The Deosai Plains are a National Park established to protect the Himalayan Brown Bear. The second highest plateau in the world, it is only open in the summer, linking Skardu and Astore for a few months a year via a rough 4WD track.
Covering 3000 sq kmit is vast and is carefully managed by Park Rangers with the help of a park fee of US$8. Aside from the Himalayan Brown Bear there are also snow leopards, with programmes in place to protect both.
The Park sits at 3500m to 4500m high. It is surrounded by the Karakoram, Ladakh, Zansker and Himalayan mountain ranges. Given its geography it was a surprise to see how lush and green the landscape is and, dotted by 340 different plant species, in places it is quite colourful with flowers.
Everyone knows someone here and despite the isolation, many people from both Astore and Skardu know each other or have family ties. Kabluie seems to be saying hello to most of the people we meet.
The journey through it was long – it would have been easy to have spotted a brown bear if there were any around as we went so so slowly. Kabluie is a self confessed slow driver, with the rough track and the Jeep lacking power we covered 72km in over 5 hours of bumping around (that’s an average around 14km an hour). It was hard going. We spotted a couple of sunbathing marmots.
On the occasional 10 minute stop we were under strict instructions again of no selfies, Kabluie this time adamant saying it is ‘a security risk’. It seems it’s less about him being protective and more about his concern around their distribution.
As we left the park there opened up a fantastic view of Nanga Parbat, the 9th highest mountain in the world and the 2nd highest in Pakistan(after K2). We were so lucky, it was really clear. It’s nickname is killer mountain, as it’s 8125m peak is considered to be one of the dangerous in the world to climb. For us this view was the highlight of the day.
Here’s a bit of a video of the journey with Nanga Parbat coming into view near the end:
When we eventually left the National Park Kabluie decided at 2:45pm it was time for a lunch stop. Hot and having been bounced around, and Marie having a particularly hard time in the front seat which turned out not only to be in the sun constantly but is also very springy, we declined lunch and perched outside in some shade. A man with 3 women and 6 children turn up in this tiny white Jeep with the registration ‘Chairman’. He confidently jumped out and with family in tow came over to say hello and asked how we were.
Genuinely curious and checking out why these two foreign women were perched by a roadside on a rock. He promptly invited us to join him and his family for lunch. As much as the interaction would have been interesting we had to decline as eating was neither appealing at that point nor likely to sit well.
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