Days 12 & 13: From Khaplu back to Shigar via Skardu
We left Khaplu and drove back down the Shyok valley to where it converged with the Indus, and then followed the Indus past the turn-off to Shigar/Askoli to Skardu. We were going to spend a few hours in Skardu and I was curious to see what it was like given the historic role the town has played in the mountaineering history of the Karakoram.
We first took a stroll down the street through the bazaar in the old part of town. Nothing too special to see, just a busy local scene. We then drove a short distance away to the famous K2 Hotel, where so many of the expeditions over the decades have started and ended. After a basic lunch we walked through the hallways which are adorned with stickers, postcards, photos, posters and handwritten notes from all of the various expeditions and groups over the years. There were a lot of famous names in the world of climbing up there, and it was great to see even the Army Alpine Association (to which I used to belong in Australia) get a mention.
We also toured the K2 Museum adjacent to the hotel, erected by the Italians to celebrate their first ascent of the mountain in 1954. I loved seeing the old photos (not much has changed locally it seems, but Westerners tend to wear fewer pith helmets) and the old maps of the Baltoro Glacier and Karakoram range. Once we were done there we drove back to Shigar, to the Fort Palace where we had stayed a few nights ago.
The following morning we took a long walk around the lovely village of Shigar. The locals were very friendly to us and we visited a girls primary school – super cute watching them learn Urdu by reciting poems they had written in front of the class (and a gaggle of Westerners).