Stoat of Deosai Plateau

It is a Stoat, also known as a short-tailed weasel, which I observed at Deosai National Park, in October.
The morning and evening temperatures were below freezing point during this season. The Stoat was completely engulfed in white winter fur; protected from the predators and the harsh cold weather.

A Stoat is widely distributed in northern Eurasia continent and North America. In Pakistan, it is found in the northern mountainous areas.

There was no one where we stayed at Bara Pani campsite. A calm and peaceful place and only cold wind were blowing… Ultimately, a Stoat came quite close to us without any fear! Thus, we had the perfect opportunity to photograph it.

Photo: Mariko  Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Oct 2015, Deosai Plateau, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National park > - Stoat
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Religion of Kalash Valley

The Kalash’s religion is considered to be closer to Vedic and Pre-Zoroastrian cultures, even though it has a valuable existence that retains the old form of the Indo-Aryan religion. There is a God of Creator “Dezau” and many gods. There are gods closely related to life and nature, such as “Balumain”, “Sajigor” and “Mahan Deva” which appear at the Chaumos Festival and the goddess “Jestak” who protects the house. The place of prayer is called Dewa, and in each village has small altar at temple of Jestak han and the outskirts of the village.

 

Temple of Jestak han

Jestak is a goddess who controls the family, housework, marriage and each clan has a temple, not every village.There is a sheep motif at the entrance, Laternendeke ceiling which is typical in Pamir architecture decorations. There is a wood carving on the back of the temple that shows “Balumain” and there is mural painting from the Chaumos Festival.


There are two clans living in Karakal village in Bomboret Valley, and Jastak han has two entrances for each clan in one building.
The picture is Jastak han of Anish village. Designs and decorations inspired by goats and sheep. Laternendeke ceilings of typical architectural styles specific to mountains of Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Wakhan Corridor area.

 

The Gandao – Wooden statue

A wooden image created to admire the memories of dead person, contributions, and achievements. The production and rituals of this Gandao are very expensive and require a lot of goats, cheese and ghee. Thus, it can only be created by the rich men who are influential. In Bomboret Valley, two sons made two Gandao for their father and uncle, who died more than 10 years ago in Brun village in 2008. (It can still be seen in the Brun village cemetery).
The Gandao is at the center of the ceremonial place. People dance around it and after the ritual is completed, the Gandao is transported to the graveyard.

 

Cemetery Mandawjaw

The original burial of Kalash was to only put body in a wooden coffin and place in a cemetery. But about 50 years ago, they started practicing burial like Muslims. At present, things that seem to be whitening are old things about 50 years ago. In the past, it was said that if not covering the coffin, it was easy for the soul to free and naturally weatherable.

 

“Pure” and “Impure” concept

The Kalasha has the strong concept for “Pure” and “Impure” in their life. Therefore, there are many rituals to purify the things that they believe are impure.
The representative one is Bashari. It is a hut where women during menstruation gather and live together. Delivery is also carried out here, and after the delivery it is possible to return to the house where the husband is eagerly waiting after the purification ceremony. There is one in each village, and women in Bashari who are under menstruation should not touch others. For example, to pass the things to other person, She can throw it but cannot hand it over.

In short, it’s not easy to understand just by talking. You must visit here and see it for yourself !

Photo : Mariko SAWADA Text :Mariko & Sarosh
※  The photo was taken during the visit between 2006 and 2014.

Category : # Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
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K1- Masherbrum from Hushe valley

The glorious K1 Masherbrum (7,821 m) seen from the Hushe valley. You can clearly see it from near the Hushe village, but we went towards the camp of Brumbruma a little further.

In June, a lush green beautiful village of Hushe. It is a village that is an another gateway to the Karakoram.

A camp of Brumbruma, 4,500 m above sea level. No doubt, it was a snowy year.

“The Snow Leopard’s trap”, I saw on the way to Brumbruma from the Hushe village. Unquestionably, Snow Leopards must be protected at any cost… This seems to be an old one, and there are a lot of Snow Leopard sightings in the Hushe valley. Villagers here proudly say, “Come in the winter, We will show you the Snow Leopard.”

Majestic figure of Masherbrum.

A series of beautiful and sublime ice walls.

From the camp of Brumbruma, Masherbrum in the golden colors of sunset.

 

Photo : Mariko SAWADA    Text : Mariko & Sarosh
Visit : Jun 2010, Brumbruma Camp, Hushe Valley, Gilgit -Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Hushe Valley > - K1 Masherbrum
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Gondogoro-la from Hushe side, K2 appeared from the clouds

It is a record of a long time ago. In June, when there was a lot of snow, I climbed the Gondogoro La from the Hushe side.
The climbing on the Hushe side was long and challenging. Nevertheless, I continued to climb in the midst of the falling snow, and I was assuring myself not to expect the view of the mighty K2, “I may not see the scenery even if I go up”.
Indeed, it was enveloped in the clouds when we reached. I wanted to wait for a while but we couldn’t relax too much because we were worried about the risk of avalanche on our way back.

