Day 23: Phunder to Shandur

Fishing trip to Teru. Anika’s Birthday.

16th July 2000

Route: The Jeep track continues through Teru (22 kilometers) at 3,065 meters, and Barsat (3,353 meters), the final settlement in the district, before entering a beautiful glen. The camping siteshere at Langar are superb, with fresh springs, a trout stocked river, and a lush green meadows set in a natural amphitheater of snow capped peaks.

Travelogue:

The packing for the fishing trip was done in the night so that we would not waste any time in the morning. We were ready by 6 am, Taimur was not feeling up to it and was unfit to accompany us, Sikander and myself, drove down to the school where the rest of the party had been lodged. Hamid and Amjad were all ready and we were waiting for the guide who was late in arriving. We finally head out towards Teru by 6.30am, all cramped in the Toyota Hilux. Shamu and Nabeel had also joined the merry band of fishermen. The drive out of Phander is along the river that runs to the right of the road. The condition of the road is not very good, it is narrow and rough. We drive through numerous small settlements and the valley broadens out after a while. The river divides into many tributaries, which join each other as they flow through the valley. The road then climbs to the right and climbs at a fair tangent. The river appears as a small stream down below amongst the green fields of the valley. The water shimmers in the sunlight making it look silvery. The road carries along the mountainside till it comes to a clearing and narrows down to a rough track.

Up ahead is a donkey fully loaded with dung waiting for us to pass so that he can carry his load in peace, but the road is not broad enough for both, the 4×4 and the donkey? The driver sensing that the donkey might try to run up the slope and slip pulled the vehicle up to the left as close to the edge as possible and stopped. The donkey barely managed to cross but the driver would not make a move, he was sure that the road had given way under the weight of the vehicle and that if he made a move the rocks holding the road would give way. He said that the road had sunk in towards the left front tire. We all got down to inspect except Amjad, Hamid was of the opinion that there is no problem and that if the driver just starts the vehicle and drives on there was nothing to worry about. The driver was still adamant that the road had given way under the weight of the vehicle. We all felt that driving on should be given a try as no loose rock had fallen as yet. As soon as the driver started the engine and the vehicle inched backwards the front left side of the road holding the vehicle gave way. The rocks supporting the road started to tumble down the mountainside, the vehicle dipped towards the left side and came to a rest when the differential hit the ground. ? Amjad was still sitting on the passenger side of the Hilux, I had to shout to get him out. Once outside he took a sigh of relief as the gravity of the situation sunk in. The front tire of the vehicle was hanging suspended in midair and the vehicle was resting on the left corner of the front differential. We now had the task of somehow getting the vehicle on the road. How were we going to pull it up on to the road? We would need tow ropes, a crow bar and a lot of manpower. The locals were very helpful, they brought ropes and thick branches of trees and themselves. The old Baba with the weather beaten face was the most intelligent, he advised us that any movement would make the road more unsafe as the supporting rocks would one by one loosen and fall so whatever our plan the vehicle should be pulled up in one or two goes. We tied the rope made of animal hair, as it looked the most sturdiest to the front bumper and lodged the crowbar under the differential. The idea was that one group would lift the vehicle with the crowbar acting on a fulcrum while the other dragged it to the right and onto the road. It took two goes with the youngsters lifting the vehicle and the mature pulling it on to the road. It was pure horse/ man power that we managed to bring out in ourselves which did the trick otherwise we would have had to abandon the fishing trip and would have had to walk back, but then we all are seasoned campaigners in adventures of such sorts and giving up is not in our books. As we drove on towards the fishing grounds Hamid swore that he would never drive close to the edge as he had done so many times before in fact he would risk scrapping the sides of the Bronco rather than coming close to the edge of the road.

We reached the fishing grounds by 9:30am, The Shandur pass is just ten km from here and one can see the snow on the mountains of the pass which is above 12000 ft. It is famous for the polo tournament that is held every year between the teams of Gilgit and Chitral. The plateau where we were fishing is also above 10000ft, it is a vast wasteland of grass and peat. The weather is chilly to say the least, even though it was bright and sunny, ideal weather for fishing. I picked up the fishing rod and secured the spinner. The biscuit packet and the toffees all packed in the green waterproof bag, which hooks on to the belt, I set off with the guide. It was Salman who got the first bite, and it was a good-sized trout too, I knew it would be a good day for us today. We all split up along the river. I followed the guide as he trekked through the stream, which ranged from being knee deep to waist deep in places. The water was cool and one could see the bed of the stream easily as the crystal clear water skipped over the pebbles. The guide kept on walking through the peat and grass towards the main river channel and kept on hooking trouts to my amazement. It was a while before I got the hang of casting in these waters. Once I was comfortable with the method it would soon pay dividends. Everyone was tired by four in the afternoon but I wouldn’t stop, we fished the whole day in the streams and by the evening when it was time to head back we had landed eighty eight trout amongst the four of us. A very good days fishing, the weather had held out for us and the surroundings landscape was also very picturesque. The sight of the mountains and the pass in the distance with the flat green planes, the gravel road and the many shallow flowing streams, which interlace with each other to make the bulk of the river, have made an ever lasting impression in my mind. We started to head back towards Phander and by sixthirty p.m. were at the hotel. Taimur and Susan were sitting on the front porch looking exhausted. The poor guys had had the runs and had been to the loo umpteen times, by the evening they were extremely drained out of energy, and collapsing.

Anika had celebrated her birthday in style, the cake was delicious and she belongs to the elite few who had celebrated birthdays above the height of 3000 meters.

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