Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog
The Start
Standing below Nanga Parbats impressive Rupal Face.
The only 8000m mountain wholly inside Pakistan.
Paki Kids
Walking on the road to Chillum.
2 days & 60Km, much of the same scenery.
Baah. Heading upto the Chachur Pass and the Deosi Plains
Local Rendezvous. Bumping into Pakistani motor bike tourist on the mosquito
ridden 4200m Chuchar pass. Check out my gig!
Deosi Nature.
Marmot Lookout.
One of the many thousands of Marmots on the Deosi Plain.
They guard their area "Mear Cat" style and release load screams
to warn others of funny looking trekkers.
Camping on the Deosi Plain. Nowhere on the Deosi is below 4000m.
Crystal clear trout filled waters.

Day 1 Nanga Parbat


I Wake to an almost fine morning and climb out of my tent to see Nanga Parbats Rupal Face staring at me, even if it's shrouded in a little cloud.

Fortunately the horrid weather the evening before died out after a few hours and we all managed some sleep.

My poor tent erecting means little airflow passed through the tent and the inside is drenched with condensation and my sleeping bag is wet. I learn my lesson, I hope and next time I'll take more care.

Breakfast is chicken soup and macaroni and it gives me a good energy boost.

Jordi, Rob and Singapore Sam are all heading off upwards today while Tim and I are retuning to the guesthouse. We pay our farewells and head off in the opposite directions.

Tim and I want to cross the river to get to Herrlig Koffer base camp just because we want to step on the base camp proper.

We find the widest part of the river and I volunteer to go first, roll up my trousers, take off my boots and socks and dump my rucksack, just in case. It's only my second attempt at a river crossing, the other being four years ago and I got as far as a single step in before losing face in the deep water and packing it in. This time surely has to be better?

We have two local boys in tow laughing at us (me) and saying that the water is too strong and I will be washed downstream to Astore. I pop my stick into the waters edge and it's not too deep and I reckon on a successful crossing....that is until I take my first step. It's absolutely freezing! The coldest thing I've ever felt and after two steps I retreat, releasing a crazy high pitched whine as I do so like Japanese walking on hot coals. The local boys are more than a little amused at the stupid white man. But I'm not defeated that easily and decide that my feet are now acclimatized and head back in again....with the same result. The local boys almost piss themselves on the river bank as I make a quick retreat and put on my socks. I've learnt my lesson....stick to bridges!

The return to the hotel is non-eventful apart from a sudden downpour. We both don our Gore-tex but I'm amazed at the locals still walking around the hillside in flimsy shalwar kameez and open shoes. They are freezing cold and I thought they might at least carry a piece of plastic sheeting like the Nepalese.


Day 2 Terashing to Gudai <N 35,11.601 E 074,56.640> 2672m Ascend 363m Descend 767m


Today might be day two on my mission but for me it feels like day one. Today I'm going it alone. The start of my holiday. My rucksack is heavy at around 25Kg. I've attached two temporary side pockets to carry my food, stove and gas and now my rain cover won't fit cover my pack.

I leave the guesthouse and take my first step, already one fourteenth through my journey, but after thirteen more steps I'm still light years from my goal.

I head down the jeep track, donkey highway number one. I've never known a place where every person has a donkey, they are everywhere. I take the wrong track with less than a kilometer completed but a local shouts and puts me right. Then a young boy trots past sitting right on the back of the donkey. It just looks so crazy with the shortened steps of the donkey and the boys legs flapping around in sync and apart from that he must have Velcro on his trousers to stop him slipping off the donkeys back. He passes and I turn around to check out the crazy picture for one last time, only to see the boy doing the same, with a similar look on his face.

I head on down past the wheat fields and occasional small village with basic stone shops with mud roofs and rough timber concertina doors. There always seem to be too many men hanging around the villages compared to the village size. Men just hanging around, standing, musing and sometimes working. I walk through, loving the Muslim faces with their well groomed beards and skull caps. Heads follow me as I walk. I class myself as  a guest in their country and always swap greetings, often just greetings of convenience, a bow of the head or a raised hand.

I'm feeling in a good mood until two children approach me and start to beg. `Please give me some money. I come from a poor family' he blurts while holding out his hands as if he's reading a passage from the bible. It puts me on a downa quickly. I hate begging children on places like this. They might not be materially rich like me but it's likely their family has a fertile plot of land that yields a good yearly crop.

