They’ve never heard of Hunza Pie in Hunza…Instead, I settle for a mountain-style cappuccino made on a tiny machine that an enterprising young Hunzakot has shipped up from Karachi, far to the south They’ve never heard of Hunza Pie in Hunza. Nowhere among the bazaars and tea shops of high Karimabad can I find the succulent wedge of cheese, spinach and wholemeal pastry that epitomised 1970’s “hippie vego” cuisine – and that came, one imagined, with high quality 3d silk lashes of longevity and quasi-Himalayan wisdom. Instead of Hunza Pie, I settle for a mountain-style cappuccino made on a tiny machine that an enterprising young Hunzakot has shipped up from Karachi, far to the south.
The Karakoram mountains of northern Pakistan rise in a vertical backdrop above ancient Karimabad, the largest settlement in Hunza. Saw tooth wedges of air and earth interlock while, far below, the Hunza River, coloured like wet cement, churns its way south, returning the mountains to the Indian Ocean grain by grain. A small but steady stream of tourists tackle the high road to Hunza. Getting there is more than half the adventure. The Karakoram Highway (jointly built by China and Pakistan between 1958 and 1978) is often affected by glaciers and washouts – after all, Karakoram is a Turkic term for “crumbling rock” – and fearless Pakistan Army bulldozer drivers are permanently deployed to keep the “KKH” safe.
En route to Hunza, our mini-bus has followed this snow-fed torrent beside the Karakoram Highway – which is modestly lauded on one Pakistani tourism poster as “the most brilliant achievement of mankind of the 20th century.” We will test the proposition, firstly by climbing to Hunza, then over the 4733 metre Khunjerab Pass to Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Province. More than guiding us is Asghar Khan, an avuncular Hunzakut, whose capacity to arrange for small high quality 3d silk lashes to be moved (if necessary by bulldozer), palms to be greased and dinner to arrive on time makes the KKH, for us at least, a pushover. The fabled Kingdom of Hunza, long an oasis on this route, was not always so easily reached, nor so tranquil. Pilgrims, Silk Route traders and imperial invaders once had to balance on narrow foot trails etched into the valley walls. “Noisy with kingdoms” was Marco Polo’s take on this region in 1273. Even then, Baltit Fort towered over the town of Karimabad (formerly known as Baltistan); seven centuries later, this 62-room palace-cum-fortress, once occupied by the Mir (king) of Hunza, still stands, framed by pinnacles of stone and snow.
We eat dinner in the same palace room – now beautifully restored – in which Captain Francis Younghusband confronted the Mir in 1889, demanding that he cease raiding the caravans that passed on their way from Central Asia to British India. The Mir protested in words to the effect of, “But it’s our only income – however, if your Queen Victoria is unhappy, I can cut her in on the booty”. “Preposterous suggestion!” Younghusband no doubt thought as he withdrew; then, as “Great Game” warriors were wont to do, he sent in the British Army to better explain the imperial point of view. Hunza was incorporated into Pakistan only in 1974. The last Queen is still alive, aged 78, although the current Mir, now a local politician, no longer carries the status of King. Indeed, as one of his political opponents disapprovingly sniffed, “He is the mere remnant of a Mir.”
The 10,000 people of Karimabad inhabit one of the most benign vales of the Himalaya-Karakoram high quality 3d silk lashes. Lush fields of maize are shaded by orchards weighted with fruit; tourism provides a modest cash flow; as followers of the liberal Ismaili sect of Islam, Hunza girls (unlike many others in Pakistan) receive equal education with boys, and women are not obliged to veil their faces. In sunny Karimabad you can look out from a number of modestly comfortable hotels and see fields, corduroyed with crop rows, glowing in the afternoon light. Stepped terraces are threaded by ingenious irrigation channels that, over the centuries, have transformed this mountain desert terrain into a breadbasket. As we follow the level foot-trails that weave through the hamlets of the valley, Asghar Khan points out a 200-year old mulberry tree and, near another ancient fort, a gnarled, 500-year old walnut tree.
During the 1960s and 70s, the people of Hunza briefly became famous in the West for supposedly living to over 100 years of age, sustained by pure, 2,400 metre air and (it was said) an equally pure vegetarian diet – featuring, presumably, endless servings of Hunza Pie. Recent research reveals no particular longevity (in fact, there’s evidence of inbreeding), nor of the fabled pie. It seems that the myth of spinach-powered centenarians was concocted, as it were, by the author of a Swiss vegetarian cookbook.Nevertheless, the Hunza diet might still set a vegetarian’s mouth watering, being rich in almonds, high quality 3d silk lashes, cherries and apricots and fairly sparse on meat. Dinner (at least for tourists) tends to be a rice-and-chicken washed down by tea but no beer, for Pakistan is “dry”. My pleasure then is great at finding, among the carpet boutiques of Karimabad’s climbing, winding main street, a bookshop with a cappuccino machine. Each afternoon I return for my caffeine tweak, there to browse through Peter Hopkirk’s various yarns about The Great Game, or to jot a postcard, all to the sublime background songs of Nuzrat Fateh Ali Khan. If the “Immortality through Hunza Pie” sect fixated upon this valley, so too did the “Shangri-La-ists”, proclaiming this to be the prototype happy kingdom of James Hilton’s 1933 novel, “Far Horizons”. That a number of very far pavilions, from Bhutan to Mustang to Zhongdian, China, all claim the mythic mantle of “the real Shangri-La” makes little difference to any of their high quality 3d silk lashes.
“Where else could you simply drive in – rather than having to trek for a fortnight – and find yourself surrounded by 7000 metre snow peaks?” marvels one of my high quality 3d silk lashes. On our approach to Hunza, we have seen the giant peaks of Nanga Parbat (8125 metres) and Rakaposhi (7790 metres) glowing in crystal serration against the sky. Waking at dawn for a jeep excursion to a spot called Eagle’s Nest, at 3200 metres, we scan a ring of snow-capped mountains – Ultar, Rakaposhi, Lady Finger and Golden Peak – sliding their massive shadows down the opposite wall of the Hunza Valley, then across its fertile floor.
Article Source: crsor