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2010 Clare's story

The photographs below were taken by Clare during her six week stay in the village of Machulo, in Baltistan, Northern Pakistan.
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The Masherbrum Hotel, Skardu

thumbnailLooking from Skardu towards the Indus.
thumbnailLooking from Skardu towards the Indus.
 

Around the village of Askole with Ali as guide

thumbnailDawood, Anwar and Ali.
thumbnailThis is a water driven flour mill used after the harvest to grind the corn. All the villagers of Askole bring their corn here.
thumbnailClare and Ali - corn hopper in the background.
thumbnailThe two old brothers, who run the flour mill, with Clare and Ali.
thumbnailThese two brothers run the flour mill from dawn until 23:00 every day, from the beginning of the harvest until the water stops flowing in late Autumn. After this, the villagers have to take their corn to another village a couple of kilometres away.
thumbnailThis is Hashem, 13, who lives in Thongal, the last village before Askoli. I met him in 2008 and we got on really well. He and his brothers and sisters weren‘t at school on the day we saw him, but herding the family cow. His father was away working and his brother (who normally cares for the cow) had gone to collect some money owed to their father - so it was up to Hashem to look after the cow.
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thumbnailThe man in the Balti hat is Shaban Ali who played a large part in the film K2, filmed in Canada in 1991.
 

The tea house in Dasu

thumbnailAt the tea house in Dasu. Sakahwat Hussain, on the right, is engaged to be married in Spring 2011. He was born deaf and dumb but can communicate very well by sign language and writing.
thumbnailSakahwat Hussain and Clare at the tea house in Dasu.
thumbnailA local resident at the tea house in Dasu.
 

Back in Skardu

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Village life in Machulo

thumbnailA view of the roofs taken from a roof!
thumbnailLocal children who asked me to take their photos.
thumbnailA local boy.
thumbnailA local boy.
thumbnailA local boy.
thumbnailA local boy.
thumbnailA local boy.
thumbnailA local boy.
thumbnailTwo young boys from Machulo.
thumbnailPicking food for the animals. No one is allowed to go home empty handed when the harvest is ready to gather.
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thumbnailI saw this young man when I was on the way to work one morning. At first I just used to leave enough time to walk down to the school, but I soon allowed double the time - every day something would happen - people to talk too, scenes to watch!
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Our 'Family'

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thumbnailHussain and his son in the living room.
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thumbnailCollecting branches for their summer kitchen.
thumbnailThree boys in the family bringing branches home to make the summer kitchen.
thumbnailHussain putting in the branches to make the roof of the summer kitchen.
thumbnailThe new grate in the summer kitchen.
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thumbnailFamily members.
thumbnailSome of the children of the family.
thumbnailShujat and Akbar.
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thumbnailClare in Machulo.
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thumbnailThis little one was often ‘made-up‘ with khol. He‘s a gorgeous little character - very serious and cautious, but with a great sense of humour.
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thumbnailEshat Ali - one of the family little ones.
thumbnailIqbal, Mohammad Bashir and Hussain looking at Hussain‘s land records. Hussain works for the Land Registry and showed me their detailed records going back over a century. The craft and skill of the work is incredible. After the monsoon, Hussain was in great demand to redefine the property boundaries removed by the flood water.
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thumbnailA family friend.
thumbnailHussain.
thumbnailOne of the boys in the family.
thumbnailA lovely man whose daughter in law, Fatima, makes the best parantha in town!
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My very good friend, Iqbal

thumbnailIqbal singing in the mosque. He has the most beautiful voice.
thumbnailIqbal - he took me on a lovely walk around the villages of Machulo and this was one of the incredible views.
thumbnailIqbal and his cousins.
thumbnailClare and the cousins.
thumbnailIqbal came up to the Felix House every day when he got back from school so we could have one-to-one lessons. He‘s a very bright boy and learns very quickly despite the problems he has with his eyes.
thumbnailIqbal.
thumbnailAndy and Iqbal.
thumbnailIqbal and his brother Arif in school uniform waiting for the school Jeep, supplied by the Felix Foundation. It leaves at 0630 and returns at 1500. The older students go down to Khaplu daily to the secondary school.
thumbnailIqbal.
 