After three and a half hours and 17.5Km I reach the junction where I have to turn right on the Chillum road. I take a perch and have a few nuts and a sup of water.

A car pulls up at the junction and four shalwar clad young twenty something’s get out, see me and head in my direction. They are giving off good body language and one of them hugs me, as they do around here to their close friends. One of them spatters out all of the English phrases he knows and then offers me a drag on his fag. I decline saying I don't think that is any normal cigarette. `Charrass' he replies with an overly huge smile. Then a tractor passes and splashes him with muddy water and he shouts at the disappearing tractor, hands high in the air as if on stage, `come here you, what is your name, where are you from', It's a strange scene and we all have a good laugh together. They then hug me again before disappearing to do a spot of trout fishing.

I leave the graded roads behind for a good tarmac surface. For the next two days I'll be ascending steadily going against the course of the river passing through slightly larger villages.

Upon my first village five kids come running from their homes and follow me and it bugs the hell out of me. It's an impossible situation. Shout and curse and they give you more. Let them be and they'll keep on annoying you. I'm walking with a trekking pole, not for it's normal use of river crossings or to fend off rabid dogs but now when kids approach I move over to the side of the road and stick the pole behind me. That way they have to go to one side of me and I can keep an eye on them. If there are adults around they will almost without doubt tell the kids to stop following.

This scene is copied in the next village but this time by more than twenty children as school is leaving. I duck into the only restaurant, needing food and peace but the restaurant is a shit hole and the kids follow me in but are quickly chased off by the manager. I order a chai, thinking better of eating something. Now adults are stacking up at the door gorking at me.

With seven Km to go I'm sore from the backpack and my feet are giving me much pain. I head on wanting to reach the town of Gudai where I hope to find accomodation. The views are OK but almost never changing. High sloping valley sides with dark mountain grasses and sparse pine trees with lush green terraces beside a crystal clear river.

The last few Km are hard and I really need to take the weight off my feet. I sit for 20mins expecting Gudai to be another hour away, but at turns out to be around the next bend. The first building seems to be some kind of restaurant, idyllically set on the outside of the road overlooking the river with a small green patch of grass circled by a small picket fence. A group of well dressed guys shout me over so I go and take a seat on the grass. They buy me chai and we talk the usual stuff. I need a place to sleep and as it turns out the restaurant has a communal sleeping room which is filthy and I decline the offer. The only other hotel in town is a government run rest house for government officials and maybe I could stay there. One of the guys calls the manager and he pops on down to give me the bad news. I can only stay there if I have written permission, and that I don't have. The well dressed guys are helpful and discuss my options. There is a room at the far end of the restaurant building where at the moment the locals are playing some game on a big board, basically using drafts pieces to knock the opponents pieces into corner pockets across a well talcum powdered ply surface. I can hear the pieces striking from outside and the gearing that goes with it. They say that for Rp200 (U$3) the rabble will be thrown out and I can stay in the room and the selling point....there is also a bathroom inside. I accept the offer as it's secure and dry, even if well overpriced. The rabble are peacefully evicted and I'm made to wait while the room is cleaned! After half an hour it's ready for me to move in.

I take my bags inside and can't believe the state of it. I reckon it's the second biggest shit hole I've ever had. The first being in Chillam which is bizarrely tomorrows destination. The room is totally filthy, with tables, benches and the pool table now stacked around the walls. There is a piece of plastic on the floor, a few Hessian bags, a blanket, then a disgusting quilt and a more disgusting pillow. I throw the quilt and pillow to one side assuming they are breeding bed bugs. I bolt the door but it's not catching right and someone walks straight in, so I take out my Leather man and re-fit the bolt. Next I walk into the bathroom and can't believe it makes the bedroom look clean. There's even a rusting motorbike in there....what to do!!!!

I suppose when all's said and done I'm actually lucky to have gotten this place....

I wash, eat a good plate of dal and have a good nights sleep....


Day 3 Gudai to Chillam  3352m Altitude. 27Km travel. Ascent 812m  <N 35.02.144 E 075.06.233>


A glass of chai and a single paratha (fried chapatti) sets me on my way. I struggled to sleep early on with the pain from my feet and now I'm hobbling along within the first two minutes.

The road sign says 27Km to Chillam, my planned destination. To be honest I don't expect to reach it in this condition. I'm even surprised to be setting off at all today considering the pain of last night.

