Bulashbar Valley

Bulashbar Valley is located to the southeast of Astor, district Diamer, in the Northern Areas. Astor is nestled in the foothills of Nanga Parbat, which at 8,125 m, is the world's ninth-highest mountain.

Winters are long and bitterly cold as temperature may go down to minus 20 degrees Celsius at night, especially during December, January and February. The winter scene is not time often viewed by tourists, due to difficult access. During this time the valley becomes stunningly tranquil enshrouded in snow. Whereas summers are hot, reaching a maximum of around 36 degrees Celsius.

This area is remarkably green and more vegetated than other parts of the Northern Areas. While Nanga Parbat shields Gilgit and Ghizer Districts form the monsoon rains, the last moisture laden winds still reach the area around Astor, which has an annual rainfall of between two and three hundred millimetres. The appearance of this moist Temperate Zone is much more like the forests of Europe, setting it apart from many forest areas of Pakistan.

Bulashbar and Astor lie at the junction of several mountain routes, providing ample and varied trekking opportunities, including many short walks through this beautiful area. Tracks head eastwards from the Bulashbar area, up towards the wild but beautiful Deosai Mountains and Plains. To the norhtwest, a trekking route leads to the Muthat Pass and continues on to Fairy Meadow. In the southwest, Rupal Valley provides numerous opportunities for short and long treks. For these routes, arrangements should be made for a Shina - speaking guide from Chilas or Gilgit before arrival. Food and provisions are available in Astor. However, supplies are limited and it is advisable to bring all necessary supplies from Gilgit.

Tourist season begins in June and lasts until mid October. The spring and summer months are lush green. Rainfall at this time of year makes a pleasant environment. Mid-summer is very hot, visitors at this time of year should be prepared to walk very early in theday, before the mid-day heat. The determined winter visitor, though may be rewarded with some unique sights.

Cultural Events

The Bulashbar area is predominantly Sunni Muslim. Two events take place in May-Dirma and Ditch. Both events are held to celebrate greenery which can be seen sprouting all around. It is also a celebration of the agricultural season getting into full swing.

Chiligon, in the month of June, is a harvest festival and is celebrated when the wheat crop is mature and ready to be gathered.

Places of Interest

In the area surrounding Gorikote and Bulashbar, there are many places of natural beauty. Locals are a great source of information on all aspects of the surrounding areas, at least to those with a smattering of Shina or Urdu, or with a guide/interpreter. Below is a small selection of some areas worth a visit.

Bulashbar Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with sparsely forested hillsides, clear waters, and plenty of places to relax and feel the grandeur all around. Wildlife sightings of certain species are common here. Domusur Nullah lies about 7 km east of the village of Gorikote, and is four hours relatively easy trekking from there. The area is covered with coniferous forests, birch trees and junipers, and is interspersed with lush pastures in the spring and summer months.

Kinibri is located in the west of Gorikote, and is well worth a visit for its natural lakes and beautiful green pastures. From Gorikote the walk heads westwards for about 6 km until one reaches Kinibri. It takes 3 - 4 hours, each way, on this route.

Games

The people of this area love sports, despite the difficulties posed by the mountainous terrain and the nature of field games requiring an open area. With the arrival of spring, and warmer weather, some of the locals engage in fast paced games of polo in nearby Astor. The children amuse themselves with guli danda, which has the advantage that it can be played everywhere.

The guli is a small, cigar-shaped piece of wood, slightly thicker in the middle and with both ends tapered to a point. The danda is a sturdy stick nearly 3 feet long, used as a bat or club. The guli is thrown onto the ground and hit with the danda. Locals also love to have an impromptu game of cricket, volleyball or football in summer, improving on the necessary equipment with just about whatever seems to do the job.

Flora and Fauna

Heavy rainfall in the area allows for a more diverse flora than in many other parts of the Northern Areas, giving a soft, picturesque look to the whole region. The mountain slope below the snowline provide favourable conditions for trees to thrive. Main species of this region are the kail, species of fir and spruce, several species of juniper, birch and the important chilghoza pine. The kernels of chilghoza are an edible delicacy across the whole of Pakistan, and fetch a good price.

The summer pastures are home to a rich variety of flowering plants, many with medicinal properties. The conservation of many endemic and important medicinal plants found throughout the pastures of the Northern Areas is a key objective of WWF-Pakistan. We are working with the local communities on pasture management initiatives, forging new links with many companies for launching sustainable, income-generating schemes for the small-scale production and harvesting of these species.

The change of climate in this area brings species of fauna, not found in the districts of Ghizer and Gilgit. Among them is the humorous and lovable golden marmot - commonly seen around the pastures of Bulashbar. Less frequently observed is the elusive, forest-dwelling leopard.

If you carry binoculars, and have a keen eye, the ibex and the brown bear can both be spotted - usually at distances of 1-2 km. Nearby Deosai Plains is home to a good population of brown bears; thanks to the continued efforts of the Himalayan Wildlife Project in this area. The Tibetan red fox can usually be seen at dawn and dusk. However, the critically endangered, beautiful musk deer is unlikely to be seen, having been reduced to minute numbers by relentless hunting for its musk gland, which provides scent for the perfume industry. The most likely area for spotting it is around Saghri nullah, at dawn and dusk. The snow leopard and wolves are also present in the region, though extreme patience and determination (or sheer luck) are required to spot either of these species. The best time to spot wild mammals is between December and May

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