Archive | 19:50

An Ancient Fort in Shangri-La

13 Oct

I was lucky enough to go on an amazing trip round Pakistan a couple of years back and spent a few days up in the mountains in the North East of the country, not far from the Chinese border. We stayed in Karimabad, a small village thousands of feet up in the Karakoram Mountain range. Our lovely little hotel was set at around 4,500 feet and we craned our necks as we sat on the verandah to see the mountain tops, at around 30,000 feet. It was Springtime and the entire valley was smothered in the pale pink blossom of tens of thousands of apricot trees; a staple crop, Oxfam sells them in Britain and they’re delicious.

The Hunza Valley is reputed to be the inspiration for the novel Shangri-La and it was an exhausting journey to get there, two and a half days on the Karakoram Highway, the little minibus struggling slowly as we climbed up the Indus Valley towards China. The sense of scale is staggering. There is nothing like it in Britain. Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales and England, is 3,000 feet, lower than our Karimabad hotel. I sat on the verandah in a little wicker chair padded with beautifully embroidered cushions, in the Spring sunshine, sipping green tea from delicately painted china cups and drawing with ink and wash.

Ink and watercolour: Baltit Fort, Hunza.

I don’t usually do landscapes, but I had to try and get something of this glorious country into my sketchbook. This is the view I saw; the ancient fortress of Baltit built on a precipitous rocky outcrop at least another thousand feet up again from my hotel and the ‘Lady’s Finger’ peak towering above. The area is glacial so there is no rain but snow lies on the mountain tops all year round. Villagers grow their crops by careful irrigation and an ancient technique of ‘seeding’ the glacier, which encourages it to spread down the mountain towards the villages.

The drawing is done in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens and coloured with watercolour washes, using Windsor and Newton artist’s half pans into an A3 Cotman watercolour sketchpad.


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