A Balti Tea Party

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thumbnailJowat was chief tea maker - it involved much stirring.
thumbnailThe men used this wonderful ornate tea pot! We women got a very large kettle!!!!
 

The killing of the goat

thumbnailIqbal and the goat which was killed in my honour by Iqbal‘s father. After a morning at school I went to their house to watch the killing - part of the honour.
thumbnailClare with the goat!
thumbnailThe deceased goat.
thumbnailThe deceased goat.
thumbnailThe remains of the goat.
 

School life in Machulo

thumbnailEvery day when I went down to school I saw this little one on his way home!! He didn‘t like school and each day he only stayed half an hour. His Grandfather was trying to persuade him to stay, but he wasn‘t having any of it and set off back home!
thumbnailOne of the local schools.
thumbnailOn the primary school wall.
thumbnailRizwan and classmate.
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thumbnailMorning assembly at the 5 Star School in Khaplu.
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Beautiful Machulo!

thumbnailAll ready for Beautiful Machulo! The last day of term and both schools were ready to clean up the village. The students study very informative and good texts about hygiene, both personal and environmental, so we thought it would be useful to put it into practice. It had never been done before and the children thought it was wonderful - they were so enthusiastic.
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thumbnailAnother wonderful poster for Beautiful Machulo.
thumbnailThe workers!
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thumbnailThe boys loved the wheel barrows!
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thumbnailThese two boys were wonderful - in class they would fight to get the board marker so they could correct sentences! I gave them a prize each for ‘enthusiasm!‘
 

The Felix Baltistan Foundation

thumbnailThe Felix Inurrategi House - and the veranda with the best view in the world!
thumbnailThe view from the veranda! The silver circular ‘bowl‘ is a solar rice cooker, which makes perfect rice every time.
thumbnailRustam Ali, another of the wonderful team at the Felix Foundation.
thumbnailBasharat and Guillermo at the NGO House.
thumbnailShamshair Ali and Basharat Ali, two of the extremely dedicated men from the village whom I had the privilege of working with.
thumbnailGuillermo from Spain who works tirelessly for the Foundation.
thumbnailBasharat and Guillermo at the NGO House.
 

In and around Machulo

thumbnailThe view up the Hushe valley from Machulo, with Masherbrum at the end.
thumbnailMasherbrum - ‘not sleeping.‘
thumbnailThe view down river from Machulo.
thumbnailView from a window on to the wheat fields. The food mileage for this village is about 20 centimeters! All the flour is stone-ground!!! All the fields are small and there is a huge mix of crops to help keep any diseases at bay.
thumbnailA view from Machulo.
 

Harvesting the Wheat

thumbnailThis is a traditional and sometimes still used threshing field. The corn is laid down and a cow or two walk round and round to do the threshing.
thumbnailIqbal in a Balti hat, helping with the harvest.
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thumbnailOn the way to work one morning - harvesting the wheat.
thumbnailHarvesting the wheat.
thumbnailThe thresher starts work in the lower parts of the valley where the crops ripen first and then it slowly moves up towards Hushe, following the crops as they ripen. One of the members of our family had invested in the thresher some years ago with his retirement pension from the Army. Many of the villagers up and down the valley rented it from him when they needed to harvest their own crops.
 

The Apricot Harvest

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thumbnailApricots drying on the flat roofs.
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thumbnailArif and his cousin with the apricots.
thumbnailApricots drying on the roofs.
thumbnailAnother little one with the apricots.
thumbnailA busy roof!
thumbnailOrtzi, building one of the prototype apricot driers. Ortzi is so clever at this and is trying out a couple of designs. We hope to get them up and running for next year and so provide a much more reliable method for drying the apricots. At the moment, if it rains and they aren‘t covered, then the apricots go mouldy. We hope to get the apricots to market and bring in a source of income for the women.
thumbnailClare next to Ortzi‘s main apricot drier which he had just assembled.
 

