Day 26: Gilgit to Besham

Gilgit, Jaglot, Talechi, Jalipur, Gonar Farm. Chilas, Thor,, Dudisbal, Sazin, Kotgala, Dasu, Pattan, Chaka, Besham.

19th July 2000


Gilgit to Besham is a long drive, the road is in very good condition and one can cover a great deal of distance in good time. We left Gilgit at one in the afternoon, which was very late. Trying to get everyone to move is a big effort, someone or the other is in the process of getting ready. The drive to Besham will be tough, as it will most certainly get dark, I hate driving in the dark on these mountain roads. The last time we were here, driving at night was disastrous, Rizwan had toppled the Potohar near Gilgit in the flash flood that had washed away the road. Hopefully there will be no such disasters on this trip. We had to spend the night drenched and all cuddled up in a coaster. The jeep had been too cramped for us to sleep in.

We all filled the fuel tanks from the PSO pump at the main market in Gilgit, and bought the last minute munchies from the bakery. By the time we were on the road towards Chilas it was one thirty in the afternoon. The outside temperature was 46 degrees, which is hot. The drive from Gilgit to Chilas is through the barren mountain waste of the Karakoram range. The baked rocks that make up the mountain range heat up in the direct rays of the sun and act like an oven as the sun shines on their surface. The temperature of the valley increases by the minutes as the day progresses. Chilas is therefore extremely hot in the summer. There is hardly any greenery on the way except along the side of the nallahs that rush down along the side valleys to meet the main river. We reached Chilas in good time, it was Amjad who was driving at a good speed dragging us along with him. The road is in very good condition and after driving on it for a while one tends to misjudge the speed of the vehicle as it takes the curves along the way. The speed of the vehicle is deceiving as one gets used to it after driving constantly for hours and the brakes should be in very good order before embarking on any trip in the mountains. While taking a sharp bend on one occasion I almost went head on into a truck that was coming down a slope, he had seen me but I hadn’t, it was Susan who shouted ’ Tony! ’ to alert me and I swerved just in time to avoid a head on collision.

Hamid was again lagging behind and it is getting dark by the minute. I had to stop to put the plastic sheet on the roof rack, as there was thunder and lightening up ahead. It started to drizzle as I pulled the cord to tighten the sheet. Driving in these conditions is difficult and tense, as there are rocks on the road as an aftermath of the earthquake a couple of days ago, one has to watch out for them as they suddenly come into view in the head light of the vehicle. It was totally dark now and the only light on the road was from the beams of the 4×4. The drive was tense, spooky and scary. Amjad had also raced away in front though he was still within radio distance. The mountains appeared like black shadows as the lightening breaks out in the distance. It was an awesome sight, The split second of lightening makes the mountains look like huge scary figures, as if on the move. The drizzle got heavy and then stopped, we passed Pattan by eight at night and reached the Besham PTDC by 9:30 P.m. Hamid and the boys reached the motel at eleven, they were all exhausted. It requires a lot of concentration to drive at night in these mountains and the strain tells on you after a while. We had already ordered food for them. It was laid out as soon as they were ready. It was past twelve when we retired for bed. The PTDC staff is very considerate at Besham, they were extraordinarily helpful.

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