The valley continues the same as before. Nothing special and my first village is 13Km away where I plan to get a good feed. On the way I get two locals annoying me. They run from the hillside then walk next to me and constantly ask for a photo, each time touching me. I refuse and tell them to keep their distance. One of the two is only around 13yrs old but the other guy is older and tall and looks inbredly simple. It's this kind of people that worry me. Very hard to read and never letting you know whats about to happen next. They follow me for a good 30mins, jabbering shit and asking for a photo. It tests me and I have to keep my shit together. I mean, what can they achieve following me for such an amount of time. They aren’t even heading this way. I marking out a perimeter for them not to step into and amazingly it seems to work.

Eventually they stop, shake my hand and thankfully leave.

I hit upon the first village and unbelievably I can't see a shop so I pass on through and find some water next to the road and make some noodles and chai. Passing trucks wave and several stop to see if I am in need of assistance. It's the same everywhere I stop, people ask if I need help and if I'm in a town they introduce themselves, ask if there is anything they can do for me and give me their number to call if I need any assistance.

Up to this food stop my feet have been pretty painful and I have several blisters in my new boots. I'm struggling to walk in the boots so I take them off and pop on my flip-flops. My feet feel relieved and I carry on just a little bit more happy.

I'm not a flip-flop wearer normally but I brought these just because they are light and I've only just got over the blisters they caused me on arrival to India.

Now for the scientific stuff. They are double plug flip-flops, not the ordinary run if the mill U$1 shit worn by the locals. These have two fixing points at either side making them sturdy enough for Himalayan treks! These cost U$2 and were given to me as a selfless Christmas gift from no other than generous Bob. If only he could see me he would be impressed.

Anyway....the flip-flops get me through the next five or so Km before I put on my socks with the flip-flops and now I look like a German tourist.

Again, the gain is rather small but at least it's there. But soon I'm thinking of jumping on the next truck to Chillum just to stop the pain and I'm constantly offered lifts from the locals. But I don't want to stop. I at least want to make it to Chillum and with 5Km to go I kick off the flip-flops and pop on my boots. I can't believe what it's come to.

The valley opens up as I round the corner to see Chillum in the distance with sweeping green slopes leading the way up to the Deosi. I reach Chillum and head over to the check post.

It's about as close as I legally  can get to the line of control with India, hence the bit of extra paranoia.

I enter the small concrete cubicle and give the guy my passport. He looks through at my visas and stops on my Indian visas and asked the usual questions of my purpose here and in India. I tell him the deal and remind him that India and Pakistan are the same people. As always it shuts them up. I ask him where there is a hotel and he tells me I can sleep on the floor in the cubicle....Mnnnn I think. It's definitely better then the last place I stayed in Chillum.

Then he asks where are my companions, I tell him I'm alone. 'No one else' he asks, with a loving gaze normally reserved for a Kiwi and his sheep. `For fuck sake' I think to myself! I had this shit happen to me once before at a checkpost in India. These guys must be lonely or something. He's finished all the details so I grab my passport from his hand and sod off out of there.

I find my first guesthouse and I'm taken up to a room on the rooftop. Maybe it's best described as one step up from a shanty town, a wooden boarded shed. It's digesting and he's asking Rp400 (U$6) for it. I bargain for fun but he won't come down below Rp200. To be honest it's not worth paying anything for.  I move on.

Next I'm at the government rest house but the manager is a no-go, but offers me a bed in his room for Rp200. Again it's an incredible shithole and not even worth considering.

Moving through the boring village past filthy restaurants to my left and an army camp to the right with army guys playing volley ball, I  end up at a no name hotel. I've been guided here by a member of the local constabulary, if it were not for him I would have never have found it. Anyway....I look at the room. It's rather large and usually sleeps a couple of families. He asks for Rp300, I accept and he looks as if all his birthdays have come at once. I clean myself up and hobble around the village looking for trekking food. At this moment I cannot even consider the possibility of walking up to the Deosi Plains. I know I need to rest but I simply can't bare the thought of staying in a desperate place like Chillum for another night. I'm thinking of hiring a taxi to take me up to the start of the plateau and from there I'll take it easy across to the far side. Maybe some 40Km.


Day 4 Chillum to Deosi Plain (Ali Malik Mar) <N 35.01.169 E 075.24.891>      35Km Ave 4.4Km/h . Walking 7.56Hrs   Ascent 1156m      Descent 807m


More fried eggs and paratha and a change of wound dressings sets me on my way up to the Deosi plains.