Visiting Talis and Hushe Villages

thumbnailChildren at the school in Talis, which thankfully wasn‘t hit by the floods. When it rains, the tarpaulin is drawn over to cover the children. In Machulu, the village where I lived, the schools were of a good standard with white-boards, carpet to sit on, or chairs with armrests for writing on. Higher up the valley the situation was much less fortunate.
thumbnailLittle Karim, Ali and Basharat Ali. Little Karim is one of Pakistan‘s most famous high altitude porters. If you put his name into a search engine, you can read more about him. He is a really lovely man. Ali works for the Foundation in the summer, managing the Refugio (the whole contents of which had been brought up from Islamabad by road which is no mean feat of organisation, let alone finance!!!) In the winter he goes down to Islamabad to work in a US call centre, speaking Spanish!
 
thumbnailArtefacts in the Hushe museum.
thumbnailWeaving at the museum in Hushe - a very skilled old man.
thumbnailTea and chips at Little Karim‘s! Chocolate chip cookies too!
 

Khaplu Fort and the Saling Fish Farm and Museum

thumbnailKhaplu Fort which is being restored by the Aga Khan Foundation.
The Aga Khan Foundation is hugely important in the north of Paksitan for education at its university in Gilgit and cultural restorations in the whole of Gilgit-Baltistan. This link takes you to the Aga Khan Foundation and its work: scroll down for Khaplu Fort.

More information is available on the Pakistan Government website.

thumbnailPart of a roof in the Khaplu Fort, awaiting restoration.
thumbnailPart of another restored roof at Khaplu Fort.
thumbnailPart of the restoration of the fort.
thumbnailIqbal and two of his cousins at the fort.
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thumbnailA water jar at the museum in the fish farm at Saling. The Felix Foundation established the fish farm to create another source of food. It‘s also a place to visit to see some lovely flowers and have a cup of tea. Really relaxing and restoring just to sit and smell the roses.
thumbnailZainab relaxing in the beautiful fish farm in Saling.
thumbnailThe beautiful wild flowers at the fish farm in Saling.
thumbnailTea in the fish farm at the end of a lovely day out in the Khalpu area. Ibrahim Rustam, Basharat Ali, Rustam Ali and Iabal.
 

The Monsoon

thumbnailThis is the Indus in Skardu on the morning of the monsoon. I was in Skardu for meetings about the education plan in Machulo. This was the view from my hotel room where I could see the level rising by the minute.
thumbnailThis is the Indus in Skardu on the morning of the monsoon. I was in Skardu for meetings about the education plan in Machulo. This was the view from my hotel room where I could see the level rising by the minute.
thumbnailWhen we were in Skardu, on the day of the monsoon, we heard very early that Talis, a village just a couple of kilometers up the track from us, had been badly hit. Unfortunately, we couldn‘t leave Skardu immediately because it was a big festival day and the roads were going to be closed for the next five hours. We weren‘t able to leave until 13:00 and by then the Indus had risen even more. On the road back to Machulo, the people I was with said that they had never seen the Indus like this before - they were completely shocked. I had never seen anything like it either - a heaving, evil looking mass of water hurtling south, taking its destruction with it.
 
thumbnailRefreshments along the way for those taking part in the festivities.
thumbnailRefreshments along the way for those taking part in the festivities.
 

