Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Heaven on Earth: 3 Days at Fairy Meadows

This is Part 4 of 5 of Kalash and Fairy Meadows 2012 Travelogue
To see Part 5 of 5 please click here
To see Part 3 of 5 please click here
To see Trip's itinerary and logistic cost please click here

Nanga Parbat - the world's 9th Highest Mountain
May 20, 2012
Yesterday – when we finally reached the high grounds after surviving a demanding trek – it was a bit cloudy barring us from the sight of the majestic mountain. We were tired too and were not able to think about anything but to have rest. Mercury had also going down sharply with every passing minute. On the other hand, my body temperature was going up after a long traveling stretch all the way from Kalash valley. Nadeem also looked homesick. But I was really happy, not only because we made it to the destination but also because I had passed the endurance test without disturbing the tight itinerary!

The attendant cum hotel manager of Raikot Serai (Serai = Motel in Urdu/Persian/etc) ensured us that the wooden cottage and polyester blankets would be good enough to bear the cold and that we do not need a heater. His assurance looked shallow but eventually proved not that shallow as I had a tight sleep and could not even wake up to watch the sunrise!

Early Morning Show
Ducked deep in the bed and dreaming, I heard some unfathomable voices as somebody was too excited. That was not a dream actually. In fact it was Nadeem who woke up in the wee hours to outshine the first of the sunbeams illuminating the snow clad peaks. And see for yourself why he was screaming like a freak:

First Rays of Sunshine on Nanga Parbat
Nanga Parbat is Brightening Up!
Love at First Sight
A couple of hours later I managed to break the Arinac effect and came out of the warm bed. It was when I was looking for my shoes that I realized they were already in my feet! Oops! I slept the whole night with the sketchers!

Without wasting any more time, I hastily went out of the room to have my first glance of the gigantic Nanga Parbat. Weather was clear and a pleasant sunshine brought the life back to the freezing valley. In front of me, it was a full-fledged exposure of the world’s ninth highest mountain which is nicknamed as Killer Mountain. Gawking unrestrictedly, I was wondering why people take all the climbing pain to kill themselves when only one sight is enough for the Harakiri.

For a moment, I went into complete disarray! Losing faith in my senses, I had to take recourse on the guidebook we took from Chitral’s Tourist Information Center to match the picture! And yes, it matched! The distinguishing beauty of Nanga Prbat is its seclusion as it stands alone in a lower height surrounding and rises tall from a comparatively lower base as opposed to other eight thousanders.

So here is a pictorial detail of what we saw the rest of the day:

First Sight
Forest, Glacier, Snow Peaks, and a Clear Sky!
Exposing it a Bit More
Virtual Climbing
From the 'Viewing Tower'!
The Pine Curtain
Some Basic Colors
Nanga Parbat Panorama
The Other Side of the Story
Clouds' Get Together
Black and White
May 21, 2012
Change of Weather
Today’s morning was all together different from that of yesterday. It was raining with clouds all around; some of them were even wandering around meadows below us. The valley looked smaller and younger!

Even then coming out of the bed and then fighting the cold war, i.e. going to the washroom without hot water, was not easy. Meanwhile, I observed from the window that the raindrops were getting thicker than usual although it was not raining heavily. My blunt urban sixth sense suggested me that it could be the snowfall but my other senses were not ready to believe that as the end of May was too late for that.

Snowfall in May
First I thought that it might be the window effect but the curious mind forced the lazy body outside the cottage where it was still green but not as lush as it was yesterday. Although I had been to mountains several times in winters but that had to be my first experience of watching a live snowfall! What else can you expect from a born and bred Karachite!

I Could Not Believe That!
More Evidence
Turning White
Heater in the Staff Room
From Staff Room's Window
My Beautiful Karachi (Dreaming)
End of Season Sale!
Winters in Summers
Where has the Mountain Gone!?
The flurry continued the whole day sporadically giving us more reasons to feel lucky. On the other hand, we had to abandon the idea to trek to Bayal Camp because of the already fragile trail over the glacier. Instead I took this opportunity to interact with locals, to know more about their lifestyle, and the heater loaded staff room of the hotel was the best place for that. We wanted to do bonfire in the evening but weather did not permit us. To make up for that, we played card games with the hotel staff and other locals in the warm room till midnight!

