We stopped at Babusar Top for a length of time, taking pictures and just chit chatting, appreciating the view. Some tried to make use of the height (elevation) to make calls on their cell phones too. sadly my MAYBElink does not work there (or most of the places we visited for that matter) Maybe I should port my number and get a Telenor connection instead! It was getting late and we were behind schedule. I was particularly concerned that we have to descend into Chilas and the security update I had received before we left Islamabad called for travelling thru Chilas in day light and as a group- as fast as the road conditions permit. The reason I found out from another source in the law enforcement was the presence of some miscreants belonging to the banned Sipah-e Sahaba who had robbed several cars at gun point as well as the burning down of several buses a few weeks back. (9 people died in the incident and the SP police was seriously injured) That I was told was sectarian violence but the robbing incidents were current and ongoing. Basharat also stressed on this section of the journey so it was a red flag. I, however did not want to raise un-necessary alarm and panic by divulging the details.
We finally got rolling and passed the tractor trolleys harvesting glacial snow that is sold in place of factory ice down in the town of Chilas and beyond. It is a great idea given the uncertainty of power supply to factories and residences alike.
Chilas is a small town located on the KKH that gets very hot in summer. The recorded temperatures are sometimes higher than Sibi and Jacobabad! I have lived in Chilas for about 6 months in 1987 and those were 6 tough months to survive. Chilas and the surrounding areas do not have much wild life that one can appreciate. However as soon as it gets dark the place is crawling with scorpions...hundreds of them, their stings raised as the scurry across the roads. I once saw a centipede about a foot long. Never in my life I have seen one bigger or even close to that one. Chilas does have something that one can appreciate - petroglyphs or rock carvings from the buddhist times some as old as 5000 years BC. The moonscape of Chilas is littered with thousands of these rock carvings. It was a shame that we could not stop to appreciate these and take pictures due to the reasons i mentioned above. It is a further shame that these would soon disappear for ever when the Diamer - Bhasha dam begins to store water.
Anyway we continued down Babusar heading towards the KKH. The road was no better than what we had already traveled on but the slope made it easier on the engines if not the suspension of the cars. We stopped at a police check point to get the details of our cars and their occupants recorded and later at a road side cafe for tea and food. We met some armed locals who seemed harmless enuff and some members of our group posed for pictures with their AK-47 rifles. The road gets pretty bad from there on till you cross a bridge with no sidings ..lo and behold! there is a motorway standard road waiting for the aching bones of the drivers and the creaking suspension of the cars that have managed to endure the torture of the descent from Babusar. This new stretch of road has been built by the Chinese and is going to serve as an alternate route in the years to come when a section of KKH would be under the waters of Diamer Bhasha dam.
The last few kilometres before we reach the KKH are worse than any section of road we had ever traveled but thankfully we made it to the KKH without any incident. Truck drivers gathered around our cars gawking in surprise and disbelief when we told them we made it across Babusar top. At one point we opened the engine lid to show our engine and said "this is our spare engine. We use this on steep slopes". Some even bought it!
Lets take a break here and enjoy the pictures. The pictures have been taken by various members of the group and selected for inclusion here by yours truly.