Suddenly, a miracle happened. The clouds ahead of the staff who went to Ali camp direction broke and K2 emerged from within.

View of K2 from Gondogoro La.

It was for a really short time, and a scene that I felt resembled “Space”.
The camera settings were also crazy during the climbing and the colors were a little funny. Nonetheless, every minute was rewarding.

Ali Camp side from Gondogoro La.

The way down to Hushe side, Khuspan Camp.

Finally, I went downhill at once to reach to our camp. At the camp, cook prepared some succulent “Tempura” for me…  it was quite heavy after the climbing!

Photo : Mariko SAWADA    Text : Mariko & Sarosh
Visit : Jun 2010, Gondogoro-la, Hushe Valley, Gilgit -Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Hushe Valley > - K2
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Snow Leopard observed in Morkhun Village -2

To begin with, when we were informed that the Snow Leopard hunted Ibex in the Morkhun village and sat on the other side of the river, we were near Gilgit. Thus, we changed the direction and headed towards Morkhun Village.

We had to drive slowly because it was dangerous and slippery on snowy roads, due to which, the chances of seeing the snow leopard decreased. It was a risky decision, as the snow leopard may not be there once we reach.
However, against all odds, we headed to the Morkhun village with a complex mind.

This is the Snow Leopard I saw when I just arrived. It was on the other side of the river and the distance was short. At first, I could not find it as it was camouflaged. But then I were able to see it, once it moved its tail.

It was already past 15 o’clock, and I was worried that the snow leopard would move before it became dark.

According to the villagers who have been observing it since morning, the Snow Leopard was hunting Ibex, eating it, hiding the rest of meat in the bush, entering the river, climbing up the rock, then it was sitting there for a while, and at last, went to sleep…till now. Villagers were showing us video clips of Snow Leopard they took through their mobile phone, while we were waiting for the movement of Snow Leopard.

The snow leopard has begun to move!
Villager screams in Wakhi saying, “Shou-bashi!”, meaning “Very good “/”Well Done”.
At this time, about 30 people from the village of Morkhun and the surrounding villages were witnessing the snow leopard.

Snow Leopard has jumped out. The villagers are delighted to say, “Shau-bashi! Shau-Bashi!”

Wild Snow Leopard is in front of us! I was really waiting for this perfect moment for a long time in Pakistan.

The villagers expected that Snow Leopard might go to the Ibex it hunted, but the Snow Leopard sat down again.

It was already dark, consequently limited chance to photograph the snow leopard. I followed the last figure of the snow leopard until I could not see it and left the place finally.

This is the place where we were observing in Morkhun village (drone shot)

Lastly, thanks a lot to the local people of Morkhun village.

Photo: Mariko Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Jan 2019, Morkhun Village, Gojal, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks to Mr. Sultan Gohar (Khunjerab National Park), Mr. Yousaf Akhtar for Drone shooting.

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Morkhun > - Snow Leopard
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Snow Leopard observed in Morkhun Village -1

This is a Snow Leopard I observed at Morkhun village in the beginning of January. I saw a lot of footprints of Snow Leopard in Khunjerab National Park (KNP), yet I could not witness it live.

At last! Now Snow Leopard is in front of me.

At around 10:30 am, a villager found Ibex blazing down the slopes of the mountain. When looked carefully, it was chased by a snow leopard.
Finally, Snow Leopard hunted Ibex, but the place was just across the river of Morkhun village. It was a distance of about 30m across the river.

At 15:00, I arrived at Morkhun village after receiving a message from Mr. Gohar, KNP.
The Snow Leopard was concealed, sitting inside the tree branch. But it started to move in the evening.

Villagers state that as this Snow Leopard entered the river after hunting of Ibex, so the fur was not fluffy.
The sunlight shining on Morkhun village — encompassed by high peaks of The Karakoram range — was short and faded quickly.
Sadly, now the time was over…

Photo: Mariko   Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Jan 2019, Morkhun, Gojal, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks: Mr. Sultan Gohar – KNP (Khunjerab National Park)

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Morkhun > - Snow Leopard
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Himalayan Brown Bear in Autumn – Deosai National Park

A Himalayan Brown Bear which makes the glorious Deosai plateau a well-known and famous place to traverse and explore for wildlife lovers around the world. In fact, the name itself literally translates to, “The land of the Giants”.

The Himalayan Brown Bear is a subspecies of the brown bear that lives in and around the magnificent Himalayas.
Originally, it inhabited widely in Nepal, Tibet, North India, and North Pakistan. However, due to trophy hunting and specifically for the purposes of fur and medicine, it lost its habitat and the population decreased drastically.
It is said that Himalayan brown bear in Bhutan has already been extinct. Moreover. Only a few hundreds population in Northern India and Northern Pakistan remain in the world.

In October, I went to Deosai Plateau for the observation of Himalayan Brown Bear with Deosai National Park staff. During my visit, a staff member explained to me that the bear may come closer to the roadside, as there are comparatively fewer cars and people during this season.
But still it was far and I had to walk quite a distance to approach the bear….

The sun has fallen.
No doubt, it was difficult to walk quickly, considering the fact that we were over 4,000 meters above sea level.