For some reason I set off walking. Probably stubbornness? Either way, for the first time the weather is incredible with barely a cloud in the sky. For the past two days the plains have been bathed in cloud, not a very enticing sight!

I head off uphill along a well graded road, hobbling as always. Curling down my toes or rolling along on the sides of my feet to alleviate the pain on the balls of my feet. It honestly feels that I have a drawing pin stuck on the ball of each foot, and at the base of my big toe and the next pinkie. It's bearable, but rather uncomfortable.

It's a steady climb along the jeep track past curios school kids heading to school in Chillum. Five horses also pass adorned with colourful kilim saddle bags and I can't help but think how good they would look in my living room. Genuine bags, not of the EBay variety.

Then hundreds of goats and sheep appear on the hillside and for some reason it just looks awesome and I snap away like a mad man.

Then I pause at a stream to fill up with water and find myself under siege from mozzies so change to long sleeves, gloves and a baseball cap placed over a towel to keep the little beggars off my neck.

The mozzies are even worse at the top and I'm getting bitten through my shirt so stick on another long sleeve top just as two motor bikes with Pakistanis aboard pull up with the riders obviously affected by the mozzies as much as me and have tee shirts wrapped around their heads.

We chat, swap email addresses and zoom off before getting eaten alive.

The Deosi reveals it's true grandeur over the Chuchur pass as the vast plateau rolls out in front. The large Sheosar Lake immediately to my right, with small winding, colourful streams feeding into it, their banks carpeted with mosses and small flowers and way behind in the distance the snow capped peaks of the line of control.

But the beauty is almost overshadowed by the staggering amount of mosquitoes. The fact that the mozzies don't carry malaria or dengue fever doesn't make them any more likeable.

I take a seat by one of the streams and cook up some of the usual macaroni and chicken soup and more importantly bath my feet which are at breaking point.

I'm in a beautiful spot and struggle to take it in. The stream is shallow and not too wide and I've seen a few decent trout in there already.

I would like to say that the Deosi is an unblemished wonder, but unfortunately I can't as there are biscuit packets on the main tack and even when I stop for lunch there is always some form of litter around. If you drive through the Deosi it would probably be unnoticeable, but walking head down things are different.

Around 6ish I start to look for possible camping spots away from prying eyes but nowhere is to be seen so I tread onwards. I keep passing gangs of laborers, digging trenches by hand for fiber optic cables. They are very friendly and always ask me over and if it's lunch time offer me lunch and they also request their photos taken. I always refuse. Not for being rude or ignorant but simply because time is not on my side, plus my feet are buggered and stopping would take several hours a day. I would be the first to admit that I miss out on some great photo opportunities, but I ain't n David Bailey and my photos are for me, from my minds perspective and for my future memories and I don't feel that I really miss out.

I pass another gang of laborers. They shout and jeer as usual and ask me to stay a while. I decline, totally knackered and now finding it hard to walk and I keep stopping and laying my head on my trekking pole for a few seconds. It comes as a relief but as soon as I stop a deep pain moves into my feet and becomes unbearable after no more than five seconds. This forces me to keep moving and each time I start to walk again I let out a uncontrolled whince or a groan.

I can see two large cairns up ahead and guess they must mark the summit of another pass and I'm determined to make it there. I'm now not wanting to stop but needing to stop as the pain is out of hand but there are two laborers gaining on me and soon catch up. I want them to carry on past but they tag along side peacefully asking questions. I answer for a while but try and explain by putting up my hands by my eyes that I have blinkers on now and I really don't have the capacity to communicate. I think they can see that I'm having a little bit of trouble and they offer to carry my rucksack. I decline foolishly. We reach the cairns and I sit gasping for air at over 4100m. I'm now totally and utterly fucked and seeing that the summit is false, now mentally beaten as well. My two companions sit opposite quietly, just mumbling. I want to eat and drink but not in front of the locals. I have a limited supply of water and food goodies and can't really go handing biscuits out.

I catch my breath and move on with my friends. I don't know where they are going. I just want them to leave, which they do at the summit and make a u-turn after shaking hands back to the road works. I don't know why they have been following me for such a time. I think they might have actually been worried about me and simply just wanted to keep an eye out?

On the summit I can see seasonal hotel tents, at a guess 5Km in the distance. I think I can barely make 1Km. I'm watching my shadow get longer and stooping more and more. I need to get to a camp within thirty minutes. But the landscape has changed. Gone are the nearby mountains to my left that have been feeding me streaming water. I'm now on the top of the plateau with hills steadily rolling down and I guess from the topography that it will be a miracle if I can fall upon a spring before the tents.

