Each trickle is a breadcrumb trail for Baltistan with no less than 135 glaciers, eight of which are more than fifty kilometers long, worthy of the nickname “Third Pole” in Karakoram.
Glaciers have a country where no one goes, except a handful of fine adventurers. Perched between Afghanistan, Uyghurstan in China, and Ladakh in India, this land of Eternal Snow once traveled by mountaineering expeditions starting to attack the K2 or the peaks of more than 8000 meters, is a world closed, whose buttresses keep the traces of the ancient silk road. The peoples living here tamed the elements and cultivated a Garden of Eden by channeling the water of the glaciers. This water, source of eternal youth, floods the landscapes of a sumptuous beauty.
Who has heard of Gilgit-Baltistan?
From this lost region located 60 km north of Kashmir and claimed by India but proudly hanging in Pakistan? You have to be a trekker or mountaineer to get there. And yet, this crossroads is full of a wealth of unsuspected humanity. A mosaic of peoples and their religions reflecting the diversity of cultures that furrowed these valleys well before Jesus Christ or the Prophet Muhammad, where the ancient sects of Islam, Sufi, Ismaili, Shiite, Sunni, still feel on their skin the wind of Buddhism who had established a kingdom there: Gandhara. It extended its borders on the east of present-day Afghanistan and as far as Taxila, near Islamabad.
At the top of the city, Khaplu Fort, built by Raja in 1840, was restored in 2000 by the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismailis, whose community is very active in Baltistan. It is a haven of soft Indo-British colonial charm, dominated by the snow-capped peaks of Karakoram. The thick stone walls hide cozy rooms with rustic wooden furniture and hardwood floors, white marble-clad bathrooms quarried from Pakistan, and a hanging garden where the route of the region’s treks is deciphered. comfortable rattan armchairs with deep cushions. Chai, a very sweet black tea with milk and green cardamom seeds, infused in teapots. A night visit of the restored fort completes the wonder. In the Raja’s apartments, on the top floor of the building, a terrace opens onto the panorama of mountains, which can be admired through the carved walnut tree pillars, with the scent of a thousand and one nights.
A day’s drive from Gilgit, we enter the Hunza Valley. It is also said that it is the valley of the Immortals, that one lives there until 145 years. Here, the inhabitants are mostly Ismailis. The Aga Khan built more than 130 schools, raising the level of education above average. We arrive in Karimabad where Baltit Fort is visited at the top of the village. The climb, steep, égraine small shops where we meet old Hunza, with keen eyes. What is the longevity secret of Hunza? Glacier water, of absolute purity and rich in minerals, diet: essentially vegetarian and extremely varied in vegetables and fruits, rich in barley seeds, buckwheat millet … all not exceeding 2000 calories per day . Almonds and apricots make up a large part of the calorie intake. They practice the young of several days, in the spring.
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