Finally, I came to the perfect distance where I could photograph the gigantic Himalayan Brown Bear.

View of a Himalayan Brown Bear from the backside!
According to the staff of the national park, he was a young male, and he was seamlessly fat enough before the hibernation period.

Himalayan Brown Bears go into hibernation between November and December.

Photo : Mariko   Text : Mariko & Sarosh
Observation : Oct 2015, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National park > - Himalayan Brown Bear
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Snow Leopard returns to the mountain

In late February 2017, a Snow Leopard which attacked livestock in the village of Misgar in Northern Pakistan was captured. She entered the barn and killed goats and sheep. However, she could not get out of the barn.
The villagers understood that the Snow Leopard must be protected at all cost, but they wanted to ask the administration for compensation of their killed livestock. So, it was the third day after being captured, when she was finally released to the mountain.

This snow leopard was a female snow leopard who was being observed with two cubs near the village of Misgar. They did not release at Misgar but they transported to the Khunjerab National Park where she was released.

The story that snow leopard was captured in Misgar became news immediately, and I was trying to go there. Unfortunately, I was informed that a foreigner needs a permit to go there and I had no time for that. So, I gave up and stayed at Deh check post of Khunjerab National Park, where this snow leopard arrived.

To see the moment when this Snow Leopard is released, TV crew and government officials gathered and moved in a row.
It was decided to release her on the slope of the mountain, just after the Deh check post.

Even the cage was opened, snow leopard did not come out immediately. As it didn’t come out, the locals who were around enchanted, “Lolly, Lolly, come!”.
“Lolly” is the Snow Leopard kept at Sost check post, until autumn of 2016.
Now she has been shifted to Naltar valley. But when National Park staff see a female Snow Leopard, they cannot stop calling it “Lolly.”

As she was thirsty, so she immediately started to eat the snow.

She looked forward towards the people, after eating the snow.

And cautiously observed the environment around her.

She came out slowly from the cage. At this moment, applause arose from the local people standing there.

Finally, now she is freely walking into the wild.

After three days of restraint, her fur was disordered, and the blood of the livestock was still spread on her body.

She stopped to eat the snow.

The Snow Leopard went into the bush but still stared at us.

After a while, it started climbing the mountain again and sat down again.
Although this is a released Snow Leopard, it was first time to see a wild Snow Leopard in Pakistan for me.

We left the place hoping that this snow leopard could safely return to the two cubs in Misgar.
The next day, the staff went to see where the snow leopard was last sighted, but it was not there no more.

Fortunately, three days after the release, there was a message from the National Park staff that this snow leopard was witnessed in Misgar with two cubs.

Photo: Mariko  Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Feb 2017, Khunjerab National Park, Gilgit -Baltistan
Special Thanks : Mr. Sultan Gohar -KNP(Khunjerab National Park), Mr. Farman Razah – KVO ( Khunjerab Villager Organization), Wildlife Department of Pakistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Khunjerab National Park > - Snow Leopard > - Snow Leopard (in Captivity)
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Buzi Pass – Makran Coastal Highway

While driving on the Makran Coastal Highway towards Ormara, one has to cross through the stupendous Buzi Pass.
Indeed, the drive itself on the Makran Coastal Highway is very scenic and beautiful. Similarly, climbing up top to the Buzi Pass is also a breathtaking experience.

It is a rock formation named, “Princess of Hope” at the starting point of Buzi pass. As for me, I was perplexed when I first saw it. Nevertheless, the Pakistani people were stopping by and taking photos.

“Princess of Hope” is truly a famous landmark. You will find a replica of this at the so-called “Zero Point” junction of Makran Coastal Highway and Uthal Road. Also, there are other rock formation named such as “Sphinx of Balochistan”, “Palace” and more.

Vehicle traveling on the endless road through astounding landscapes of Balochistan.

From the top of the Buzi Pass, you will see the Arabian Sea, huge eroded land, canyon extending from the coast; a geological wonderland.

Three Bikers from our “Pakistan Bikers Balochistan tour” are passing.
Crossing Buzi Pass is definitely one of the highlights of the Makran Coastal Highway drive, one must experience in their lifetime.

Photo: Mariko **Some photos are taken by a drone
Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Visit: Feb 2019, Buzi Pass, Makran Coast, Balochistan

Category : # Balochistan > - Makran Coast
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Sunrise over Makran Coastal Highway

We left Pasni quite an early morning and started to ride towards Kund Malir. On the way, we had a perfect chance to gaze at the beautiful sunrise over Makran Coastal Highway.

No doubt, it was so beautiful riding on a motorbike towards the distant radiant sun on the endless horizon. Suddenly, we stopped the car and the motorbikes to enjoy photographing the warm golden-red colors of the sunrise.

Today will be a long ride from Pasni to Khuzdar via Bela cave city. The beginning of the Hard ride!

Photo: Mariko  Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Visit: Feb 2019, Pasni, Makran Coastal Highway, Balochistan

Category : # Balochistan > ** Pakistan Bikers > - Makran Coast > - Pasni
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