The road from Chilas onwards is far better than the previous road. We reached Raikot Bridge in 3 hours from Chilas. From Raikot Bridge, you can hire a Jeep (if not driving 4x4) to go to Fairy Meadows which is a beautiful grassland on high altitude plus in this area there is base camp for Nanga Parbat (Word Origin: Sanskrit means Naked Mountain).
Nanga Parbat: Another 8-Thousander But a Deadly One:
It’s one of the “eight-thousanders” and very difficult to climb. Other nickname is “Killer Mountain” ). We were planning to go there in later part of the trip so we kept moving straight on Karakoram Highway until we reached a point known as Nanga Parbat view point. From Raikot Bridge, it's hardly 8-9 kms. When surrounded by mountains all over like I was and confused, it's better to check with locals which one is actual Nanga Parbat.
Two options for Skardu
There are two approaches to Skardu one can take. One is through Astore Valley, and other is through the main route of Skardu after crossing Gilgit River bridge. The first route is open for a few months in a year while later is open for the whole year. Also, if you want to travel through Astore Valley, it is better if you have a 4x4 vehicle. Cars can’t use this way.As we were travelling by car so we kept on moving straight on KKH to use proper Skardu route. After reaching Jaglot, we had tea break, stopped at 3M (3 Mountains) point. It is a unique point which is a junction of 3 mightiest mountain ranges, Karakorum, Hindukash and Himalayas. Jaglot is a point from where ways of Gilgit and Skardu splits away in different directions.
Finally on Skardu Road
From Jaglot, we left at 7 pm for Skardu. Tired in fact exhausted, we planned to reach Skardu at night time. The distance was approximately 144 km but whole road was rugged. The government is constructing a new road so if you are traveling at day time, you will have to stop due to on-going work in mountains. So, travelling at night is a good option. Alongside Skardu road Indus river flows. At night, when there is calm, roar of Indus river has a frightening effect. Ideally, this route should take 5 hours but now due to road conditions it takes 7-8 hours to reach Skardu.
The environment inside car cabin changed dramatically. Rizwan has started swearing after every normal conversation. Touqir started discussing tragedies of his life. Yasir and I were mostly listeners but we were fed up too. "Does it really worth it?" This was the question we were asking ourselves. Whenever, we saw the lights of far away villages, we wished its of Skardu. But all in vain.
After 7 hours which means at 2 am, we reached in kachura town. It’s a small village in the outskirts of Skardu (35 km away). Weather in kachura was chilly and we were shivering with cold as we were in shorts at the time we reached. I guess it was a blessing especially when you are coming from a city where the temperature was 40 degrees celsius plus.
Kachura and its lakes
Kachura is though a small town but it’s famous for its lakes. Upper Kachora lake and lower kachura lake (also known as Shangrila lake). I didn’t get a chance to visit upper kachura lake but was really amused with the history of Shangrila (Tibetan word, meaning heaven on earth) Lake. There is a little tale in this name which I am sharing with you.
Brief History of Shangrila
Almost, all of us know James Hilton (Author of Good Bye Mr. Chips) due to his short story which we read in our intermediate syllabus. He wrote another novel named "Lost Horizon." In this novel, he wrote about a plane crash, and survivors were met with some Bhudist monks who took them to a place which was beautiful and appealing to eyes with incredible flora and fauna. Shangrila (heaven on earth) was the name of that place. Late Brig. M Aslam built Shangrila resort. Accommodation for tourists is available in this resort. Although we didn’t stay here but had a dinner in the resort's restaurants which was an absolute pleasure due to Scrumptious food and mouth watering Trout Fish. Entering into resorts requires a fee of 500 rupees per person.