Skardu (Gilgit Baltistan) By Air or Road?
If you are planning to go to Skardu(Gilgit Baltistan) by air, it’s a good option but the problem with flights is, they are not consistent. The main reason is Skardu(Gilgit Baltistan) airport is not all-weather airport so incoming flight can go back in case the weather is not good. Same is the case with outgoing. I had no plans of going through an airplane anyway. So, it was a matter of route now.
Skardu (Gilgit Baltistan) Road Map
Normally, there are two options available for going to Skardu if you are coming from Punjab. Hazara motorway is a nice inclusion in this route. Otherwise earlier traveling by GT Road was a nightmare because of heavy and slow traffic and bad condition of the road. Hazara motorway is still under construction. But even till Havelian it is an excellent option. From Havelian it takes almost one hour to reach Abbottabad if traffic is alright. Abbottabad to Manshehra is a difficult route to travel as right now it is bearing all the traffic of Gilgit Baltistan.
From Mansehra, there are two options available to reach to GB. One is old KKH (karakoram highway) which is available in all seasons and other is through Babusar Top via Naran Valley. The later route is beautiful carpeted road with sceneries but subject to opening of Babusar Top.
And we ran out of luck this time. Babusar Top was closed due to heavy snowfall. Please bear in mind, we were travelling in June. So we had to use old pal KKH. It was a bitter pill to swallow as road is in pretty bad shape due to land sliding and slow maintenance. In 2006, Chinese and Pakistani authorities signed an MOU to upgrade KKH from 10 meters wide to 30 meters but deadline is still unclear. Our journey started at 6 pm from Rawalpindi and it took us 8 hours to reach Besham.
I’m continuously using ‘we’ but haven’t introduced you my companions. My travel buddies were Rizwan(cousin),Yasir (brother) and Touqir (mutual friend). We all are different people with different backgrounds, but passion for travel was common among us. Touqir being the eldest one was most funny and a storyteller. The likable thing about him was after seeing many hardships in life. He didn’t let his inner child die. For Rizwan, it was a heroic journey. He had his gallbladder removed last year in surgery, and also having high blood pressure and cholesterol issues. He was taking medications for it but ready to reply in first call. About me, traveling is my passion and exploring new places is something I crave for. Same is the case with Yasir. I think it runs in blood.
Karakoram Highway (8th Wonder of the World)
KKH, being one of the highest paved roads is undoubtedly eighth wonder of the world (Passing through the Karakoram range it is a marvel of engineering. Almost 1000 Pakistani and Chinese workers died while building it due to landslides and other factors. Salute). It’s a 1300-km road extending from Hassan Abdal in Punjab province and reaching all the way up to Khunjarab pass in GB from where it enters into China.
In China, it is also known as friendship highway. It was started in 1959, completed and opened for public in 1979. KKH is one of the many trade routes of ancient Silk Road. The Silk road, as many of you already know was a network of terrestrial routes which connected East and West and helped develop many nations like China, Korea, Japan and Indian Continent. Though, I am not a historian but it’s interesting to see how trade played a role in the development of human bonds and connections. A bit off topic, but if you get a chance, watch Netflix series “Marco Polo” to know more about Silk route.