It was a cold winter day when we set off to look for an elusive valley whose name we didn’t remember and whose location we didn’t know. Based off one of the members vague recollection of a valley in Gulmit near Sost, we set off , asking local residents along the way of the valleys that are accessible only through a trek.

After a few stop overs at a local hotel in Khyber with a very nice gentleman who identified the village we were looking for, we set off to look for the sign that leads to the village. We stopped over at a local store with a very cute uncle who was roasting malai botis on his grill for his two kids, who ended up giving us a very quick lunch. After some delicious malai botis and a few games of football with the uncles kids, we set off to a winding road off the main road, and parked at the last area where a car could go.

One of the locals graciously offered to take us down to the village, but he told us we needed to be quick, as it was only a few hours to sunset, and the road was difficult to travel to at night. So we got our:

  1. Headlamps
  2. Hiking Shoes
  3. Extra Jackets
  4. Emergency Whistle
  5. Water, Apples, Snacks
  6. And a survival knife

And we set off!

Skipping along right next to the river, the road was crumbled, and had caved in in a few places. As we climbed rocks, skidded through gravel and made our way precariously on crumbling rocks, we quickly realized this trek wasn’t for the faint hearted.

The track soon disappeared, and we were forced to detour and climb up and walk next to a reservoir, while making sure we don’t slip off the edge.

As we went on, we crossed the river on a rickety bridge, and then things started getting interesting.

As we walked, we passed by a large rock with graffiti drawn all over it. Our guide casually mentioned that the mentioned rock is actually known as a Bhoot Rock, because there are large gashes on top of the rock that look like fingernail scrapes, which were done by a supposed entity that likes to prey on humans at night.

This particular piece of information came with this rather omnious sign, when we spotted the fresh remains of a mountain goat, wedged into the entrance of what appears to be a little cave.

Our guide said that the remains of the mountain goat looked rather fresh, so it was done fairly recently. He said that Snow Leapords frequent this area, and that this could be the work of a Snow Leapord. And since the body was fresh, he said that the leapord was likely somewhere nearby, and asked us to hurry up :)

But then, we saw the little village houses in the distance, and we realized: we made it! Avgarch.

A hauntingly beautiful village, with stone houses and wild animals grazing in the fields.

It was as if we had stepped into a pre-historic era, where people did not use technology, and relied solely on cattle and crop farming for survival.

We were greeted by the beautiful local family, who were surprised to see a group of visitors arrive so late who didn’t plan on staying the night. They graciously answered all our questions, and offered us tea as a remedy for the cold.

At the centre of the village was a mosque, which is believed to be over a 500 years old.

The mosque door has beautiful inscriptions on its side, and it has been in use for the last 500 years or so.

The village also had a watch tower right next to the mosque, which served as a look out as a defensive measure back in the olden days. These days, the watch tower, while still in place, is not in use for the same purpose.

After a wonderful day spending time with the local family, we were invited inside for tea. The guest house on the inside has a wood-fire burner that’s connected to the chimney. Typically in a family house in the northern part of Pakistan, the living room, or the central room, which is knows as ‘Ha’, has these burners that serve both as a kitchen and as heater. In winters, the families cook their meals here, and then sleep in the same living room, in order to keep warm from the biting cold outside.

It also serves as a wonderful place to entertain neighbours and friends, as it is the coziest part of the house.

After a delicious cup of tea, we began our journey back via the same steps we came from. Evening had set, and our return journey was spent in the dark, illuminated only by our trusted headlamps and torches. Never before had we experienced a night as pitch black as this.

As we trudged on, we kept recalling the story of the elusive bhoot that hunts humans at night. Our guide assured us that the entity only preyed on people who did not have flashlights, and that we were safe, as long as we hurried up. Taking his word, we sped through the return journey, and rejoiced when we finally saw our trusted car waiting for us in the dark.

It was a journey we will never forget!