Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog

Chapursan Valley-1

I'd never heard of Chapursan Valley before this trip but I bumped into a few people who'd been there and raved about the place.
For many years it's been off limits to foreigners as it goes to the Afghanistan border and with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan it became off limits for many years.
Then in 1998/99 it became an open zone and stayed that way even after the US invasion of Afghanistan....very strange indeed.


Heading up the start of the Chapursan Valley.

I was in a grim and gloomy Sust killing time in my hotel room. I was planning visit the Chapursan valley the next day but I was getting a bit weary of cycling every bleeding hill that I could lay eyes on. I sat there deliberating wether to just head straight upto the Khunjerab pass, do the Chinese border thing and then head south back to Gilgit and call it a day? But just as I was in the middle of my dilema there was a knock at my door and Fabrice the French invited himself him and took the spare bed. He was going to Chapursan the next day so that was it was I.

After 1km I hung a left into the jeep road stretching the Chapursan Valley. There two tractors were stopped and we swapped greetings, had a wee chat before I carried on.
Some 30 minutes of peddling cycling later through a wide red walled vertical canyon on a dust bowl of a road the road also became a little vertical. Things were becoming tough but I could hear the tractors behind me and planned on getting a tow as they passed, but there was nothing to grab a hold of as the chugged passed me and I pushed on to the top of the hill.
I turned the corner to find the driver of the first tractor stopped and attaching a short length of chain on the back of the trailor for me to hold onto. I took a hold and we shot up the hill

The valley around Sherisaps.

At the top of the hill the tractor pulled over and I shot off downhill and onto the next climb. Eventually the tractor would pass and I'd get another tow. Then things got a bit too hard for me to keep holding on so I let him go onwards into the distance and got used to the idea of a few hours hot and hard slog. But the tractor was waiting for me at the bottom of the next!

After many such climbs the road become easily cycleble and I wished him farewell. I felt guilty about taking his time when he had a job to do, but I was thinking like a white boy where time equals money. But here money isn't the same as in my world and giving help to your fellow man is something that is done without almost any question or reward and time is just something that passes them by.
Bare fields after harvest.

I expected the people of Chapursan to be backwards in some way. I had always envisioned that interaction between locals and tourists would always be a good thing, or at least more good than bad. I also expected that little or no English would be spoken in the valley. How wrong I was and how pleased I was to be proved wrong. It was harvest time and everyone was in the fields collecting a good crop of potatoes. The relative recent introdution of the potato that grows so well in the valley has lifted the locals out of the subsistence level and given them an extra few rupees to spend.

I was suprised to see most of the men in the fields actually wearing western clothes and I got the best welcome that I've ever had anywhere on my travels. Literally everyone waved, others stopped me for a wee chat all in good English and even one women with a child shook my hand and asked me into her house for a I still in Pakistan?
The crisp high atltitude air brings an early autumn to Chapursan.

I couldn't believe that I was in such a wonderful place and how glad I was that Fabrice knocked on room door the day before as I'm sure I would have hit the Khunjerab pass instead?
I passed through one friendly village and then headed downhill into a cool tight canyon. I'm sure it's better than the Grand Canyon?
The road winds and climbs on and the valley opens up with distant mountain views beyond Baba Ghundi.

My destination is Zhud Khun and the Pamir Serai guesthouse, better known as the welcoming house of Alam Jan Dario and his wife. Alam Jam is native to the valley and used to be a trekking guide in Skardu many kms away but now he's allowing tourist into his house and has also built a simple GH in Baba Ghundi. He's an amazing guy. He has a true love for this area and the mountains and is trying his hardest to accomodate the few tourists who pass through here. It's good to meet and see locals giving it a go like this because all to often they are pushed out of business by rich out-of-town guys looking only for the money. I and all who meet him wish him luck his task ahead....
School children with dry, cracked cheeks pose for the camera.

I reached Alam Jams traditional Hunza style house just as Frenchy Fabrice arrives dustry from his packed local jeep ride to find a Jap couple there cleaning there vast array of huge cameras, of course they've reached there by private jeep. We and a few others chat over dinner and it turns out that the Japs are handing out sweets as they go. We all try to educate them but it seems useless. It looks like the next time I come here the local kids may have changed just a little?