Fairy Meadows, Tato, Raikot bridge (Pick up the 4×4’s), Gonar Farm, Jalipur, Jaglot, Gilgit.
5th July 2000
Route: The gravel track from Tato to Raikot bridge takes a good two hours of fourwheeling.The KKH crosses the river at Raikot bridge. Several kilometers north of Jaglot is the confluence of the Indus and Gilgit rivers, here 38 kilometers from Gilgit, the KKH leaves the Indus and branches along the West Bank of the Gilgit river. The Skardu road crosses the Gilgit river here. A sign marks this place as a ‘unique spot’, at the confluence of 2 rivers and 3 mountain systems. A further 20 kilometers along the KKH is another ‘unique spot’; marked by a memorial raised by the NLI in 1997 to indicate the place where in 1852 the ‘Dards’ ambushed and annihilated the Sikh garrison of Bunji Fort.
The KKH continues through another police check post, before turning north shortly before the confluence of the Gilgit and Hunza rivers. The KKH crosses the river on a long suspension bridge, and proceeds north for Hunza and China, whilst the left fork enters Gilgit through its eastern suburb of jutial.
The locals had arranged a polo match for us in the morning. The local teams were playing against each other for the fun of the sport. The horse riders are very skilled as they charge the ball at full gallop. We watched them in awe as they entertained us with their skills and horsemanship.
The walk back from Fairy Meadows to Tato did not seem as strenuous as the way up, though some of the folk still went back on horseback. We had breakfast at the camp dinning room and after the luggage had been distributed amongst the porters who would lug it back to Tato we started our walk back. Fairy Meadows is a big clearing that is surrounded by thick forest. It is perhaps amongst the most scenic and magical beauty spots of Pakistan. I have thoroughly enjoyed its beauty during my stay.. The walk back to Tato leads you through the fields and then down a steep zigzagging path from the top of the ridge, with the Riakot glacier in front. The path broadens as the glacier approaches and then takes a ‘U’ turn towards the Tato. The valley narrows before Tato as the path carries on to the rest area where we had lunch. The locals knew that we were returning back today and there were some patients waiting for me to see. The jeeps had arrived and our luggage was loaded on to them while we had lunch.
The drive to Riakot was exciting, you can see the KKH from the gravel track as you drive down it appears as a small black pencil line drawn on the edge of the mountain below with the muddy river flowing next to it. It is all down hill from Tato and it takes an hour and a half to the bridge. We packed all the gear back onto our vehicles and started the second leg of our journey to Gilgit. The weather was hot down near the base of the valley it was about 5.30 in the evening when we started to roll towards Gilgit. The traveling time to Gilgit from Riakot is about two hours. The KKH crosses to the left of the river here at Riakot, and as we crossed the bridge, Hamid came on the walky talky to inform us that his Bronco was not changing gears. We quickly assessed the damage to be a snapped cable, which shifts the gear levers. This could not be changed here, as we did not carry a spare cable. It was decided that Khalid would toe Hamid to Gilgit and we would have it repaired the next morning.
The KKH seems like a highway after the drive down from Tato. We had to cross a temporary bridge, you come across many on the KKH. There was a military FJ40 Toyota parked to the left on the road, the driver flagged me as I drove past him. I stopped to inquire, he explained that the battery of the vehicle had discharged and he was without lights. It was dark by now and the road had too many sharp bends on this stretch for him to negotiate without lights. He was asking for help. I had to drive behind him and show him the road with my beams while he drove up ahead. It was about forty-km to Gilgit from here and we drove in total darkness except for my front beams. It was a scary experience for me, I suppose the Army drivers are used to all sorts of conditions here. As the lights of Gilgit appeared in the distance I sighed a breath of relief. I was glad we had reached safely. All during this time my companions who were following behind me could not understand why I would not overtake the Army jeep, they were all hungry and cursing me for driving at such a slow pace.
We reached the PTDC Gilgit motel at 10.30 p.m. and ordered dinner. Everyone had been looking forward to this break in the journey. Rest. Was on everyone’s mind.