Then, I feel my body going into shut down. I'm tired, hungry and dehydrated. I realise what's happening and immediately throw off my backpack, sit on a rock, rip open a packet of chocky bikkies and swig some water. My hands are now beginning to cramp inwards and I'm having to stretching my fingers backwards to relieve the pain while throwing biscuits down my neck and washing them down with the minimum amount of water and all this while trying to keep my head between my knees to keep consciousness.

Man, I'm worried, but still enjoying the experience.

I sit on the rock for maybe ten to fifteen minutes taking it all in. I'm looking around trying to work out probabilities and ratios of finding nearby water, a camping spot or simply just dossing where I am. This is no place for a Carpenter I think....and I've only just begun!!

I decide to push on but first I take out my GPS and check my mileage. FUCK-IN-HELL I scream. I've done 30Km with over 1200m ascent and 800m descent. I simply can't believe what I'm looking at.

Feeling better I stand up and start walking with new energy and determination. I even try to run!?

The road meanders down the hill, but fortunately there is a direct path downwards which I take.

I'm walking as if my feet are bound, with  either a grimace of pain, or panting for breath and I contemplate the fact that I will return home looking like a cross between a rabid dog and a puffa fish....

Soon, by some unknown possibility I find myself by the river and a good camping spot. Looking back up the hill I can't believe I made it. I quickly erect the tent while brewing some tea and noodles. I eat, drink and fall to sleep without having the energy to even take off my socks. My feet need care and a soaking but I'm off with the fairies at moment. The feet will have to wait.


Day 5 Ali MalikMar to Skardu


As usual, as soon as the sun hits my tent I'm up and out like a flash and drying my sleeping bag etc on the ground.

I'm only a short distance from a tent hotel so make my way over after packing.

I still can't believe I'm walking? For the last three days I've woke up with increasing pain in the feet but stubbornly carried on. But today is obviously worse and I struggle just to make the restaurant.

The restaurant is at Ali Malik Mar or more commonly known as Bara Pani (big water). Next door there is a wildlife camp, set up to protect the Deosis dwindling bear population. But more importantly there is the suspension bridge across the river whose photo adorns every wall in every hotel in the Northern Areas.

It's lovely to sit in the restaurant next to the river gorging myself on four fried eggs, four paratha and a pot of milk tea. Now I have a healthy mind and a healthy stomach....what more can a man want?

Bloatedly I move on, struggling and within one hour I'm forced to stop to bath my feet. The cool mountain water running over them gives good refreshment but does little to help when I'm walking. I keep pushing on regardless. Past the usual laborers and against the flow of tourist traffic who stop continuously for a chat.

Soon I have done 13Km but literally on my last legs. Now I just want to make it to the other side of the plateau which I reckon is about 7Km away, maybe two hours and from here and then hitch to Skardu.

My thinking is if I can make Skardu by the early afternoon then I have a chance to join with a trekking group to K2 basecamp which leave on the 5th of July and therefore keeping my costs down.

Again I have almost ran out of water and paying the price.

I've been concentrating on putting in Km while I can that I kind-a forgot to fill up with water. Also the water is too far away for me to sacrifice valuable walking time in reaching it.

Then, without warning an army pick up truck pulls up along side and offers me a lift to Skardu. At this point I'm in complete agony and have only one mindset, and that is reaching the other side of the plateau. But then this Jeep interrupts everything and I don't have much time to think, but clearly I'm totally shot and don't believe I can walk 1Km, never mind 7Km, so I jump in the back.

It's a small pick up, covered with an army green tarp, over a tubular steel frame. There is just myself and one smartly presented soldier in the back and a few items on the floor. I drag my rucksack towards the front and sit overlooking the cab, enjoying the view and holding on tight.

At the top of the next short climb I can see the Deosi Top check post and kick myself that I got in the truck. If I had another fifteen minutes walking then I would have topped the hill myself and got a little booster to complete the first leg of my journey. I'm more than a little let down!

We then stop and a youngster leaves the cab and climbs in the back with me. He's eleven years old and has perfect English. He lives in Rawalpindi and is on holiday here visiting his father, who offered me the lift. He wants to practice his English.

