Karachi to khujerab Pass-
Baltit Fort, Hunza.
It was four o’clock in the evening and the atmosphere at our guesthouse was all sleepy and tiresome. Most of us were stretching their backs trying to figure out ways to stay awake yet the sleeping beauties were snoring. Don’t take them wrong seriously I myself was gladly willing to do so but fortunately, my husband dragged me out of the room and almost ordered me to start the walk up the hill, towards the fort. I’m totally in debt with his actions because the ones who did not visit the fort that evening didn’t have the chance to do it again. Unfortunately, they had to skip that amazing fort’s visit.
The walk up the hill or more over the stony path up the mountain was the hardest walk of all our expeditions. We were tired as hell. Our legs were stiff and we had to hike up by ourselves. Although there were stairs along the path then again, we had to stop to charge ourselves.
Thanks to these Hunzai people they had made places to sit along the way. Plus, the path was clean and very appealing, they had also planted many colourful flowery plants on both sides of the path together with the shops for tourist attractions.
The view made our tiredness flew away. As it was enchanting. People from those shops were very hospitable. Old women were sitting by their home’s main gate making a different kind of stuff. Kinds of Stuff like embroidery patterns, wooden crafts and many more. We also saw kids playing near them. It was not more than a mile’s walk but it sure seemed like millions.
We finally reached the top and again I really don’t know how many times I had to write this but it felt like we were literally experiencing the most enchanting view of all.
At the gate to the very beginning, was a huge vine of large orange and red flowers. The leaves were dropping by the wooden carved arch entrance. We walked past it and entered the heaven.
We were at the top of the mountain surrounded by snow-covered mountains visible through clouds. We could see Rakaposhi and many more important mountain tops from there.
The fort itself was amazingly beautiful. White huge square plus with lots of carved wooden structure of a different kind.
‘I’m going to the ticket house, start praying that they allow us to go in. As it seems like it’s the closing time.’ Bhaiya said and marched towards the ticket house along with Shahid bhai.
‘Mama I want water.’
‘We didn’t bring water with us, dear.’
‘There’s a water cooler over there.’ Zunaira pointed towards the huge orange cooler.
‘Okay let’s go there then.’ we walked towards it. There was a plastic glass attached with a string. Kids started drinking from it one by one. I took a place beside it.
‘Let’s go our guide’s starting the tour.’ Bhaiya announced.
‘Let’s go Tanzeela.’ my husband almost shouted.
‘Okay okay, I’m coming.’
To my surprise, we were not alone this time our group joined another family which was, unfortunately, less willing to know then to look. They just made our tour more miserable by talking and laughing at little things rather than listening to the information the guide was providing.
‘Welcome to the Baltit Fort. I’m your guide and I’ll be guiding you all through the fort. Please stick together move in a group or else you’ll get lost and keep track of the little ones too.’ The moment I set my eyes on the guide, I knew that this tour would be more fun plus full of knowledge. The ma,n was not at all getting annoyed by any of children’s action nor by any questions. Moreover, he was playing with the kids along with providing them information as much as he could with the cutest smile on his face.
We followed him up to the wooden stairs and found yourself in a room open from the rooftop. With lots of wooden carvings. This place was different from the fort we just visit. Wider, airier and well-lit as well. Also, there were lots of spotlights to enhance its features. The doors were larger too just like we have now a day.
‘Baltit Fort is basically a very interesting wooden and stone structure with mud plaster. It is a three-story building, with granaries and some stores in the basement on this glacier moraine hill with manmade narrow terraces for the stability of its ancient foundations above the ancient cluster village of Baltit.’ Our guide continued.
‘Historically this village of central Hunza, was called Agaai Koot, meaning the “Heavenly Fort” which eventually became Baltit, because of a slight language influence of some Balti migrants to Hunza in the early fifteenth century along with princess Shah Khaton from Baltistan as craftsmen. Because in Baltit language the words “Elte and Delte” are used to say Here and There.’
Then he led us through a door where the floor was made of Iran rods and we could see what was down below. Just like any prison now a day.
‘The rooms down here were their prison rooms. They kept their prisoners here.’
‘And these iron rods, were they there at that time?’ asked someone.
‘No, we have built these for the tourist as it was hard to go through the path from which these rooms were accessed back then.’ He glanced to the room to his right saw another group there and requested us to move towards the roof. They were organizing the flow too well.
‘Why aren’t we going there?’ asked the girl in red. Yes, I’ll call her that because she was from the other group, wearing a bright red leather jacket and jeans. Asking questions in the stupidest way.
‘One of our other group is there so we’ll be visiting the top floor first and come back later.’ the guide answered while guiding us to the stairs.
The view. Ah, it was breathtaking. I was literally dumbstruck for a moment. We could only see the top of the mountains and nothing else. The valley down below was only visible if you bend down to the wall to look for. The mountains around were all snow covered huge with clouds floating by.
the roof itself was amazing. The woodwork and the verandas were quite unique.
