Hunza Homestay! Enjoying the local cuisine at the local’s home

This is the introduction of the local food we enjoyed while I visited Hunza at a private homestay.

When you visit Hunza, one of the menu items you will definitely be served is a soup called ‘Dowdo.’ It contains thick handmade noodles, similar to udon, and is a little curry-like. It doesn’t have a strong flavor and is popular among foreigners. More recently, in the Nagar district, there is a meaty pie called ‘Chap Shoro’ which is becoming very popular with the domestic Pakistani tourists.

The food in the Hunza region is healthy; and it is not flavored too spicy so foreigners find it easy to eat.

Making Baruway Gilang (buckwheat Chapati)
Making Baruway Gilang (buckwheat Chapati)

Our homestay host in Hunza, was Amin Ghazi Karim, who prepared the local dishes at their house. They have a modern kitchen, but during the meal, the stove comes in handy while you eat. In the cold Hunza, it is pretty essential to have the stove close by.

Rakaposhi (7,788m/ 25,551ft) can be seen from Amin’s kitchen window.

They made us a Butter Chapati (in the local Burushaki language called ‘Martasxe tse Giyaling.’) The flour chapati is topped with butter. Walnut oil and apricot oils are also used, instead of butter.

The ‘Martasxe tse Giyaling’ is ready. It has a light flavor but is heavy in the stomach.

This is the Cheese Chapati (in Burushaki language called ‘Burus Sapik.’ It is my favorite, locally produced cheese, mint, tomatoes, leeks, onions, and fruit oil wrapped in a wheat chapati. This is really healthy, and recommended for the vegetarians who come to Pakistan and have a hard time with the food.

After the meal, we finish dinner with freshly harvested Hunza apples and tea.

 

Photos & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Oct 2021, Baltit, Karimabad, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks to all host family members of Amin Ghazi Karim

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Hunza Valley
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Autumn in the Upper Hunza, a typical evening in the Morkhon and Ghalapan Villages

After a long days of summer spent grazing, in mid-October, the cattle are returned to the village. After that, one a daily schedule the goats and sheep from the village are gathered to go to the pastures for grazing. We arrived in the Upper Hunza’s Ghalapan Village to await the arrival of the goats and sheep in the evening.

 

The Upper Hunza during this season is the most beautiful season, with the poplar trees changing colors. The time to catch their bright yellow leaves in the sunlight is limited because the poplar trees grow in the valleys, surrounded by high peaks all around them.

 

After grazing on the mountain slopes, the goats and sheep have started their decent to the village. Here they come!

 

↓↓ This is a video of the livestock heading back to the villages of Mokrhon and Ghalapan, after a day of grazing. The poplar trees were amazing as well, so that drone footage is included as well!

 

Morkhon & Ghalapan in Autumn|秋の上部フンザの村にて

 

The villagers were waiting for the goats and sheep to come back to the village.

 

They quickly separate out their own livestock from the group. Some of the villagers carry dried apricots as a treat to get the sheep to follow them back to their homes.

 

They have to know which one is their own livestock!

 

This sheep wandered off from the heard and had to be carried back.

 

Each owner brings back their own livestock to their respective shed for the evening. It all happened within a 15 minute window. But this little moment is just the daily life part of a wonderful village life in northern Pakistan.

 

Image : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Oct 2021, Ghalapan village, Upper Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Gojar > - Morkhun > ◇Domestic animal of Pakistan
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The Himalayan Brown Bear Before Hibernating: The Deosai Plateau in October

I photographed this Himalayan brown bear in mid-October on the Deosai Plateau. Once October rolls around, the snowy season comes to the grasslands. With the first snowfall, the wild animals are signaled that winter has arrived and their preparations hasten. For example, the long-tailed marmots will surprisingly, all start hibernating at the same time! Just until yesterday, they were out, basking in the sun, but I didn’t see any of them today at all!

This is the wintery scene of the Deosai, near the Barapani camp. According to the National Park staff, the Himalayan brown bears will prey on the long-tailed marmots especially in month of September because they are plump with their winter fat by this time. All the animals are preparing for the long hibernation. Once the marmots stop emerging and enter their hibernation period, the bears will also move from the highlands of about 4,200m (about 13,780ft) to a slightly lower altitude valleys for their own hibernation.

We could see the Himalayan brown bears near the road around Barapani camp!

↓↓↓ A video of the Himalayan brown bears!

Himalayan Brown Bear in Autumn|デオサイ高原のヒマラヤヒグマ

The bears get so large and plump just before hibernating. Just looking at them, fills me with happiness.

This bear has found a comfy spot to sit in the grassland.

The surrounding mountains are already covered in snow. According to our Park staff, it will probably be the last time we will see the brown bears on the Plateau, until next summer.

After the second snow, the Park staff also packed up their base camps and headed back to Skardu. The sheep and goat herders have already descended into the Valley, and winter on the Deosai plateau is setting in.

The long-tailed marmots will hibernate, but the red fox stays active in order to survive the long winter. Even long after the people have gone, I have still seen foxes along the road during our visits.