Then we stop at the Deosi Top check post and more people jump into the back and my rucksack get moved around. I'm squashed and very tired and don't pay too much attention and focus what attention I have left to checking out the amazing scenery heading down into Skardu.

A few things catch my attention. The first is this road is simply stunning, cutting through huge flanking hills, the rock strata vertically pushing skywards producing jagged peaks, forever crumbling and dropping shale onto the road. House size boulders perch precariously waiting for the next big rains or rumble from within the mountain. It's another one of those roads that are impossible to build and difficult to keep open. Carving it's way through the hillsides, supported by poor quality retaining walls built with sub-standard mortar, struggling to cope with the scree slopes above.

But mostly I struggle to recall seeing it's beauty when I cycled up here four years earlier and to be honest I can't see how anyone can cycle up here, considering that my head is wrapped around the drivers cab from the downward g-force. I think back to when I peddled up here, suffering and it's only now that I realise that the suffering wasn’t an option!

People come and people go from the truck and soon we are all alone again and stop at a view point for the family to take photos. I want to piss my pants watching the mother and daughter having their picture taken while covered head to toe in cloth, one wearing sun glasses over the post box slit in her head dress and the other with reading glasses! I mean whats all that shit about. I try to imagine the photograph sitting proudly on the mantle piece. Or even supposing that the mother dies tomorrow they will have no memories in the photos, just a pair of sunglasses as proof she ever lived?

But Skardu is a very conservative area where women are not allowed alone in the main bazaar and paintings on the wall remind the women that head scarf’s are a must. It's impossible for me to get my head around why a woman can't enter the main bazaar but can walk freely on the road parallel!?

That said, Skardu is exceptionally friendly and foreign women are tolerated around town.

I remember one story from an America Lebanese girl who was here in 2004. She left her hotel to go and buy bananas from the bazaar dressed in local dress with her head covered. No sooner had she entered the bazaar when a local guy came straight up to her and planted his hand quite firmly between her legs! She freaked having this happen before elsewhere in Pakistan and stormed back to her hotel. Seeing she was ruffled the receptionist quizzed her to what was the problem and she dished out the story. The receptionist listened and his reply was simple....well if you want bananas get the room boy to go out and fetch them for you! Two different worlds?

Anyway....while on the photo break I was thinking about my belongings on the outside of my rucksack and thought I should have checked them before I got out the truck. So when climbing back in I looked and saw my GPS missing. A search ensued but of course it returned nothing. My mind raced about the possibilities of what had happened but I quickly tried to shut out the thoughts. At the end of the day it's only a toy, a good toy at that and one that I will surely miss. If it was my Steripen water cleaner then I would be very pissed.

I realised the mistakes that I'd made. Simple mistakes. But mistakes that in my condition could not really be helped. I knew from the beginning that exhaustion is my worst enemy. It leaves me open, it's happened before and I know this scenario will happen many times again on this trip. I just have to try and learn from it for next time!

Back in Skardu I check into my usual hotel, Rp200 for a single room with bath attached. Clean bedding at least with a smelly sort-a clean bathroom. It's hot and noisy being built in the usual atrium style.

I then hit the internet and more importantly EBay to replace my GPS....boys and their toys....

Talking of which....I carry a compass, one of them old fashioned things that I was first introduced to when I was three years old. My compass is attached to my rucksack strap on my left shoulder and of all the things I carry attracts the most attention. The locals constantly ask me what it is or touch it and ask me what the altitude is. It bugs the hell out of me. They don't take my word that it doesn't show the altitude and I have to show them how to use it. Even then they don't seem to comprehend what is north, east, south and west.

Anyway....back in Skardu I'm walking the streets in my flip-flops very slowly and very painfully. I would walk better with a pot on my foot and as I pass through the market the locals stare as I struggle past. The same night there is a knock at my door, a local guy I met on the bus one week earlier. It's only three metres to the door from my bed and I barely make it. It's only now I start to worry that I may have done more serious damage than just plain old blisters? But I still have 100% faith that my body will repair.



Thursday 3/7/08


I start my hunt for a local trekking agency. It all seems to start too easily when during breakfast a young guide called Yaqoob befriends me. We chat. He has good knowledge and good references and talks my language of basic and cheap and I agree to accompany him to his office.

Now things start to go haywire. We hit the bazaar and he seems to be having problems locating his office and end up in a taxi, then 4Km away at a nice tourist hotel called Snowlands where we sit in a plush trekking agency attached to the hotel.

