Why the first step is the hardest? Skardu is the starting point of the first day of driving, which is also the day when perhaps a person in the lead role is me who gets scolded the most, because it’s never been the first day that brought the whole group into such a terrible race. like this.
We pick up the car at Gilgit, the center of the whole Gilgit-Batilstan region, from Gilgit there are many different directions. Unlike the plains when an area can have many directions to many other regions and provinces, in the mountains, creating a connection between this region and the other will be almost through a mountain range, with many hills, making roads and creating links and trade is really difficult.
Gilgit is almost the starting point of the famous Karakoram highway, going north to Hunza, to the west bank, through the Shandur pass is the Chitral valley of the Khyber Pashtun people (with a mixture of Afghans). , and to the east is the direction of Skardu, the capital of Baltistan, accounting for half the population of the whole Gilgit-Baltistan.
The 167km long road connecting Gilgit to Skardu, is almost the only way to bring the Biltistan people out with civilization, that’s why it is called the S-1 road. Since the 80s, the road has not been improved, rock slides, floods are frequent phenomena. There have been many cases of trucks, passenger vehicles and goods falling off the road into the Indus River, which flows along a ravine deep in the Karakoram range.
Although I have researched and read about this road to prepare myself, however, when the sun shines from the hostel where we stay in Gilgit, climbing on the corrugated iron roof will immediately see the snowy peaks in the distance. After 2 days of traveling with the heat from Islamabad up here, perhaps, these early morning caressed cool sensations soon took us out of the thought of the upcoming journey, one by one climbing the corrugated iron roof. and take pictures with the distant mountains like a child.
Going down the N-35 route to Islamabad, the S-1 road gradually appeared, the first 30km was a trick, the road was wide, open, quite comfortable with quality asphalt, fragrant and new. It felt like the information was read a few years ago and now the road has been renovated.
But no, the initial advantages are just the tip of an iceberg, after the paved route, is dirt and dust, for the next hundred kilometers. Not only that, but a series of works are being carried out on this route with a bunch of cranes, excavators, and drilling and chisels. I remember no less than 5 times, we had to stop and wait for 15-30 minutes for a drilling mission to settle down, and public vehicles to move to allow circulation on both sides.
The saloon coaster that I rented carried the group in Islamabad slowly that day, it should have been called a delayed coaster, always playing a role in making a car to close the group. But being able to drive this big car to Skardu, is also a miracle of the driver. Near 7:00 pm, the sign reads the end of Indus, that’s when we realized that Skardu was coming, a tiring day of the whole journey was rewarded with birch trees blooming in autumn to welcome us all, but It was too dark to feel at all. The first day was just that, however, everyone was eager for the days to come, when all were now settled in Skardu’s heart.
Some interesting information:
– Skardu can go through Kargil (in Ladakh) on the other side of India, but this route is only allowed by indigenous people. Since 1949, the division of India and Pakistan has created an invisible LoC (line of control) separating this region, making it impossible for many people living in Skardu or Kargil to visit relatives on the other side. other, instead of just traveling 150km, they have to travel 2670km (Kargil – Delhi -Islamabad – Skardu) to meet relatives.
Recently, the political situation seems to have eased, so this route has opened a gate and permits for indigenous people to cross from India or Pakistan. (This is also quite similar to the Hunza region where Hunza people can cross from China to the capital Urumqi of Xinjiang state without a visa).
– In 2 years of the Covid 19 epidemic, now the road quality in Skardu has been completed, all the reforms and reinnovate have been completed, you are completely free to plan a road trip to Skardu without worrying about too much delay. .
– In addition to traveling by land, flying is also another way to get to Skardu, however flights are only operated by PIA and are quite often canceled due to weather.