Losing ourselves in Passu

Passu is a small isolated village, with just one shop, one cafe and a few hotels. It is dominated by the very photogenic 6100m high jagged peaks of the Cathedral Range.

The locals speak Wakhi, the same as in the Tajikistan and Afghanistan Wakhan Valley, which we figured must literally be not far over the mountains behind us.

The young guys running our hotel are a perfect combination of relaxed and helpful. The wifi also works well, when the power is on, which often it’s not. Our room was at the back, which was perfect. Not only is there something nice about being at the end of the corridor, particularly when there is a window seat at the end, but we looked out onto a couple of fruit trees and behind that Passu glacier spilling down the hillside as if coming towards us. It was a bit surreal to go from being able to lie in bed and look at a 7766m mountain peak a couple of days ago, to now being able to lie in bed getting a glimpse of a snow white 20.1km glacier.

We were quite happy chilling for the rest of the day. Doing some catching up on the blog, talking to the hotel guys and their friends that came to hang out in the garden and being mesmerised by the scenery.

We still can’t believe how quiet the Highway is. The little traffic on it is mainly domestic tourists going or coming back from Khunjerab Pass at the border, and the National Park it is in.

At dinner there was a local guide with his Bulgarian guest. They had just come to eat there as she was not a fan of spicy food and our hotel did a ginger chicken dish. They generously shared their leftovers with us so we could try (it tasted like ginger chicken…). Just like we’d found previously the guide was also generous in sharing his local knowledge.

Our hotel must have had 8 rooms but there was only us and a Pakistani couple staying and once the generator had gone off for the night it was beautifully quiet. The beds were really comfy and it went cool enough to at least partially sleep under the big soft quilted duvet. Needless to say the next day we were in no rush to move.

When we did eventually prise ourselves vertical we thoroughly enjoyed a hot’ish shower. Our plan for the day was to first get organised ready for crossing the border to China. We know from other travellers that the Chinese will check our bags thoroughly and go through all our photos and files on our technology. Photos that have guns on them are a problem if found and border guards all over the world are known for deleting your entire memory card if they find something they don’t like. So we spent our morning uploading to the Cloud every innocuous photo with a gun on it, before hiding the rest of our photo files on our tablets (less for them to flick through = faster) and hiding backups on SD cards in places we hoped they wouldn’t be found.

Before we left Passu we wanted to find it’s suspension bridge. Longer than Husseini’s suspension bridge it also has its original slats. Husseini’s had at some time been flooded and when the water level dropped the slats were in such bad shape they had to be replaced (not that it looked like they were particularly recent and nor were they fixed parallel).

It was lunchtime by the time we were ready to head off to find the bridge. A cloudy day it was still warm, we were grateful it wasn’t stinking hot. We rechecked with a guy at the hotel the rough directions we’d been given by Rehman – follow the road a little way and at a bend pick up a path that goes down the side of the bank.

We duly did as instructed, found a bend and a track off it as we headed down towards the river. We had suspicions we weren’t on quite the right path when it led us to some stone dwellings. There was no one around to try and ask. Not deterred we found a path between the animal paddocks to get to the rocky bank to the side of it. When that track led to nowhere we figured the bridge couldn’t be too far away and maybe if we got some height we’d be able to see it and work out how to pick up the path. After clambering up the hill we discovered a false summit and there was no sign of a bridge on the part of the river we could see.

We decided to head up the next rocky summit. Long story short we never did find the bridge (we concluded we must have taken the wrong bend off the Highway and it must have been a farther bend). Instead we spent a fun couple of hours free ranging across a rocky mountainside before clambering back onto the Highway via a small stream.

There is something we find enjoyable about walking on the KKH. It’s a bit surreal, this is a Highway we’ve come a long way to travel. When we got to our hotel we decided to keep on walking and see the glacier river and a little more of the village. When we eventually decided it was time we should be heading back we detoured up to the village cafe (called Glacier Breeze due to its position atop a small rise next to the glacier’s river). It is renowned for its apricot cake so we got a couple of pieces and took it back to the hotel where we had it with chai in the garden. It was basically a plain sponge cake with apricots underneath, while nice to be eating something familiar we weren’t sure what the fuss was about.

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