I first came across the name of Chorbat during my first ever trip to Skardu back in 2008 when I read this name on the board of a transport company providing services for Khaplu, Kharmang and Chorbat. This name somehow got struck in my mind and I did ask a few local guys about its whereabouts. I was told that it’s a very remote valley along the Ladakh border and is worth visiting. Since then I had been trying to find some window to be there and visit it. I finally got the chance this March when I had to be in Skardu for a few days. As with trips like these, I always look for an opportunity to explore some new area, preferably remote and un-commercialized; I targeted Chorbat this time.
Chorbat valley is one of the remote valleys of Skardu in district Ghanche bordering Indian Ladakh. The valley expands at the bank of Shyok river that originates from Siachin glacier in Northern Ladakh. Thanks to the army presence, the valley is accessible from a beautifully built and well maintained metal road that goes all the way up to Frano from Khaplu – which is the border village some 60 km east of Khaplu. Shyok river originates from Ladhakh and enters into Pakistani territory at Frano. It joins river Indus at Sumro. Sumro is the place where the main Khaplu road gets bisected into the one leading to the Saltoro range and Siachin and other to the Chorbat valley.
June/July are the ideal months to visit this area when fields are lush green. However, March had its own charm – a different one because of growing flowers. This season is also known as cherry blossom season because cherry flowers start coming out in it. This season is specially popular among the Japanese who consider this as something sacred. There were a few Japanese tourists roaming around Skardu at that time too. People of this area belong mainly to the Nurbakhshi sect of Islam and are extremely friendly and hospitable.
Frano is a small and beautiful village that became the border village in 1971 which was the year when Indian army captured four villages and they are now in Indian control. Before this, border was a little ahead than Frano. These villagers still have some relatives living at the other side of border but unfortunately while they can see the those villages from here, going there physically is hell because of visa restrictions and travel hazard. If one is lucky enough to get the visa, what would have been a few hours walk by foot could take days or even weeks. This is one of the oldest areas of Skardu where many homes and mosques can be seen which date back to hundreds of years. At Frano, I was introduced to the mosque imam who showed a special stick to us that he claimed is 600-700 years old and belonged to Syed Ali Hamdani a prominent Muslim scholar of 14th century who had a big role in bringing and spreading Islam in this whole region.
During Kargil war, this area came under intense artillery shelling and the whole civilian population had to vacate their homes. The firing continued till 2003 when a ceasefire was announced between the two armies and since then people have been able to live a normal life once again.