National Geographic : 1960 Jan
Pounding Hoofs and Flailing Mallets Thrill Polo Fans in Gilgit Superb horsemen, Hunzukuts excel at the sport, thought to be an import from ancient Persia. Gilgit Scouts and challengers from the town of Skardu here converge on a goal beneath the Karakorams. horrifying suspension bridge-100 feet high, 300 feet long, and 3 feet wide-made of nothing but thin, widely separated tree branches supported by cables. The whole fragile affair bounced up and down like a worn-out trampolin. Ponies awaited us on the other side, and we were met by a boy carrying a cloth-covered platter of apples-a wonderful welcome for tired travelers! There was also a letter of welcome from the Mir of Hunza: "My dear friend, "I hope you will be kind enough to ex cuse the trouble in my house during my absence.... (We had known that the Mir was away on a tour of the frontier regions border ing China.) "I hope you both . . will feel this poor home like at home, and you can ask anything you need which will be a great pleasure to me and my wife.... "I am cutting short my stay and will reach Hunza on 15th December. "Colonel H. H. The Ruler of Hunza." (The "H. H." stood for "His Highness.") Good News Changes the Schedule The Mir's new palace was a three-story gabled building of wood and stone. His aide showed us our upstairs quarters and brought us an armful of wood-about enough for half an hour, we thought. But we learned that it was supposed to last a whole day in fuel-scarce Hunza, where precious, life-giving apricot trees must be cut for firewood, and the constant choice the people face is "More fire? Or more food?" We found the Karakorams so cold in early December that we weren't out of our clothes once in our two-week expedition, and we took off our heavy jackets only when we crawled into our sleeping bags, which we rolled out on the floor before our little fire. We wore every bit of clothing we could find-including our fur caps-even when we ate our meals in the unheated palace dining room. There was a thermometer on the wall, and I once read it at 320 F. 98 On our first morning in Hunza, Tay nudged me awake with a startling announcement. "I think I'm going to have a baby," she said. I was dumbfounded, but naturally thrilled after years of hoping to hear these words. At the same time, I was frightened. We were far up a treacherous mountain trail in one of the earth's most remote regions, winter already begun. "What do we do now?" I wondered.