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Death of a river

Driving from Gilgit to Kaghan, the glittery alpine scenery on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) abruptly changes to a rather desolate — but equally breathtaking — landscape, as one crosses the Indus at Raikot Bridge. A sharp left turn and a hair-raising 45-minute jeep ride to Tattu village, followed by a 2-hour trek, put you in pole position for a night stay at the 13,000-feet-high Fairy Meadows.

The meadows offer a dazzling view of the ‘Killer Mountain’, Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest peak at 26,660 feet. On KKH, 50 kilometres ahead lies Chilas — the gateway to the Kaghan Valley. And after another 30 steep and twisty miles, the dazed driver is on top of Babusar — a mountain pass at 13,700 feet in the north of the valley.

The mountain ranges of Kaghan are offshoots of the great Himalayas, entering from the east through Kashmir. The ones flanking the east bank of Kunhar River are home to the 17,200-feet-high Malika Parbat, and the 13,378-feet-high Musa ka Musalla in the west.

Far from the madding city crowds, to be surrounded by so much natural beauty is a rare treat. The treat however is short-lived. Unfortunately, it seems, humankind cannot help but interfere with nature.

The Kunhar River basin is a humid, sub-tropical zone. Thick forests are still present across the valley but, because of extensive exploitation, thickets are mostly found in the unapproachable areas, especially on the higher slopes.


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