Making Kachura as the Base rather than Skardu City
Favorite thing: Skardu City is just another commercial locality, good for shopping and bargaining, but definitley not a recreational place. Usually, people prefer staying at Skardu and making it the base for day trips and surrounding tours, but the ambiance of this town does not synergize with the mood and preferences of a recreational tourist.
I prefer and recommend making Kachura village, home of two beautiful lakes, the base for Skardu trip. Although, the village is not large enough to arrange logistics to other parts of Baltistan but its natural beauty and serenity makes a better trade-off. Further, the village is well connected with Skardu city; public transport is easy and relatively frequent, the village is located on Skardu-Gilgit raod, and Skardu airport is also located between Skardu city and Kachura village. These factors make it easier - than it sounds in first place - to arrange logistics either by going to Skardu or by just calling your hotel reception for a competitve rate. Prior knowledge of rates will help you in getting deals comparable to what you get in Skardu.
There is a range of accomodtaion options available in Kachura, from the top-of-the-line lake side resorts (PKR 8000-12000: USD 100-150 per room) to reasonably priced motel (PKR 1500-2500: USD 20-30 per room). Pre-arranged rest houses and low cost camp sites (PKR 400-1000: USD 5-10 per camp) are also available.
Kachura Bazar also caters for basis necessities at rates comparable to those in Skardu.
- Budget Travel
Skardu - Last Stop for Trekkers
Favorite thing: Why they have this "Favourite Thing' Category in General Tips I don't know! Anyway, Skardu is the last stop for any trekkers heading up towards the Baltoro or Biafo-Gispar glaciers. This is the place to pick up any last-minute supplies or change any money you may need coming to or from the trek. As it is such a major stopping point there are supposed to be shops selling lots of trekking gear which was jettisonned from previous treks. I didn't need to pick any of these things up so I can only really suggest this based on guidebooks - my advice would be not to rely on buying things in Skardu.
- Hiking and Walking
Favorite thing: The Balti language a member of the Sino-Tibetan branch of languages and is a derivative and related to Tibetan, except it's written in Arabic script when the Moguls invaded the territory of what is now Baltistan.
Fondest memory: The following are some phrases i've picked up from the locals, which may be useful breaking the language barrier:
What are you doing?: chi-beh-nyuht?
Thank You: i-ri-shas-deh
You're Welcome: dee-kha-shyost ("kh" - pronounced as the gutteral "ch" in the Scottish "loch")
Sorry: maaf-büs ("ü" - pronounced like the german "ü")
Excuse Me: maaf-yuhk
Which country are you from?: gar-pah-in?
Where are you going?: gar-guet?
Mountain: blahk / ree
Friend: nyam-tsarr ("ts" - pronounced like the "ts" in "bits")
I Love You: ngah-yang-la-get ("ng" - pronounced like the "ng" in "singing")
5: ghra ("ghr" - trilled, took me sometime to get this)
Sorting out Trekking Gear
Fondest memory: Skardu is the last place you can re-sort your bags and leave behind anything which is unnecessary for your trek. Basically when trekking in Pakistan you are allowed to give a duffel bag weighing no more than 12.5 kgs to your porter. This is set by the Governement and is well-communicated to porters who carry hand scales and meticulously weigh bags before setting off - I think this is a good practice to avoid exploitation of the Balti porters! The only trouble for me was how to shed 4 kgs to leave behind in Skardu... in the end I had my 12.5 kg duffel bag with the porters and then had a day-pack of about 10kgs (which is too much as I discovered on a couple of days once altitude hit and the exertion of carting the extra weight was a bit too much - thanks Alan for carrying my pack on that yucky day!)
- Adventure Travel
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