I am sitting out the front of a restaurant called Glacier Breeze and the cool wind ruffling my hair tells me how it got its name. As the rocky hills across the valley from where I’m sitting lose the last streaks of gold from the setting sun, they are slowly losing their dramatic texture and dissolving into a band of mixed greys. Their spiky peaks are as clear as ever though, silhouetted against a pale blue sky. Alongside the river that runs through the valley is a humble village nestled amongst trees and small garden plots. The walls of the local homes are made from stone, while their flat rooves appear to be made from earth packed onto tree branches. I long to get a glimpse beyond the closed wooden doors, but alas, the private lives of the people that call this paradise home remain a mystery. I am in Passu, a place that has stolen a little piece of my heart.
My ride to reach here was glorious. I took my time as the beauty of my surroundings increased every kilometre. I braved a short walk along the suspension bridge at Husseini, famed for the generous spaces between its wooden planks which make for a thrilling (dangerous and unnerving) stroll. Not long after I bumped into a guy I had met at the Adventure Foundation back in Islamabad – he will be leading a group of cyclists through Gilgit-Baltistan in July and was scouting the route and accommodation options. I left my bike at a roadside café and took the chance to get a ride in his car to Borith Lake, which I was told is the highest saline lake in the world. This fact is not quite right, but it’s still fairly high (2,600m) and is a pretty sight. On arrival at Glacier Breeze, I set up my tent, had a wash and then treated myself to the restaurant’s most famous dish: Apricot Cake. I am just about to eat Apricot Chicken for dinner, after which I will crawl into my tent and listen to it sway gently in the ever-present cool wind.
|Accommodation||$ Cheap camping|
|Distance ridden today||51.5km|
|Average cycling speed||13.6kph|
|Total distance ridden||18,953km|