Chai arrives and we talk business. Quickly the prices start to climb to a rather large U$2500. Immediately I stand up, explain that I am simply wasting their time and leave to find another agency only to be accosted by yet another independent trekking tout. He pisses me off so I jump in a taxi back into town and head to talk to the owners of the local camping gear shops to see what I can turn up.

The first shop is of little use but as I'm walking down the street the owner of another shop calls me over and we chat and he calls a few agencies and he tells me to sit as his as his friend will be here soon.

After twenty minutes I'm introduced to Shujaat Ali, a well dressed thirty something guy. He sits and runs some details past me and answers all my questions. As it turns out his company has a trek leaving on the 5th from Islamabad with six people from Slovenia. I'm concerned that I won't fit in with a group that may not want any outsiders in their group. Shujaat assures me if it is a problem then I can trek alone and they will bring food to my tent. At $2100 the cost is more than I expected but at least I have a fixed departure date, it's within my budget and so I sign up and move into a posh hotel with toilet paper and clean towels, all included in the price!

The next day I stay in all day watching pay TV, bathing my feet and simply relaxing. I eat chicken jalfrezi and retire with a bloated stomach and huuuge wind!



Saturday 5/7/08


At breakfast Shujaat informs me that the Slovenians have missed their plane and will be arriving one day late. I wonder for a brief moment if he's pulling my plonker but decide I trust him. He's very apologetic and offers to take me sightseeing by Jeep. I tell him not to worry but he can drop me off back on the Deosi Plateau and I will walk back to Skardu over the next few days. I tell him I will check out of the expensive hotel if he drops me off for free. It's in his benefit and he agrees. I buy provisions and we set off upwards.

I'm dropped off on the Deosi plateau and I plan on walking 10Km away from Skardu before setting up camp, but I'm feeling very weak and stop after a slow 1.5hrs. At this stage I'm not sure what's wrong. Maybe I'm sick or maybe it's physiological sickness, having been doing nothing for the last few days.

Either way I set up camp, hidden from the road and a short distance from the river.

The skies are overcast with dark clouds appearing on the Indian horizon. There is a threatening feeling in the air and for now the Deosi has lost it's fine weather charm.

The clouds begin to drop their load in the distance just as I finish erecting the tent. I fetch some water, jump inside the tent and listen to the rain for the next two hours. 

There's nothing else to do but type my dairy and feel claustrophobic.

As soon as the rain stops I brew up some noodles and chai. But I have zero appetite and leave half my dinner. Then the guts start churning, and where there churning there's wind. It stinks and there plenty of it. The problem is I'm almost doubling up with the stomach cramps. The end product is good but to get there is painful....

This is the second night of wind and the first night of energy less. I have to consider problems in the guts. Two weeks on the road now so amoebas are possible. I got them after one week last year. I think to get them twice just after arriving is a long shot, but the only other option I give myself is psychosomatic! Perfectly feasible.




Day 5-The Return Deosi Plains to Satpara Lake 40Km approx.


It's been a pretty dreadful night of rain and stomach cramps. Of course I have no energy now which is not so surprising. I cook up the usual noodles but burn them so end up throwing them away. I've got no appetite anyway!

I'm packed and ready to leave when toilet duties call. I don't like what I see but I don't want to go hitting the smarties again so early on. This soon changes when I put on my backpack and have zero energy to move onwards. So it's off with the pack, into the medicine cabinet and down with the smarties....again!

I make slow but definite progress and as usual gave myself a 4 to 6hr time frame for the drugs to take effect. I only want to walk 10Km before making camp, which I achieve around 2Pm.

Now at the only restaurant on a rainy Deosi Top I tuck into some chapatti and dal (meat flavored water) and some milk tea. I was thinking of sleeping here but there's a constant flow of locals in and out and they are all way too curious about me and everything I own and ask how much every single visible item is.

At 3.30pm I've have enough, snap myself out from cuckoo land and begin to double time it down the hill to Skardu and Satpara Lake, which I reckon is 20Km away.

Again the surroundings don't look so impressive now that the clouds have stamped their authority over the valley. The steep rockscapes are is still remarkable but without the snow covered peaks in the distance giving a perfect backdrop the picture is lost.

I arrive knackered in the dark, navigating the road with my head torch. I check into a cheap hotel besides Satpara Lake, take a cold shower and eat the spiciest dal ever.



The next two days are spent in Skardu shopping for essential trekking items like chocolate and bog rolls.