It was a full moon (sort of) and soon the valley was bathed in moon light. It was kind of spookey too but the back-drop of snow covered mountains and the tall pines plus the sound of fast flowing water in the river was out of this world. Most of the group slept soundly with a few waking up to attend to a call of nature but the freezing temperatures prompted them to put the call on hold.
Morning comes rather early when you are camping but I personally wake up refreshed and ready to face the day ahead. Our cooking crew was up early and were preparing a good breakfast of toasts and omelette. A surprise item on the menu was the hot halva cooked as the night before was shab-e-barat. Everyone did justice with the food and the plates were polished in no time. The tents were taken off and packed, the garbage collected. We dug a small pit and buried the organic waste (like egg shells and onion peels) while the rest of the recyclable waste was collected in a bag and carried with us to the next place that had recycling facilities.
The group took longer to get rolling but we were eventually back on the beaten track heading towards Babusar top. The road progressively became wider and rough. We crossed many a fast flowing streams or glacier melts but all our cars made it safely across, every single time.
By now we had worked out a simple routine. One of the cars - usually Mujeeb's or myself would speed ahead and after crossing the stream would wait, cameras on the ready to shoot pictures of other cars. This would also give us a chance to guide the other cars of the deep spots that needed to be avoided. We would stop after a particularly deep water crossing to check on the health of our engines and brakes but no problems were detected. Billo had lost a tail pipe the day before crossing an unusually deep and fast flowing stream and the sound was not pleasing to the ears at all. It wasn't until we got to Gilgit that Ilyas provided the tail pipe off the spare engine that was being carried in the support vehicle. Luckily no one needed a replacement engine but we did need parts off of it.
The road became rougher and dustier as we progressed and to make the steep uphill drive even more exciting, we were to maneuver several hairpin bends. Every single one of our VW's climbed without as much as a hiccup. The only other autos that did this with ease were the jeeps and those too with their 4 x 4's engaged. I did not see a single instance of a wheel spinning freely on any of our VW's throughout the trip. The engine weight on the rear wheels as well as the extra load that we were carrying in the form of fuel cans etc made sure that the road grip or the 'bite' of the drive wheels was never lost.
We kept gaining altitude and as the oxygen grew rarer a few of our cars needed their timing adjusted to keep them going strong. Unfortunately the same remedy could not be used with the drivers who were panting even with mild exertion.
We arrived at Lalusar lake after about 2 hours of driving. The actual distance covered was not much but combined with the time taken to shoot pictures and appreciate the constantly changing scenery we were making slow progress.
Another hour or so of driving, several streams and hairpin bends later we noticed that we were almost at the same level as the mountain tops that were constantly keeping us company. According to a Bijrani Bhai's GPS we had climberd to an altitude of 13, 773 ft. The reading may have been off by a bit but certainly not much. Wikipedia puts the elevation at the top as 13, 691 ft.
We stopped to...you guessed it! take more pictures including a group photo with our vehicles lined up on the edge, facing north. We spent another hour at the top taking more pictures and letting the serene beauty of the valley below sink in.
Lets take a break here and see some pictures too. I know you are all anxiously waiting for them.