Islamabad - Mountains have an irresistible charm and once you become fond of visiting the beautiful mountainous regions in the north of Pakistan, there is nothing that can replace their pull and attraction.

The moment you enter the GB region, you are awestruck by the scenic beauty of the area. It’s a whole new world. Mighty mountains and the Indus River, that never leave your side, the vibrant blue sky and cotton candy clouds complementing and completing the scenery that is simply breathtaking.

You’ll see a lot of travellers, trekkers, tourists, foreign mountaineers, photographers and documentary makers, who are all there to enjoy and capture the beauty in their minds or gadgets, one way or the other but one can never do justice to how beautiful and outworldly that place is. Pictures and words can never describe the magical feel those places contain.

Travelling is an expensive hobby and even a greater challenge for the girls of our society. Specially travelling to such remote areas where there are no phone signals while natural disasters like floods, land sliding and road blockage are rampant due to heavy rains and snowfalls. Families are hesitant to travel to these areas, let alone to send their kids on their own.

However, the best possible way for beginners and girls is to travel in groups, as it’s always safe to travel with a bunch of friends.

People always prefer taking the Babusar route to enter the GB region, since the other one, i.e. Bisham, doesn’t offer smooth roads or the scenic views rather takes you to the long (exceeding 100-km) of a dry patch of Chillas. Chillas is the hottest region of the GB. It’s barren with not even a single tree in sight for hours, the colour of mountains is black and the water is muddy and it’s just the blue sky that lets you survive through the journey but that too is corrupted because of scorching sun. Even the people of Chillas are known to be very short-tempered and this region in GB is noticeable for sectarian violence from time to time in recent past.

Whereas if you enter through Babusar, it offers you giant green fields with streams flowing like a dream map. When you reach Babusar top, you can see the beautiful valleys surrounding the area, the area is covered with snow till mid-June. So, if you travel in the timeframe of Nov-June then you’ll have to travel via Bisham route, which is spread over 200-km. The Babusar route includes only about 52-km patch of Chillas.

Chillas ends at Raikot Bridge, with a dangerous and tumultuous track leading to fairy meadows. The next diversion when you‘re on KKH stretches Astore, which leads you to Skardu, Deosai, Shigar and Khaplu and the last diversion of KKH is Jaglot; the meeting point of world’s three biggest mountain ranges; Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindukush with River Kabul and Indus converging at one point. Jaglot is the point where from one moves ahead to Gilgit and Hunza and ends up at Khunjerab Pass.

Khunjerab Pass having an elevation of 4,693 meters is the highest paved international border crossing in the world and the highest point on the Karakoram Highway. Its name is derived from Wakhi — ‘Khun’ means home and ‘Jerav’ means spring water/water falling.

Although the DCO of Astore region, Rahman Shah, while sharing the local and historical stories also told us that Khunjeraa was the original name of the place which has now been transformed into Khunjerab and it was named as such because of the difficult terrain it contained before KKH was made and people used to pass through the mountain for barter trade. When they would climb the mountain and reach the other side, their socks would be soaked in the blood flowing from their feet and so the place was named as Khoon (blood) – Jerab (socks).

The GB has its own governor but mostly the affairs are mended and run under the domain of Prince Agha Khan. The people strongly believe in works to be done through community participation, they help each other in the times of need and even respect people coming here from other regions.

The people of GB demand that not just the beauty of their region but their loyalties and sacrifices to this soil should also be recognised and acknowledged.  It’s time they should be given official status of a province, any locals I met in the region told me. They say that Pakistan should own them as much as it owns K2, world’s highest peaks, plateaus, cold desert, rare minerals and fruits, games and festivals and rare breed of animals which is fast becoming extinct. They are all Pakistan’s and so is the blood flowing in the veins of Baltis, locals say. 

There’s so much to see, feel and hear out there in those beautiful valleys: the rich history and amusing stories; the heartbreaking tales of sacrifice and bravery; the beautiful faces and eyes that speak without words; and mesmerising clouds and winds. It’s all-out there waiting for us.

—The writer is a freelance contributor.