Paul’s Blog – Gasherbrum II – Part 2

Journey to the Trek In

Packing was generally done on Monday 6th June whilst I was still awaiting for my Visa, to my pleasant surprise I was moreorless spot on with my 30Kg of hold luggage at first time of asking with another 7Kg of hand luggage (consisting mainly of 15 Books, no kindle for this old timer) to boot.

Dorina took Thursday the 9th off & then surprised me to confirm that we were to meet Ady at the Cafe as we’d be departing from there so that I could say goodbye to a few more well-wishers including Anne-Marie, Alison, Luca, Gaby, Mike & Sam & Alan Leary.

We drove away from the Cafe at 12:05pm & arrived at the Heston Services Travelodge at 5:30pm where we booked my Taxi for Heathrow for 5:00am the next morning. There followed a bit of tearful goodbye to Dorina before she & Ady headed back to North Wales whilst I headed to my room & set 2 alarms for 4:00am.

By 5:10am the next morning the Taxi was dropping me at Heathrow’s T3 & by 10:00am (half an hour late) my first flight was in the air heading for Abu Dhabi where it landed after some 6 hours or so. 4 Hours later I was on flight number two a journey of 3 hours to Islamabad. Here I would encounter both good & bad ‘luck’. Good luck was at immigration where I would be sent to an additional desk to have my Visa stamped once they checked that I had return flights booked. The sole person ahead of me in the queue was a U.K. citizen of Asian descent who had no return flight booked & was being clearly told that no return flight meant no entry to Pakistan. As she failed to comprehend the enormity I jumped in to show my return flights to help clarify & thankfully the officious official failed to notice my return flights were after my Visa would expire, I received the entry stamp whilst the lady was left phoning her husband back in the U.K. to book her return flights.

Soon after my bad luck balanced this out when having been met by two Blue Sky representatives (the local travel agency JG were using) I noticed that my newly purchased warm Merino Icebreaker Hoodie which was to be a key part of my layering system was missing from my trolley almost certainly pilfered but a very basic lapse on my part & to say the least a big cock-up that I should have avoided!

An hour wait for Rui, a team member from Portugal, arriving on a flight in from Istanbul then led to a half hour drive to what looked more like a hostage hold-out rather than the promised hotel where we were to hold-up for 3 to 4 hours trying to sleep (failing in my case) before a quick breakfast at which we met our other two team members, Bruce from Australia & Luke from London. Then it was back to the Airport for our third & last flight of an hour before arriving in Skardu at 11:30 am local time. Here we were met by Team Leader David & some of his Pakistani team before being whisked away in a mini bus at an unnecessarily frantic pace to the constant beeping of horns which are clearly the norm over here.

After checking in at the new & not fully functional Blue Sky Hotel we were introduced to our Pakistani Leader, Sharife, & Pakistani Liason Officer, Imran. Then it was out to buy a few supplies such as SIM Cards for those under 56 year olds among other things. This was followed by a team briefing where it became clear David wanted to make the final drive to Askole a day ahead of schedule which would mean no rest day. This felt far from ideal as I’d already been awake for 35 hours & was quickly turning into a zombie.

An evening meal was followed by some important re-packing, a phonecall to Dorina before my head hit the pillow some 39 hours after lifting from it. Dogs & a religious mantra being chanted from somewhere nearby did their best to keep me from my needed sleep but think I managed 3 to 4 hours before going down to breakfast & boarding the jeep for what would be a 10 hour journey to our camp. Driving time would ‘only’ be 8 hours but we spent 2 hours or so with the local tourist police whom were clearly well known to Sharife & wanted to impress us with their hospitality in the town of Shigar, all a bit surreal & un-wanted in a pleasant sort of way.

The road, for that’s what they refer to it as, was reasonably typical of the region doing it’s best to thrill & scare you in equal measure but for all that had a surprising lack of mechanical/human debris along the way. At least our driver (un-like the hot head from the day before) seemed to want to see tomorrow.

We reached our camp at Jhola after a couple of further stops (Dassu for lunch & Askole for afternoon Tea & Biscuits) at 6:30 pm. A good camp & quiet (thanks to our missing the rest day), we soon had a good meal inside us followed by more Tea & Biscuits before I settled down in my shared tent (with Rui) at 10:30pm. Clearly my lack of sleep (3 to 4 hours in the last 60 hours or so) had caught up with me as I soon woke up needing a number 2 (my ablutions were also being hit by jet-lag) but was unable to locate my wash-bag which contained my toilet tissues. In a panic I figured out a solution involving a mixture of water, hand & airplane face-mask which finally meant I could put a bloody mask to a practical use.

By 7:00am the next morning (13th June) I ‘d had a decent sleep, a breakfast & was ready for our trek in to begin, what’s not to like about long-haul flights & the travelling to the start of your destination? Still on the bright side I was now well into my 2nd book:)

This entry was posted in Latest News. Bookmark the permalink.
Leave a comment