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At 5 a.m. we caught a N.A.T.C.O.¹ bus bound for Gilgit. The first few hours of the trip were in darkness, but even in the dark we were aware of the dizzying and drop from the road down to the cold water of the Indus River. Daylight revealed a landscape of jagged peaks, running shingles and steeply-falling rivers as we sped north, gritting our teeth at the bizarre and highly dangerous antics of the driver.

We stopped for chai at Chilas (a lonely, windswept village on a barren terrace sandwiched between the river and the sheer mountainside), then carried on northwards as the narrow valley gradually opened out into the wide and barren Gilgit Valley.

Chilas and the Indus River (Photo supplied).

We arrived and Gilgit about 2 p.m. and caught a Suzuki mini-wagon out to the Tourist Cottages, which has been recommended to us by several people but now we’re cold, empty and unkempt. Nevertheless, we booked in and left our gear there, but later on, in town, we discovered the Hunza Inn which had clean rooms, hot water provided, and meals for the same price. So we shifted camp to there with the blessing of the Tourist Cottages’ owner: apparently, he wasn’t fussed about having guests anyway!

It was a cold night, but we stayed reasonably comfortable at the inn.

¹The government-run Northern Areas Transport Company.

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