Pakistan Revisited – Part 4. Hunza
In 1973 I was arrested while trying to cross the border from Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor over the Irshad Pass to the Wakhi valley of Chipursan in upper Hunza, Pakistan. After being released from prison, thanks to the coup d'état that deposed King Mohammad Zahir Shah and helped establish the Republic of Afghanistan, I failed a second attempt to enter Chipursan while traveling through the tribal territories of Northwest Pakistan.
It wasn't until 50 years and a few months had passed before I finally reached my destination in upper Hunza and the fabled valley of the Wakhi, a semi-nomadic highland people of yak herders and farmers who follow the Isma'ili branch of Shia Islam and its leader, or Imam, the Aga Khan.
Following are the photos from this recent journey in 2023. Unlike the previous chapters, you will see many photos of women. Among the Isma'ili, women are educated, independent and unveiled, and encouraged to participate in all social and political affairs.
Karimabad, Capital of Hunza, with Nagar across the valley, 2023
Rakaposhi Peak, Nagar, 2023. This is the only mountain on earth that descends directly and without interruption for almost 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) from summit to base.
A more than 400-year-old chaikhana or tea house next to the Khunjerav Mosque on our way to Chipursan Valley, 2023.
John Wehrheim, Chipursan Valley, 2023. The mountains in the background mark the Afghan border.
Hassan's mother harvests potatoes, 2023. The Wakhi of Chipursan are prosperous, self-sufficient farmers in grain, potatoes, vegetables, meat and dairy, with a profitable export market for disease free seed potatoes. All of their potato fields are at over 10,000 feet in altitude, in a high desert where extreme winter temperatures kill soil borne pathogens and pests.
Chipursan Valley sunset with cow, 2023