Finding The Fountain Of Youth And Bridge Of Death – Pakistan Part 4

Want to live to eternity, or at least to 120?

Well you may want to move to Pakistan’s Hunza Valley, where the local people have metaphorically found the Fountain of Youth. On this leg of our grand Pakistani excursion, we’ll see if we can boost our longevity in, of course, the Hunza Valley…

Then we’ll confront our fear and put our survival skills to test on the nearby “Hanging Bridge of Death.” Yes, it is really that dangerous; you will see!

So if adventure, in addition to immortality, is your thing, get ready to risk your future centenarian status by trying to traverse this bridge of death. Are you in?

Up in the mountains, we remain

After exploring the amazing Buddhist rock carvings in Gilgit, the main town where the Hindu Kush and the Karakoram mountain ranges meet, we bid adieu to the Hindu Kush and drove for a while along the Karakoram Highway.

Saying goodbye to the Hindu Kush Mountains, and one of her gentle inhabitants 🥺

For the next two nights, we planned to stay in the popular tourist town of Passu. Passu is located just off the Karakoram highway, not too far from the Chinese border, where we would visit the following day. But before we could make it to Passu, we had another long day of driving and sightseeing ahead of us.

Reaching new heights in the Karakoram range, where most mountains are over 7000 meters high!

Mother of Mist

The long drive from Gilgit to Passu turned out to be fantastic, thanks to all of the incredible views all along the way. First, we passed the stunning Rakaposhi Mountain, known to locals as “Mother of Mist” or “Mother of the Clouds,” which is every bit as beautiful as the name makes it sound.

The Mother of Mist rising up above the clouds. We were lucky to see it on a clear day! 🤩

While it is only ranked the 27th tallest mountain in the world at 7788 meters, Rakaposhi Mountain is on record as the world’s most prominent mountain.

Why, you may ask? This is because it has the highest vertical cliff in the world at almost 6,000 meters, and it is the only mountain in the world that has over 5,000 meters of distance between the base camp and the summit.

Me and the magnificent Rakaposhi Mountain. Makes me look short 😂

It was absolutely beautiful to see the completely white, snowy mountain outlined by the lush green landscape. We had fabulous views of the Rakaposhi Mountain as we continued driving onward to Hunza Valley, which offered more spectacular views of the Mother of Mist.

It doesn’t get much better than these views!

The Garden of Eden

Hunza Valley is arguably one of the most beautiful mountain valleys in the world; so much so that it is often referred to as “The Garden of Eden.” It borders both China and Afghanistan, and in the past, it was an important stop for traders along the silk road. It is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and there are still many historic ruins to explore there.

A view of yours truly in Hunza Valley with the Rakaposhi Mountain looming in the background

During our time there, we visited both of Hunza Valley’s famous ancient forts. Altit Fort is a thousand years old, and Baltit Fort is 700 years old, making them some of the oldest standing monuments in the region.

Baltit Fort towering among the mountains

It was a steep hike to Baltit Fort, which is perched like an eagle’s nest on top of a cliff, with Altit Fort slightly farther down below.

The fort was at the perfect height to defend them from invading armies.

The ancient colonial forts have been nicely restored by the ADKN Foundation, so we got to see how it would have looked hundreds of years ago. We took the opportunity to take a tour of Baltit Fort and explore the various rooms inside.

Exploring the nicely renovated Baltit Fort

They even had some guards dressed in their very unique original clothing, and I got to take a photo of one with truly fabulous facial hair. We enjoyed the overlook from the cliff at the fortress, which had amazing views of Rakaposhi, the other surrounding mountains, and the river below.

Maybe I should grow a beard like this… 🤣

Climbing up to the forts was strenuous work, so we had a little lunch in between seeing the forts at a local restaurant. The restaurant was quite nice and had a lot of local fruit juices that we could try. They are especially famous for their delicious dried apricot juice.