The number of domestic Pakistani tourists that come to Deosai National Park is increasing and the management of garbage disposal at the campsites is becoming problematic. In 2018 there was a very shocking report that 80% of the content in the bear droppings was plastic. After that, it was reported that the staff of the Park started to make efforts to do cleanups once a week. In addition, it is common to see brown bears in the campsite’s trash areas, so taking more proactive countermeasures is needed.

This awareness sign about the problem has a photo of the bear taken in the summer time. Even in the summer, it is looking so fluffy!

 

Image  & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : Oct 2021, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Himalayan Brown Bear > - Deosai National Park
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Horned Lark (Deosai Plateau)

In July, when the Deosai Plateau is carpeted with wildflowers its known as the “Flower garden in the sky” and if the weather is nice, you can see the Himalayan Nanga Parbat from here.

This is my report about the Horned lark that I encountered on the Deosai Plateau.

The Horned lark is a wild bird that typically breeds in the northern part of Eurasia and North America in the summer and winters to the south. However in the northern part of Pakistan, it can be observed all year around. It can be seen in high-altitude open areas near Chitral, the Deosai Plateau and the Khunjerab Pass between 3,300 to 5,000 meters altitude.

The Deosai Plateau (Also known as Deosai National Park) is a high-altitude plateau with an average of 4,200 meters, near the boarder of India and the northwest of Pakistan. There are countless small streams that spread out across the plateau to form a wildflower haven sometimes called the “Flower garden in the sky.”

This open area is where the Horned larks breed in nests sheltered by the rocks and small indentations in the ground.

Wildflowers are in full bloom in early July.

This is the male Horned lark. As the name indicates, there are two horn-like crests on the top of its head. In some areas, there are Horned larks that have a more yellow coloring on their face throat, but in Pakistan they are white to a creamy color.

The male seen from the front.

The male Horned lark from behind. The created feathers that form the horns are incredibly cute.

This is a juvenile Horned lark. It was about the same size as the adult birds.

The Horned lark pecking at the grass seeds.

Is this a little bread crumb left by some tourists? They are feeding them to their chicks. The area around the campsite is the easiest place to observe them because of the food leftovers, and the Pakistani tourists are also enjoying bird watching as well.

These chicks have to grow up quickly and prepare for the winter. In the coldest part of winter, they will come down to the foot of the Plateau’s fields and valleys.

The Deosai Plateau was described as a “Flower garden in the sky,” but unfortunately, that situation is changing. In the summer, a large number of tourists visit and without much thought will leave their garbage behind and will go off-road driving into the grasslands.

I wish more people would realize that there are wild animals and birds that rely on these important breeding grounds, during the short summers of the Deosai Plateau.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: July 2016, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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Citrine Wagtail (Deosai Plateau)

This is the Citrine wagtail observed in the summer of the Deosai Plateau. The breeding plumage of the male makes his bright yellow head, beautifully contrast with the black wings. Even amongst a carpet of blooming wildflowers, the birds stand out on the plateau.

Pakistan’s Citrine wagtail spends the summer breeding season along rivers and lakes in the northern highlands and overwinters in the open plains along the southern Indus River.

This photo was taken near the Barapani on the Deosai Plateau (elevation around 4,000 m). I was observing the Citrine wagtail that was in the riverbank near the campsite.

This wagtail appeared on the riverbank with its head all wet.

Breeding males have the bright yellow heads, while females have a light yellow-gray color.

This is young Citrine wagtail.

This one has caught a worm.

A Citrine wagtail on the flowering Deosai Plateau.

The Barapani campsite at night. Clear crisp air at an altitude of 4,000 m.

There was some frost in the morning. Even in July, we need to be prepared with sufficient protection against the cold.

Full moon in the morning.

From the clear skies over Deosai Plateau, appeared the 9th highest peak in the world, Nanga Parbat, at 8,125 m. The massive and dynamic Himalayan mountain range is so overwhelming to take in.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: July 2016, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National Park > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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Long-Tailed Marmot in the Summer (Deosai National Park)

The Long-tailed Marmot observed on the Deosai National Plateau in the summertime. The Plateau, designated a National Park in 1993, has an average altitude of 4,100 m (about 14,450 ft high) near the boarder of India and northern Pakistan.

In the last few years, the number of Pakistani domestic tourists visiting the Park increased drastically, and despite being a National Park, the tourists having bad manners, became difficult to manage. There is a great concern about the impacts the tourism has on the natural environment.
At the campsite, there are parties and lots of tourists making noise, so for those who came to seek nature, its well known that the camping areas are a tough place to be. Besides that, there are the native wild animals who are trying to make the most of the short season of “Summer on the Deosai Plateau” as well.

When you camp at the Deosai Plateau, you will get to see this marmot around. These are the same marmots that can be found on the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia, called the Long-tailed Marmot or Golden Marmot.

The marmots often check for danger, as they stand up on their back legs near their burrows and carefully monitor the situation; when needed they sound an alarm call “Kii-Kii!” Of course, they will make calls for people who venture too close, but they are mainly on the lookout for the foxes and birds of prey above who often target the marmots.
Ranging from altitudes of 3,200m to up to 5,000m, the marmots live in very large colonies, digging burrows into the alpine plain grasses and among the rocks. Being monogamous, it is said that the marmots are highly social animals with a complex society.

