ISLAMABAD: Christiane Fladt, a German tourist who first came to the country on a mountaineering expedition in 2002, only spent a day passing through Shimshal valley in Hunza-Nagar when she found reasons to retreat sporadically.
“I fell in love with the place so I decided to return and make myself more useful there,” said Fladt in an interview with The Express Tribune.
A teacher of English and Latin languages in Germany, Fladt returned in August 2003 after an expedition to the seven-thousander Spantik. She taught English at the Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee school and a government school.
Staying with a host family for a year lent her insight into the distinct culture of the countryside. “Because my personal philosophy is simple and I prefer to live on simple food, I adjusted well to the simple way of life,” said Fladt, who has helped build a small shelter on the way to Pamir for locals as well as trekkers, which was inaugurated in the summer this year. For that facility, she was able to raise a total of €2,000 in Germany.
“The idea is to help travellers along this particular route,” said Fladt. The shelter is where travellers can have a roof over them, make tea, lie down or spend the night. The one-room structure has a fireplace and stove, equipped with requisite cooking utensils. “When people want to spend the night, they can spread two large plastic mats to lie down in the house, which has the capacity to accommodate at least 20 people,” she informed. The shelter, which bears a signboard in German, is a replication of a similar shelter in the German Alps that just celebrated its 100th birthday, where the idea originated from.
Fladt has written four books on Shimshal in German. The first is a portrait of the village, dealing with various aspects such as marriage, children, education and housing.
The second is a collection of stories told from the perspective of the local children. “In 2003, something significant happened in Shimshal — the Shimshalis opened a road which connects them with the outer world..it was like landing on the moon,” she said, adding that the book is about the impact of the road on the children.
The third book is a biography of Lal Pari, who was the first Lady Health Worker in the area.
The fourth book, which was published this year, is about the local high quarters. “Shimshal has a high ratio of strong mountaineers. There are a lot of men who have carried loads of up to 16 kilogrammes along massive mountains and yet nobody has written about them except for some local newspapers.”
Fladt has climbed several summits. She was the first to summit an unnamed rocky peak which looms directly over Shuwerth and has a “great aerial view” on this settlement.
The 5,400m peak has been named “Christiane Peak” in her honour.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2014.