A day of R and R this was meant to be, after a breakfast that involved a whole lot of chilli and chai, my new found addiction I might add, brewed fresh, mixed with milk, no bags to interrupt the diffusion, just fresh tea leaves to express their flavour and me to enjoy a cup or four.
Our first stop on our hike to the fort was a place called Café Hunza, specifically catering for those who have a taste for coffee and cuisine that you will find on the breakfast menu in your home town. It was the first time I had come across any other foreign tourists since leaving Islamabad as well as a reasonable internet connection, which seems to bring out the worst in us. For there I found myself caffeine ing it up and trying furiously to get those bytes up and down. Halfway through both, I decided that this area offers more outside than inside so we all set off for the fort.
It was wonderful enjoying the shops or should I more accurately state, the bazaar that led up to the fort, clothing full of colour on display, carpets full of magic and ready to fly, home with you and that fantastic Pakistani hospitality to round off the experience.
Finally, up and into the Baltit fort where we were met by our guide who for the next hour or two would transport us back in time to the Royals, the lifestyle of both rich and poor, the love affairs, the arranged marriages designed for peace, the rouges and ruffians, the land and its people that lived here high in the mountains and low in the valley of gold, without any contact with the outside world. The valley their home, their life and their entire world. The fort faces Rakaposhi dominated by the Ultar glacier, this over seven century fort majestically stands with Baltistan pride.
Back to the hotel for a late lunch then back on the scooters to ride up to what is referred to as Eagles Nest for sunset. Atzaz was to be a passenger on the way up to document on film the nothing less than hair raising ride to the top. Although bomber does have place for two, the seating arrangement does not reflect this either in safety or comfort, nor does that 5 comma something horse power engine promote passage to the top. I often had to scream eject to Atzaz to catapult off the back of bomber so that we could crest the rise, find some flat ground, not that easy in a mountain kingdom and then summon my passenger to take his place on the eject seat. The way down in the dark resembled scenes from dumber and dumber, finally back at the hotel safe and sound with no injury, did I feel like a drink, so I ordered a whole one comma five litre street eater bottle of, yes, wait for it STILL water to settle those nerves.
Moin had organised some local musicians to come and play on the roof top while the moon lay almost full in the sky not much higher than the range that surrounded us. The music started up during dinner and was delightful enough, the sounds lulling us in to a state of melancholy. with head tipped to the side, chai in hand I sat lulled to a place of peace.
Then the sound of beauty wrapped in voice, words not understood but felt, drew me outside to hear a friend of Moin’s , Farheen bring her power , beauty and soul to the acoustic. So there we all stood mesmerised by her voice carrying away into the night. For the next couple of hours, the band headed up by the immense talent of the Rubab (guitar) player who to broke out into song and Jimmy Hendricks passion, soon the whole hotel on their feet dancing, clapping and having a time to more than remember. With music full of soul in my ears, a heart both full and lifted by music and voice.With meaning of words imagined to bed I walked on air.
Until we meet again.