They often stand next to the opening, always ready to duck into their protective cavity. This burrow is used for hibernation.

I stood watching the colony near the road for a very long time. Eventually, the marmot families relaxed a little and the babies began to come out.

A mother and her pup came out of the burrow. The pups will spend the first 6 weeks of their life in the burrow and then start to venture out.

They are so, so cute.

The pup plays with the momma.

One more pup came out. Long-tailed Marmots will give birth to about 4 pups at a time, but only about half of them can survive the first summer, and many are lost during the first hibernation. While observing them, I could see the little heads of many pups in this colony.

The snows begin in October on the Deosai Plateau. In previous visits to Deosai, I saw the marmots were still active in the first week of October. They will probably enter hibernation around November, and I hope these little guys make it through the winter!

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : Jul 2017, Deosai National Park, Gilgit -Baltistan

Special Thanks  : The late Mr.Zahoor Salmi,  Deosai National Park

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National Park > - Marmot > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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(Video) Red Fox Hunting (Khunjerab National Park)

In the spring, as the snows melt away from the mountainous slopes of the Khunjerab National Park, sitting at 4,000 meters above sea level, the wildlife also seems to spring back to life.

In this video, the red fox catches a mouse. The classic fox hunting technique of locating, jumping and diving into the snow, nose first. Then the prey seems to confuse the fox by “playing dead” …an interesting sighting of the wildlife in the thawing Karakoram.

 

A Red fox hunting / 狩りをするアカギツネ

 

Videography : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : April 2021, Khunjerab National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : - Fox > = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan > - Khunjerab National Park
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(Video)The Apricot Blossoms of Khyber Village

In late April, the apricot flowers are in full bloom, much later than usual in the upper Hunza’s Khyber Village. The wave of modernization and development is making its way up the Hunza Valley. But I hope that the scenic beauty of this stunning village will continue forever.

 

Apricot Blossom in Khyber

 

Videography : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : April 2021, Khyber, Gilgit-Baltistan

Special Thanks : Hunza Hill-Gah – Khyber

Category : ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Gojar > - Khyber
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(video) Northern Pakistan, Autumn the Hunza Valley, a hidden paradise

Northern Pakistan, Autumn the Hunza Valley

In the past, the main tourist season of Pakistan was mainly in the  summertime, but now many people are travelling to see the apricot blossoms in the spring or to see the autumnal colors of the fall season.

And it is quite remarkable.

This drone footage is nice, but the view from the hotel terrace is indeed just as spectacular and the mountains and orchards make you feel like you are in a real hidden paradise.

The autumn comes a little later each year, due to the unfortunate effects of climate change. However, in Hunza and in the upper reaches of the Hunza, each village is at its own elevation and exposure to sunlight is different, causing just enough variety of options, to be sure to catch the beautiful scenery in one of them.

Villagers also prepare for the winter during this time. Potatoes are distributed and the livestock return from the highland pastures back down to the villages.

 

Video & text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Oct 2018, Hunza, Upper Hunza,  Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Hunza Valley > - Gojar > - Morkhun > - Passu
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Himalayan Brown Bear in Summer – Deosai National Park

The Deosai Plateau – Land of the Giants – on the border with India is known as a habitat for the Himalayan brown bears.

However, it is not something you can see easily if you go to the Deosai Plateau. In addition, It has been a target of hunting for many years. They are very timid and run away quickly.
Furthermore, there are too many tourists in summer, and Himalayan brown bears go deep in the valley. So you have to walk a lot to meet them.

From a camp at altitude of about 4,000m, we went up to a valley where the altitude rises a little and countless creeks flow.

 

Suddenly the accompanying ranger shouted with surprise, “Bear!”

I quickly took out tripod and snapped the picture with the best possible zoom.
Two bears! A Mother bear and its cub. Wait… The mother bear is observing something.

 

It was a male Himalayan brown bear that the mother bear was looking at.
Mother bear and cub walked towards us in the grass along the creek avoiding this male.

Luckily, we were downwind and were able to come to a relatively closer position for observation of the Himalayan brown bear without being noticed by the bear.

 

Oh, bear cub found us, looking at us how cute!

 

Mother bear also found us, standing upright and staring at us.

 

Finally both of them looking at us. A dreamy camera angle. After this, unfortunately the two headed away.

 

Afterwards, Mommy bear and cub appeared a little away. They were moving while searching various things in the grassland.

 

When a cub was doing strange actions on the rock, they were observing another female Himalayan brown bear.
The other female bear completely ignored them and passed across them.

 

After that, the cub bear had a little sleep and played in the pastures.

 

At last, the mommy bear and cub went over the hill. It was really a beautiful, unforgettable sight.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation : Jul 2017, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan
Reference : Mr. Ghulman Raza – Deosai National Park, Mr. Zahoor Salmi (late)

Category : - Himalayan Brown Bear > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National Park
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