Lunch with a view

The Hunza are said to be some of the healthiest and happiest people in the world, and on average, their lives have incredible longevity — hence they garner the Fountain of Youth reference. The average lifespan of people in Hunza Valley is one hundred years, and it is not uncommon there to meet people living happily up to the ripe old age of 120.

Supposedly, this has something to do with their diet, which includes a lot of dried fruit, and their easy access to fresh, clean mountain water, although it is still somewhat of a mystery to scientists.

It felt like heaven on earth in Hunza Valley

The Hanging Bridge of Death

After leaving Hunza Valley, we continued on toward Passu, but on the way, there was more mountain scenery to be admired.

View along the Karakoram Highway

On the way to Passu, we passed a reservoir, which is an enjoyable tourist destination for many Pakistanis. At the reservoir, you can rent a boat or even jet skis and just have fun on the mountain lake with the beautiful mountains towering all around you. Our group rented a motorboat out there, which we drove across the lake and back just to take in the scenery and see the locals enjoying themselves.

Having a little fun on the lake

Our next stop on the way to Passu was a very long hanging rope bridge, the Hussaini Hanging Bridge, that is believed to be one of the most dangerous bridges in the world. It is known notoriously by the locals as “The Hanging Bridge of Death.” We took a half-hour walk over to the hanging bridge, where we took some photos and then attempted to cross it.

Good thing Michael didn’t get stuck here.. Are you brave enough to cross this bridge?

We were offered a rope as protection as we crossed the bridge, which really is quite dangerous with thin wooden planks about 20cm apart, and the rushing river just two or three meters below. The wind was quite strong, which made the bridge shake as we very carefully tried to walk across it. Understandably, some people were too afraid to even attempt to cross the bridge. Some of our group made it out to the middle of the bridge, while others took a few steps in and then decided that it wasn’t worth the risk. 😨

We had an awesome view of the Passu Cones rock formation as we crossed the hanging bridge!

Finally, after a long and exciting day, we were ready to drive the rest of the way to the town of Passu. We arrived at our guesthouse and prepared for the day to come.

Another beautiful view along the way as we drove from Hunza Valley to Passu

Peeking at China

The next morning, we went down the rest of the Karakoram Highway all the way up to the Chinese border.

A bird’s-eye view of the Karakoram Highway

The road had a very high standard compared to many others we had traversed in the country so far, with two fully paved lanes.

The quality of the road improved drastically as we neared the Chinese border.

Not only was the quality of the road high, but so was the border itself, as it is the highest border crossing in the world at 4,693 meters. It is also home to the highest ATM in the world, which we snapped a quick photo of.

The world’s highest ATM!

Unfortunately, the border was closed because of covid-1984 protocols. Even though Pakistan and China are in each others’ good graces, China is not currently allowing any foreigners to enter the country.

An entrance to the Empire 

There was a little fence around the border, but it wasn’t so big. From where we stood on the Pakistani side, we had a clear view of Chinese customs and Chinese flag.

The fence would have been small enough to hop over, but the natural barrier of the mountains is formidable.

For some reason, only Pakistanis who are part of the military are allowed to enter the no-man’s-land between Pakistan and China, so we couldn’t go that far. But we did go about 500 meters through a herd of yaks that were grazing in a meadow and bathing in the river.

An adorable pack of yaks grazing by the border

The scenery was lovely, crowned with the snowcapped peaks of the surrounding mountains as we stood at the plateau. We enjoyed our time at the highest border crossing in the world before turning around and driving all the way back to Passu, where we mostly rested that afternoon.

More amazing scenery by the border

We did make a couple of stops along the way as we drove back, but nothing particularly notable. We spent so many hours driving for so many days that occasional stops to stretch and enjoy the scenery were necessary to enjoy our time.

There was no shortage of beautiful places to stop and take in the view.

The next day, we left Passu early to embark on another very long drive to Nanga Parbat, where we planned to stay the next three days. Check in next time to read about our dangerous road trip to this infamously deadly mountain.