It was the summer of 2015 when I had the great fortune of travelling beyond Babusar Pass for the first time in my life. I was heading towards the magical Astore Valley. This was the first time I was going to set foot on that land of mountains, but ever since I was a little boy, I had this special connection with Astore valley and Karakoram Highway.
My father served in Pakistan Army and he was stationed up north in the Astore valley for a long period of time. Whenever he would come back home to see us, he would tell me about how thrilling the journey by road was, how unbelievable KKH looked and how enchanting the valley felt. He’d tell me stories about how incredibly tall Nanga Parbat really seemed. He’d say that if a man tried to look at Nanga Parbat’s peak while standing at its base, they’d fall backwards. All of this, everything about Astore Valley and KKH created a bond that would last a lifetime.
KKH Karakoram Highway near Gilgit – Pakistan
Credits: Naveed Nawaz
And it all came true many years later in 2015. Like I said above, I had been up to Babusar Top before but never farther and never on the Karakoram Highway, so travelling through the north via KKH to me was like sitting in my father’s lap by the fireplace in my village, all warm and tucked up and listening to all of those stories again. Some of them made up, others as real as they get but all of them equally rich, equally melodic. I won’t bore you with the details of how long the KKH is or when it was built. I am just going to talk about how beautiful, how dangerously intoxicating and how intimidating it is. Today, i’m just going to talk about how the love that grew in me for this journey as a boy, translated into my work, my pictures.
The restless heart travels on is the title of my photographs that I took of the KKH. This series of photographs mirrors my love for the tales my father told me, my love for the land of the mountains and my love for the Karakoram Highway. It’s deeply rooted, it’s sacred, it’s very, very personal and it’s eternal.
KKH Karakoram Highway – Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan
Credits: Naveed Nawaz
The Karakoram Highway is not just one of the highest paved roads on the face of this planet, it’s the most romantic road as well. It’s dangerous, it’s intimidating, it’s exhilarating, it elates you and it excites you like no other road in the world can. Its breathtaking curves make you fall in love with it, truly, madly, deeply and dangerously. The sheer elevation of this road takes your heart and grips hold of it, it doesn’t let go. KKH makes you yelp with excitement, scream the songs of your land at the top of your lungs. It makes you shut up and listen to the streams flowing by its side, travelling with you. It makes you close your eyes and inhale, all of it.
The grandeur of this road makes you breathe in the winds coming from the Himalayas and the Karakoram, the might of Nanga Parbat, the mystic splendor of Rakaposhi, the haunting magic of Passu Cones, the charm of Lady Finger, the fury of Indus, the calm of Attabad lake, the altitude of Khunjerav, all of it! The Karakoram highway is not dangerous because it kills, it’s dangerous because it’s the very definition of LOVE!