamir mountains

Alam Jan from Chapursan Valley on the border with Afghanistan told us about XC flights which matched the stories we read in XC-magazine. It is easy to read an article at home but when you make a trek along the same valleys those flights become even more incredible.

Karimabad - Hunza valley – Rakaposhi at the end of the valley

As we spoke to John S. he explained that flying at such altitudes is a huge effort, that you must put in. You take off in the morning, climb the difference of at least 4000 m and fly for 5 -7 hours in not-really-smooth conditions! You have to take a rest after a few days as you quickly become totally exhausted. Flying at 6000 -7000m above sea level, you do not really realize the altitude as you fly so high along the ridges, still relatively close to the terrain.

Left peak is Ultar II (7388m) in the evening light

Bad weather was the reason we did not fly in Karimabad but we would like to return one day to the pure mountain ridges of Karakorum and Himalaya.

An overnight bus drove us down the Kharakorum highway through Gilgit and toward Islamabad. The ride was awful, crazy and exciting at once. We had to stop many times due to checking controls. It was night and we rode in a convoy together with others. Army officers were hanging around, smiling, carrying their weapons, which looked serious enough.

Polo and honoured guests on Baba Ghundi festival in Chapursan valley near the Afgan border

We quietly waited in the bus until we moved on. You could feel tension in the air while driving close to the Pakistan - Afghanistan border. Our imaginations thinking too much about the men with long dark beards you see on TV, and the bumpy road, did not allow us to sleep much that night.

From Sost to Karimabad on the Karakorum highway

It was early afternoon as we arrived in Rawalpindi. Our taxi driver did not want to take us to the meeting point. We were tired and not willing to fight with anyone but we had to struggle to go to the place. It's impossible. Just two hours earlier there was a terrorist attack on the Pakistan security center, the streets were blocked and no-one permitted to go close to the area... where our meeting point was. After one hour we finally reached our hosts, who kindly invited us to lunch in the peaceful garden, only 500 m away from the place of attack. During the meal we could hear the bombing and shooting, but we felt safe as we had a few guards taking care around the property.

A huge blast woke us up the next morning, which meant the end of the police action; terrorists captured and hostages saved. Terrorist attacks and violence in Pakistan are happening daily and people are used to it. So... life goes on.

Two hours away from Rawalpindi you can take off and try to fly to Pakistani Kashmir

We met another local pilot who joined us flying on the paragliding spot who'd also driven two hours from Rawalpindi. The conditions were perfect for flying short XC flights, but it is possible to fly long distance up to Pakistan-Kashmir, which counts for approx. 180 km. We enjoyed flying a few times in the company of police and army helicopters, who's corridor is just above the take off.

Pakistanis waiting for Sasa at the landing

The wonderful landing field lies beside the lake and an ancient castle accompanied by locals and fisherman's families; you would have never thought you were in Pakistan; calm, peaceful, sunny day; simply beautiful nature and just great people.

Chapursan valley on the top end of Karakorum Highway

We loved it – still pure and untouched Pakistan.

AsiaTmin - Sasa&Tadej

Sponsored by UP

Edited by Dave Lewis dave@skylarkparagliding.co.uk

In the event of Sasa making it big as a result of this article, then a heafty chunk of the royalties, and a nice sandwich are immediately payable.

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