The Shinaki area is located in the valley of the Hunza River, about 65km north of Gilgit, the capital of the Northern Areas. It is made up of five villages - Khizerabad, Hussainabad, Mayoon, Khanabad and Nasirabad. The area extends northwards from these villages, incorporating their summer pastures and snow-capped mountain ridges - the domain of the Himalayan ibex and the snow leopard.
Nasirabad is the largest village in the area, with about 400 houses and a population ten times that number. It has undoubtedly grown since the Karakoram Highway (KKH) which passes through Nasirabad was opened in the 1970's. The other vilalges of the project area are smaller with about 100 dwellings, dotted amongst the tapestries of fruit trees, small fields and meticulously constructed terraces.
The area is stunningly beautiful. The environment varies from sub-zero temperature on the summit of Rakaposhi, to the intense heat of summer in the valleys. The people, forests, plants and wild animals have all adapted to find a niche within this most inhospitable of environments.
As you travel up the KKH from Gilgit to Hunza Valley, you will notice the harshness of the environment, with little or no vegetation on the lower mountain slopes. The whole of this area is essentially a mountain desert, with less than 10 inches of annual rainfall. Any trees that you see here owe their existence to the human hand - and the painstaking construction of irrigation channels.
Summer is warm and pleasant here, with average temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius. It becomes extremely cold in winter with temperatures below freezing. With snows not only confined to the peaks and ridges but decorating the trees of the valley bottom, the area takes on a new and stunning beauty, making it worth braving the cold. Winter visitors also stand a much better chance of seeing the prized wildlife of the area, such as the Himalayan ibex, as they venture much lower down the slopes in search of grasses to eat.
The most dominant geological feature of the area is Rakaposhi (7,788m), first climbed in 1958 and ranked among the world's 50 highest peaks. The people of Shinaki claim that they have the best view of this peak. Stunning views of both Rakaposhi and its sister peak, Diran, can be seen from some of the trekking routes described below. The area abounds with natural springs of excellent quality. Nasirabad village has one such spring which has been certified as having excellent mineral water.
Minerals like zumurrad, ruby, and white marble are found in and around the villages of Hussainabad an dNasirabad. According to local people, the white marble mine in Nasirabad village is known to be the second best in the world after Italy.
Mayoon Bar is the name given to one of the summer pastures above the village of Mayoon. A six-hour trek up Mayoon Nullah from the village will lead you here. The trek passes through steep undulating areas along the valley side. Look out on the way for the birds of this area, including the Chukkar, Jungle Crow, Yellow-billed Chough, and the Magpie. Keep alert, and when you stop, look all around - you may be rewarded with a view of the Himalayan ibex, Cape hare or the Tibetan red fox.
In summer, pastures come alive grasses and a whole variety of plants, transforming the area into a green carpet dotted with colour. Shepherds live in their huts during summer, keeping a watchful eye on their stock. Easy access to good quality water from the nullah (stream), makes Mayoon Bar a wonderful camping location.
Rooi Bar is an area similar to Mayoon Bar, also located within Mayoon Nulalh, but on the eastern side of the nullah. The trek to Rooi Bar is more adventurous than the previous one, altitudes and is therefore closed during winter since it is blocked by snow. Cock can also be seen along this route. Sightings of some of the more elusive wild mammals are possible in the higher areas.
Suitable small camping areas can be found, and shepherds' huts also provide potential resting places.
Bayyais is used by the people of Hussainabad village as a summer pasture, and for growing agricultural crops. Local people take three to four hours to reach Bayyais, if travelling on foot from Hussainabad. The route is easy and the pasture is lush green, in stark contrast to the formidable rock scenery all around.
The trek to Hachinder starts from Nasirabad, and takes around three or four days in one direction. In the case of all these treks, the only accommodation facilities are informal camping grounds and occasional shepherd's huts. Trekkers should be fully equipped with fine tents and sleeping bags, and other accessories so that they can fully enjoy these unfrequented destinations. All who care for the environment should also take adequate supplies of kerosene, thus helping to protect the area's precious fuelwood supplies.
Nasirabad Stadium [Rakaposhi Viewpoint]
Nasirabad Stadium is the name given to a spectacular amphitheatre in the higher part of Nasirabad village. It offers a stunning view, especially of Rakapohsi and Diran Peaks.
The view downwards form this point, towards the Hunza River and the tall thin poplars way below reminds one of the scale of the Karakoram Mountains.
Shinkaki has a cultural centre called Dar-ul-Huner where local women have been trained to produce local handicrafts. This is an important area of development, supporting local people. You can be sure that the purchase of these 100% natural and meticulously handmade items directly benefits these communities. Locally available handicrafts include:
The only hotels in the area are located in Nasirabad village, and are small and very basic, though food is always available. The nearest town, Aliabad, is about 30 km to the south along the KKH, and has a better choice of traditional local hotels.
Navroze on 21st March is both a religious and cultural festival. It is celebrated with dances and rallies as it marks the arrival of spring. Navroze is also the beginning of the Ismaili New Year. People gather at the village Jamaatkhana (community prayer area) to pray and the celebrations take place outdoors.
Ganoni on 25th June marks the beginning of the harvest season. People paint their walls with flour paste and gather at the Jamaatkhana to pray and start their harvest. Sword dances and singing are also performed as part of this celebration.
From 13 - 21st December, it is traditional for marriage ceremonies since this is the time when the harvesting is over and livestock are fat and healthy. People have a lot of free time during this period, having been freed from their agricultural work.
Bee-fowl is celebrated on the 15th of February and Nose is celebrated on the 21st of December for making Nasalo.
Flora and Fauna
Shinaki is host to a wide diversity of flora and fauna indigenous to the Northern Areas. Important wildlife mammals of the area are the Himalayan ibex, Tibetan red fox, Cape hare, snow leopard and wolf. The first three species can easily be observed in the area, but snow leopards and wolves are rarely seen, being both elusive and naturally inhabiting the higher mountain areas. Sightings of snow leopards depend almost totally on luck, although they are most commonly seen at dawn or dusk, and during winter. Some of the more notable birds of the area include the Chukkar (or Rock Partridge), Ram Chukar (or Himalayan Snowcock), Golden Eagle, Lammergier Vulture, Golden Oriole and the Alpine or yellow-billed Chough. These are, of course, accompanied by the ubiquitous Magpies and House Sparrows. Look out for them throughout the Shinaki Valley and especially when travelling towards the pastures. A pair of binoculars is undoubtedly a good asset in this expansive area.
Main Tourist Season
The main tourist season in the Northern Areas, especially in the Shinaki Area, starts around May and continues through to September. The summer temperatures ripen the many fruits of the valleys and the whole area becomes a lush green, especially the nullahs and pastures. The peak influx of tourists occurs in July and August, reducing to a trickle by September