The KKH Part V: A slow boat to Passu.

The next stop on my way to the Chinese border crossing at Khunjerab Pass was the small village of Passu – once a major starting point for glacier trekking. In theory, Karimabad to Passu was only about 50km. But this was somewhat complicated by the fact that part of the trip would have to be made by boat.

Ever since the massive landslide of 2010 formed the new lake near Attabad, a 20 km stretch of the KKH has been under water. To overcome this minor logistical problem a thriving trading boat industry has flourished some 3000m up in the mountains.

The spillway of the lake is only about 20 km from Karimabad and the road was what the locals “jeep track” – in other words, more of the same. But the last 2km to the water’s edge was like nothing that I had ever encountered before.

A freshly made road – a nightmare of thick, loose soil

A freshly made road – a nightmare of thick, loose soil

The “road” was being remade from soft, loose loam as I sat and watched. I paddled my way to the “loading cliff” only to be told to go to another inlet where they would attempt to load my bike onto a boat. The bike had to abseil about 10-15m down a loose, rubbly embankment at the end of a very tired looking length of rope. It was hard enough keeping my own footing but eventually the porters got the bike down to the boat and then across a narrow plank on to the bow of the boat. The bike was lashed down half-heartedly and, after loading another small bike, we returned to the “loading cliff” to fill up the hold with as many passengers and as much cargo as the skipper thought he could carry.

Safely on board at last

Safely on board at last

Overloaded to his satisfaction, the skipper fired up the two single-cylinder diesels that would provide a non-stop unmuffled clatter in stereo for the next 90min. And so, we were on our way to Passu. The little boat continued to clatter its way upstream between spectacular scenery on both sides – stunning mountain peaks, sharp ravines and massive landslides.

Stuck in the mud at Hussaini – many hands make light work

Stuck in the mud at Hussaini – many hands make light work

Finally we pulled in to the port at Hussaini and, after some negotiation with the local wharfies, the bike was unloaded without too much trouble and I was back on two wheels again. Hussaini to Passu was only about 10-15km and, after clearing the makeshift road along the lake’s edge, the final stretch to Passu was easy going.In Passu, I had been advised to contact the Glacier Breeze Restaurant about possible accommodation. As I pulled in to the parking area of the Glacier Breeze I was greeted by the sight of the last thing that I would have expected to see in remote mountainous regions of Northern Pakistan.

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Categories: 03. Pakistan | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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