May 22, 2012
Fortunately, there was no rain when we woke up although the surrounding suggested frequent downpour the whole night. Sun was trying to peek through the breaches to warm up the valley. But soon after we were over with the breakfast and were about to visit the hydroelectric generators installed by the hotel management on nearby streams, cloud started gathering again. All of a sudden the weather changed from a partially cloudy sky to a complete whiteout!

Again the snow continued the whole day so as my conversations with hotel waiters, porters, guides, etc  who all had quite a few enthralling stories to tell. Some narrated their funny pranks they experimented with the local tourist groups! But not all of these stories were fun as Nanga Parbat’s toll of human death has been more than its fare share.

The tourist business at Fairy Meadows is controlled by a local clan of Kohistani origin people although they did not like to be called Kohistanis – maybe because of the cantankerous connotation and ruptured reputation – and insisted that they are “Shina’ speaking people instead. From conversations, I figured out that these people are not indigenous and came from the surrounding lowlands to grab the opportunity. They are conservative from the appearing but are very liberal in some aspects if one can see through the curtains, especially when it comes to doping and related taboos.

The whole valley, including the meadows and the surrounding hills are distributed and owned by this kinfolk on the basis of possession and clout. Those with the entrepreneurial instincts built guest houses and lodges while the others are also associated with the tourism business in one way or another. Writ of the government is a fiction there which is substituted by a consensus local code followed religiously but may be hard to decipher for a first time traveler.

In all, there were five major lodging facilities with varying quality of service and pricing. Pricing is very subjective and depends mainly upon one’s bargaining skills and supply demand situation. Although it is more geared towards packaged tourism but doing it independently, and without advanced booking, can also be done easily with some planning and experience sharing.

Fairy Meadows Accommodation Guide!
One of the Five Accommodations at Fairy Meadows
Raikot Serai Entrance
Cottages at Raikot Serai
We Had The Liberty To Chose One
Nanga Parbat From the Room Window
Nanga Parbat Viewing Tower at Raikot Serai
Some testimonials for Raikot Serai
Ducked in Raikot Serai's Staff Room
The Food Scene
 Food was a major problem the and was very expensive. A Chapati (local bread) can cost as much as PKR 30-50. One full, but not so lavish, meal can cost around PKR 400 – 1,000 depending upon the origin and the pickiness of the traveler!

In the evening we met a solo Singaporean traveler who was given sleeping space in the staff room, and not a cottage as the hotel was expecting a big Japanese troupe the following day, for PKR 1,000 and simple meal – Soup, Chapati, and Daal – for PKR 350.

Here I owe my friends Hasan and Nadeem for saving me from a bank default. Hasan who had already done a whirlwind visit of the fairytale meadows last year cautioned me about that and Nadeem, my travel companion, bothered to cook a couple of kilos of homemade mince and got them tinned. That helped a lot in those ‘rainy days’!

Raikot Serai's Kitchen
Food in the Making
Mudassir - Raikot Serai's Chef
Chapati Was Not Cheap There
Expensive Fire
May 23, 2012
Beginning of the End
Today was our last day at Fairy Meadows as we had to trackback to the lowlands; first to the Karakoram Highway, then to Rawalpindi, and finally to the hot and humid Karachi. The journey back home had to take at-least 3 days and we again decided to do that nonstop as we did at the start of the trip (http://mozumbus.blogspot.com/2012/06/karachi-to-kalash-nonstop-50-hours.html).

Luckily, it was a sunnier morning which we needed badly to trek downhill safely to Tattu village to continue further down to Karakorm Highway with the jeep. Porters tossed among themselves to win our backpacks (PKR 300 each for two bags) while the jeep driver was already there with a bad news that the jeep track from Tattu to Karakoram Highway (Raikot bridge) was closed due to a landslide last night!

To read whether we managed to get back to Karachi in three days, you may have to wait for the next post, which will be there soon Inshallah!


  1. Not as interesting as previous parts. Maybe this because of reading almost same type of words or scene which get monotonous or the writer's urge to finish it as early as possible.

    Anyhow, pictures were good.

  2. Enjoying
    Now I can relate to every single detail.

  3. It is astounding, thanks for sharing.