Drama on the Karakoram Highway

Posted on June 23, 2012


Since part of  the Karakoram highway, about 8 km, has disappeared due to a mountain top falling down in 2009, taking half a mountainside with it and creating the huge Abattabad lake (not yet on the maps), we had to ship the car on a small boat.

First view of the Abattabad Lake (in the background)

Where the road disappeared into the lake, I had to, in a somewhat nerv-wrecking operation, drive the car vertically across the boat balancing the almost 4 tons weight of the car on wooden ramps on each side.

Inching forward across the small boat

Well on board I relaxed a little, unable to anticipate what was waiting at the other end of the voyage.

Well on board, apparently safe and sound

The boat trip was truly beautiful – following the new lake between high Himalayan mountains. On arrival at the other end, I soon realized that there was no fixed ramp and in collaboration with the crew-men and local road-workers, wooden beams were placed under the wheels on each side of the car. It was, however, apparent that the slope of the wooden beams from the boat to the more or less fixed ground on land was extremely steep. Directed by the team of locals and the boat crew, I made a prayer, put the car in low-gear and started slowly moving ahead up the ramp.

Crack!!! The ramp on the right side slid and the car was stuck with the front wheels on the stony ground while the back wheels were solidly planted on board the boat… The boat was also on angle and slowly taking in water due to the weight of the back-end of the car.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Normally, maneuvering the car does not make me nervous, but now I was in a highly particular situation – between a small boat and more or less fixed ground, with lots of people shouting opinions and instructions in Urdu (Pakistani). Now, admittedly, I was sweating while it little by little  dawned on me that we in fact were in a very risky situation.

After a lot of discussions, it was concluded that our best option was to seek assistance of a Pakistani-army unit doing maintenance on the road nearby. Assisted by a local police-man and Rias, our Pakistani guide (from “Hunza Explorers” http://www.Tours-Treks.com – a Pakistan based tour company), I managed to catch a ride on a jeep to the closest army storage and borrow some steel-wires. We also fortunately managed to convince an army engineer to assist us with a huge excavator. With steel wires well tied between the car and the excavator to prevent the worst case scenario of the car sliding into the water, I carefully inched forward as the operator of the excavator skillfully pulled me and the  car on firm ground.

Pakistani military to the rescue

Local angels in action

The whole “rescue” operation took about 4 hours and thanks to the Pakistani army and local “angels”, in low-gear, we spun our way up the steep mountain and on our way to new adventures.


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