The last village in Pakistan

Source: BBC News

By Vanessa Nirode

At 3,100m, Shimshal is the highest settlement in Pakistan’s northern Hunza region and the last village before the Chinese border. It is reachable via only one rocky, hairpin turn-laden road cut into the Distegill Sar and Karun Kuh mountains. The road, known as the Shimshal Valley Road, is considered one of the world’s most dangerous. Much of it runs along the gorge of the Shimshal River, bordered by nothing but a steep drop off without guardrails. Completed in 2003 after 18 years of construction, it is an unmarked turnoff from the Karakoram Highway, navigable only by four-wheel drive.

Or, by bicycle, for the more intrepid.

In May 2017, I, along with six male cyclists, navigated the 56km road from the turnoff near Passu to Shimshal. For most of the way, I gripped my handlebars so hard my hands cramped. I prayed that my brakes wouldn’t give out. I expected my aluminium bike to shatter beneath me, or at the very least for some integral part to go flying off over a cliff.

None of these things happened. I wasn’t as fast or as confident on the rocks as the guys, so I ended up predominately cycling alone. I rested often, looking out over the cliffs. Something about the view made me think of what I imagine cycling on another planet would be like: no other humans or signs of civilisation anywhere, just rock and mountain, rock and mountain.

Shimshal is the highest settlement in Pakistan’s northern Hunza region (Credit: Credit: Vanessa Nirode)

Shimshal is the highest settlement in Pakistan’s northern Hunza region (Credit: Vanessa Nirode)

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