There was a wooden doom in the centre with lots of beautiful carvings.
‘After 1945, the last ruler of Hunza, Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, moved to a new palatial house further down the hill, there to our left. This fort was left and they did nothing until his highness Sir Agha Khan took the matter in his hands and renovated it. The present Mir of Hunza, Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, and his family are still residing in the house down the hill.’ He took a long breath and continued.
‘You could see some of the biggest mountains from here. Over there that is Rakaposhi mountain, its top is visible from here.’ With that, he started telling the history and background of Rakaposhi. Right then the girl in the red barged in and crossed all the limits of silliness.
‘Oh, Rakaposhi was here back then?’
Laughter echoed all over the place and thankfully with that huge embarrassment, the family departed. Never came back. Alas, I was relieved because now we could listen to the guide’s information and concentrate on stuff.
‘Please, we want to take some photographs here. What do you say a full group photo?’ Bhaiya said.
‘Yes, that would be great.’ everyone said simultaneously.
There was a royal Takhat ( a royal seat for the king) under the dome made of wood.
‘Oh, Shaji don’t go it’s a restricted area.’ my husband shouted the moment he saw Shaji my little one crossed the chains and started jumping on the royal Takhat.
‘Oh, let him be he’s just a sweetie. In fact, take pictures of him.’ The guide said with a huge smile.
‘Really?’ Astonished my husband took his mobile and started taking pictures.
‘Shaji sit down I’ll take your pic, good boy now smiles.’
There it happened again.
He took his tongue out like a happy dog.
The word smile was always a trigger to him. Together with smiling he always enjoys to give us one more gift to laugh at.
‘Let’s go down now.’ said our guide and we all ambled down the path to our left and entered a square open veranda
It had small carved doors by the walls.
‘These are the rooms for their kids. they used to send their newborn away until eight years. After that these were the rooms for them.’ He said and guided us to another door.
‘This kitchen was in use till the last residents. These stoves and vessels are made of stones. And some vessels over here are of bronze and silver.’ Our guide explained. The mechanism was same as we saw at Altit fort yet it sure looked more modern and well designed. More ventilation. More light. Even more space. Every room was big enough for us exactly opposite to what we ventured down there.
‘This was one of the guest room.’
‘What is this a wall cabinet?’ inquired Taymia pointing towards an instalment down on the floor. About three feet high what looked like a small wooden cabinet without any divisions.
‘Well, this was more like a storage box for them. They used it to keep their extra blankets and pillows. We still use these kinds of cabinets in our houses to keep our things.’
‘And what’s this.’ asked Ashhad while observing a little rectangular thing which looked like a wooden baby cot. There were very detailed carvings on it.
‘It’s a baby rocker.’ he bent down and rocked it a little but before he could finish what he was saying, every single kid was doing it again and again.
‘Is this a fireplace?’ Ali inquired while bending his head down into it.
‘Yes, it was a fireplace. They closed the out lit for now.’
Then we entered another interesting room. It was the living room plus a dining hall. It was a sunken room with a level down in the middle which was decorated with amazing carpets and the walls with lots of beautiful paintings and wall hangings. There was a small square hole in the upright corner for storage, just like Altit Fort. The only difference was the rooftop opening was large enough to bring lots of light in. Although when we reached that room the sun was about to set. Then we moved forward.
The most important difference you could find here from Altit fort was that people of Baltit fort had a greater interest in music and guest. They have built this room just for entertainment. It was called the entertainment room back then. They used to invite the royalties from the neighbouring states and enjoy music and lots of great food.’ explained our guide as we entered a room filled with lots of musical instruments and ornaments.
‘This tapestry how much old is it?’ Taymia asked while glaring towards the beautiful tapestry which stood framed in the corner.
‘This is the most prized possession of Baltit fort. It’s more than three hundred years old. One of the royals donated it to us.’ the guide was smiling.
The most fascinating thing in the room was the windows. Yes, there were windows in that room, big colourful windows that added the amazing touch to the place plus the view from these windows was awesome.
Alas, we moved to the narrow stairs down the hall and our expedition for that day ended.
Seriously you think? In your dreams people. In your dreams.
‘That’s it for today any more questions. I hope you all enjoyed the trip.’
‘Sure, it was a very nice place and you explained it well too.’ Shahid bhai patted on his shoulders.
‘Plus, you never got annoyed by the kids.’ I whispered in Taymia’s ears.
When we marched down the path we saw an old weapon displayed towards the exit. Kids joyfully bounced up and down and took pictures with it.
‘Honestly, I’m thrilled to see this much energy in them.’ Taymia smirked.
‘Let’s go Tanzeela I’m too much tired now’ Said my husband we drifted down the path and started our journey back to Pamir guest house.
Night view Baltit Fort.
To be Continued…