Satpara Lake & Buddha
Nine kilometres south of Skardu is beautiful Satpara Lake, brilliant blue and stocked with rainbow trout, but no longer pristine. The construction of two power stations as well as a dam that will raise the level of the lake was still very much under way at the time of research. It is expected that most of the vegetated foreshore and the picturesque island will be submerged.
The Indus barely seems to move across the immense, flat Skardu Valley, 40km long, 10km wide and carpeted with silvery grey sand dunes. In between dust storms the land seems cleansed and freeze-dried, and the light is intense. The brown mountains give no hint of the white giants beyond.
One of two routes from Skardu into the High Karakoram (the other is the Shyok Valley), the lush and yawning Shigar Valley was once a separate kingdom. Shigar’s original settlers may have come over the Karakoram from Yarkand, in Xinjiang. Shady Shigar village, where the Bauma Lungma empties into the Shigar River, is as far as most nontrekkers go.
This handsome, 2600m-high village of timber-and-stone houses and precision-made dry-stone walls climbs up a wide alluvial fan beneath an arc of jagged granite walls. Ingenious irrigation has made it a shady, fertile oasis. As you climb its twisting track, the icy peaks of the Masherbrum Range rise on the other side of the valley. It’s hard to imagine a more majestic setting.
Hushe & Masherbrum Views
Those who would like to see the gorgeous 7821m massif of Masherbrum without trekking to it could try and walk up the Shyok Valley road past the police checkpoint and the turn-off to Hushe Valley towards Surmo. Although at the time of writing the police at Khaplu were not allowing this little excursion, it is worth attempting with a local guide.
Hushe (hu-shay) is the trekkers’ route to Masherbrum, and an alternative to Shigar for mountaineers heading towards Concordia. For a close look at Masherbrum you can take a four-day (three-night) walk on a moderate grade from Khaplu to Hushe and back, with stops at Kande, Hushe and Kande again.