Health and Old Age Places with High Longevity: Hunza Pakistan Part 2

About the area of Hunza in Pakistan which has a high level of longevity, visiting or living there, recreation and sports.


Living There. The handkerchief-size plots of arable land that the Hunzukuts cultivate look like staircases or terraces along the base of the mountain slope. These farms are irrigated by a system of conduits fed by the melting waters of the vast Ultar Glacier. A cluster of 6 or 7 fruit or nut trees is considered an "orchard," and a farmer may have to ascend and descend a 1,000' pathway several times a day to attend to his chores. From a distance, when the winter snows have melted, Hunza is a patchwork quilt of yellows, browns, and greens. Through its heart races the pearl-gray, murky Hunza River, whose mineral-rich water is assiduously drunk by the Hunzukuts and is called by them "our glacial milk." Whenever you raise your eyes you see the snowy dumanis or high peaks which are dominated by Mount Rakaposhi, one of the most stupendous mountains in the entire Karakoram Range.

The Hunzukuts believe they are the descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great. When Alexander's campaign against India faltered, some of his troops deserted. Taking with them their Afghani and Turkish wives, they sought the protective safety of Hunza. Certainly the Hunzukuts, with their "Mediterranean" features and fair skins, resemble no other people of Asia. Their language, Burushaski, too is unique. Hermann Berger, Sanskrit professor at the University of Munich and an authority on Himalayan languages, considers it related to Basque as spoken in the Pyrenees of southern France and Spain.

Returning travelers invariably describe Hunza as a "paradise," because of its natural, unhurried, stress-free life. Every Hunzukut, young or old, male or female, works at some form of manual labor--tilling the fields, tending livestock, gathering fruit in summer and sun-drying it against the cold, snowbound winter. Everyone goes to bed at sunset and rises at dawn. Until recently, the only electricity was in the capital, Baltit, where the Mir of Hunza used it sparingly at his palace for the benefit of foreign visitors. The Mir was also the only Hunzukut with a clock. As for the rest of the population, they told time by the movement of the sun in the sky, the shape of the moon at night, and the changing of the seasons. Even in Baltit there were no stores, no movies, no hotels, no doctors, no police, no taxes. Its people also had no "old age"--there were only "the young years," "the middle years," and "the rich years." The new road is changing all this rapidly.

For amusement, Hunzukuts play a violent form of ruleless polo, with teams performing nonstop until one side or the other has scored 9 goals. Volleyball is also popular, and you will see 70-year-old men playing alongside young boys. Each of Hunza's dozen or so villages has one flat area of ground like a village green set aside for these games, although the land in this rocky, barren, hilly, and rough valley is at a perpetual premium.

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