The following day we headed up the adventurous 55km Shimshal Road from the KKH and Passu. This road has a long and interesting history. It was built with a lot of local villager voluntary work over a 20 year period with some financial support from the Government of Pakistan and the Aga Khan Foundation.
It opened in 2003 and turned a 3-7 day journey on foot into a 3 hour drive. See history of the Shimshal road by David Butz, Brock University, Canada.
The road had been blocked by a rockslide 10 days earlier so we were not sure if we could get through to Shimshal that day. After one hour of driving the windy, narrow and exposed gravel road we came to the blocked area. There were at least 10 men working on repairing the road under the supervision of a government engineer. We were told that it would be at least another day before the road would reopen. It certainly did not look like the road was close to being finished. They were using dynamite to break up some overhanging rock to use as a base for the road and reduce the chances of further rockfall in the area.
We waited a couple of hours in the mid day sun to see if any opportunities opened up to get a ride to Shimshal from the far side of the blockage.
Fortunately a driver showed up from the Pasu side but had keys for a jeep on the Shimshal side of the blockage. All 8 of us loaded up the vehicle and headed happily to Shimshal. It was a great relief to get through the blockage because a big part of this trip’s objective was to spend some time with the shepherds at Shimshal Pass (4700m).We were concerned that we would not have enough time to make it there and back by foot.
We were very happy to arrive in Shimshal in the late afternoon after a number of challenging river crossings. Shimshal (3,000m) has a population of approximately 2,000 people living in 3 villages (Aminabad, Shimshal and Khizarabad) at the far end of the valley. These three villages consist of Wakhi speaking residents that support herds of sheep, goats and yaks that are moved up and down valley with the seasons.
Shimshal residents have hydroelectricity for approximately 5 months/year. There are current efforts being made to extend the hydroelectricity availability using a natural spring further down valley that does not freeze in the winter. Shimshal currently does not have any access to landline/ mobile or internet connectivity. The community has a satellite phone that is only used for emergencies.
The equivalent Local Support Organisation (LSO) for Shimshal is the Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT).
The previous government run dispensary in Shimshal was replaced in 2011 by a privately (German) funded and supported Shimshal Health Care Centre. This new Health Care Centre was built by the community with external funding from Misereor, Germany, Gesundheit fur Shimshal e.v Germany (Lisa and Horst Buschmann) with the support and advice from Nawbhar Education and Welfare Development Organisation(NEWDO),Shimshal.
The new Health Care Centre is bright, cheerful, quite spacious with running water, a birthing suite, consultation room, pharmacy area, and administration room. It is supported by a staff of 5 people i.e. Dispenser, LHV, Midwife, Assistant Nurse and Administrator. The Dispenser, Mr Farman Ullah has been providing medical care to his community for the past 36 years. He has and continues to be a real asset to his community. The administrator Mr Zulfiqar is very competent, motivated and also very active as a community leader including SNT.