The Devastation of Talis

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thumbnailTents for the poor people of Talis.
thumbnailTrying to move the boulders from the road - by hand.
thumbnailAnother boulder to move - by hand. Amazingly, somehow it was done. Within a week of the village being half wiped out, the road was cleared by hand and opened again!!! In one disastrous night the road from Hushe down to Machulo was broken in five places. Within a week the local people had worked all hours to clear them of debris and life could resume with a little less hardship.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailOrtzi assessing the flood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis. The mud and silt was 2 metres deep as you can see from these tree trunks.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis. The remains of a flour mill.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis. This is not two tone paint but the mud and silt level.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
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thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailAn emergency tent.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis. If all else fails then the people of Baltistan know they can rely on the chests of tsampa flour to see them through the coming year until the next crop arrives. Tsampa flour is made from barley in a labour intensive process. It is tasty and very adaptable - you can stir it into Balti tea and make a thick paste, or add it to soups or make dumplings. The flood took away many of the tsampa chests the reserve food for many families.
thumbnailTemporary shelter - and damaged tsampa chest.
thumbnailThe medical tent where three doctors had worked for four days without sleep to help all those in need.
thumbnailOne of the amazing doctors in the medical tent.
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thumbnailOrtzi and Rustam assessing the damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis. Someone had collected a few broken doors so they could reuse them.
thumbnailAnother of the orphaned tsampa chests.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis. This was once a road. On the first day the road was replaced by two small and narrow tree trunks. By the second day it was a very narrow little bridge and by the third day, it was easier to cross to the other side of the village.
thumbnailFlood damage in Talis. Moving boulders to clear the road.
thumbnailSome children in Talis watching Ortzi film the flooding river.
thumbnailThe river rushing through Talis.
thumbnailA week after the monsoon hit Talis; the District‘s highest ranking military personage arrived to have a look. Three Jeeps appeared early one morning and parked just above school grounds, where there is a helipad. His helicopter landed in a great flurry. The middle Jeep then took him to Talis to view the devastation. He returned 30 minutes later.
 

Return to Skardu

thumbnailPetrol!!!!!!! The Karakoram Highway was broken in four places during the monsoon. After some days the top section was repaired allowing some of the trapped transport to get through. Amongst it was a fuel tanker - everyone was allowed a couple of litres each! This scene lasted around 12 hours until 05:00!
 

Evacuated from Skardu

thumbnailSitting in the compound at Skardu airport; getting processed and waiting to be evacuated by the military.
thumbnailWe had to push through this crowd, about 100 deep, so we could get to the gate and into the airport compound.
thumbnailFlt Lt Javed Hussain who was 2IC at the airbase and did a wonderful job organising everything.
thumbnailWe were down at the airport by 05:00. Once we had been processed and moved down to the airstrip (some of us in the Flt Lt‘s personal transport), all we could do was wait in the baking heat and dust for over six hours until the flight was cancelled. Although the weather was good in the valley, it was very bad over the mountains which surround Skardu, making it impossible for the plane to cross the range from Islamabad. All we could do was return to our hotel and keep our fingers crossed for the next day.
thumbnailThe same procedure on the second day but this time with more luck. After another five hours of waiting under tarpaulins, the C-130 actually landed. We heard it circle a couple of times and thought it had changed its mind, but no, it tried again and landed. I‘m sure this was because we had half a dozen US Special Forces with us who also wanted desperately to get out. They had left their base four days earlier, supposedly for only four hours, to assess the airstrip‘s capability to land a C-17 full of emergency aid, including fuel. I wasn‘t fully convinced by their story but they did a wonderful hearts and minds job on the locals - even if they were fully armed and carrying live ammunition!
 
thumbnailUnloading the C-130. It had come up with emergency relief from one of the national banks. There was a local film crew as well to get the publicity out. Clare was interviewed for the Pakistan national evening news.
thumbnailAn assortment of western tourists trying to get home. The guy with the beard is a US Army Major.
thumbnailThe Major, the Irishman and Kinga Baranovski, one of the world‘s elite climbers from Poland. She had been trying to summit K2 this summer.
thumbnailLuke, the US Marine.
thumbnailFlt Lt Javed Hussain.
thumbnailFlt Lt Javed Hussain and Clare.
thumbnailInside the C-130 on the way to Peshawar where we called first to drop the US guys. There were six people flying the plane and about 126 inside all squashed together in 40 degrees of heat - just glad to be going south. There were so many children, all amazingly well behaved.
thumbnailClare was invited to visit the cockpit of the C-130 to have a look at the view. There was very little to be seen because of the cloud mass - the big white blob in the middle of the photo is Nanga Parbat!
thumbnailSquashed but happy to be heading south and very, very grateful to the Pakistan military.
 
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©Anglo-Argentinian Broad Peak Expedition 2010
Last modified : 12.09.2010