Tattered by sessional and exams, drained by projects and assignments and exhausted by daily four-year university chores, it was a time to take an adventure of a lifetime. Having limited money in hand, we three musketeers had only one choice; borrow money from friends and explore the new horizon.
We decided to go to Gilgit-Baltistan taking a detour through Fairy Meadows, Rama Meadows, and Skardu.
“Let’s travel the world together. Let’s see distant lands, get to know other people and admire God’s composition together.”- The Forty Rules of Love
We traveled from Rawalpindi to Naran via public transport in 7 hours. With the setting sun, we had a quick dinner and set up tents near the bank of the Kunhar River. A very sensational feeling ran through my mind while watching the gushing water of the river. We face many hurdles in our life. How can one overcome them? Just seek a method adopted by the river. Flow around the rocks and through the valleys and over the mountains. If you turn into hollows, you continue on your way until the pool is full and you are out.
We slept in a single tent amidst the bewitching sound of cicadas, crickets, owls, dogs, and wolves. Next day we woke up with the sun and searched for the ride to Raikhot bridge. Eventually, after a long wait, we found a cattle truck to continue our journey. We passed by the magnificent Lulusar Lake, the Babusar Top and the hottest city of Chillas.
The jeep to Village Tatto from Raikot was too expensive for us to afford so we mingled with a group of Faisalabadi people to travel. The so-called most dangerous jeep track proved to be a piece of cake for us because the company filled it with joy and happiness with their well-known Faslabaadi wit. This moment taught me a lesson for life. The dangling fear is merely a state of mind created by our own thoughts and it can easily be deluded by indulging in fruitless or sometimes fruitful activities.
After reaching Tatto, it took us 2 hours to hike to the grassland of Fairy Meadows. Once again twilight fell, we quickly set up our camp. The ebony night sky without any trace of moonlight sparkled every twinkling star of the galaxy. This enchanting view showed me no matter how dark life becomes there will always be fiery lights streaking across the skies.
By dawn, the sun bloomed over the horizon to spread gold petals and warm the forest and mountains. The snow-capped peak of the colossal killer mountain Nanga Parbat received the first ray of light and every crack in it ignited with delicate brilliance.
It was time to say goodbye to the front side of Nanga Parbat and meet him again at Astore Valley. We hiked down to Raikot and instead of going to Jaglot we went to Astore River Bridge which was 41km away from Astore District.
The scorching sun shone over the mountainous soil, fully arid and barren, the swampy and muddy river. We waited there for an hour to find public transport under the shade of a nearby police station in this abominable condition. Fortunately, or unfortunately, all public vehicles which passed from there were already full from Jaglot. Fear of a delay in our journey gnawed at us and we uttered a prayer to Almighty Allah. In no time we saw an empty car approaching. A beatific smile on our face and thumbs up hand swinging up-and-down made it stop. Without saying any word, we were inside the car with all our bulky bags. The kind stranger took us to Astore without any charges. I still have a feeling that he was nothing less than an angel sent down to help us.
Ravenous since yesterday, we ate lunch and planed our way to Rama Lake and then to Skardu. Frustrated by an obstructive schedule of public vehicle, we changed our plan and consolidated it by booking a jeep for Skardu and went to Rama Forest via the same jeep in the evening. While wandering in the thick Rama forest, one could clearly hear the hoot and howl of the nocturnal animals accompanied by the zizz of insects. Once again the night was spent in the tent under the giant milky way; easily visible due to no light pollution. Next day when the sun sliced the darkness, we headed toward the Rama Lake and watched the Astore side of the magnificent Nanga Parbat.
“Open your eyes to see the world. Open your heart to see the mysteries. Wait patiently for the right moment to act. The solitude atmosphere will let your soul free to speak and help you to decide what to do. Never ever say “I can’t do it”. Because with passing days, you will sink deeper into the well of your own limitations and will lack the strength to climb out and discover the bright light shining through the opening above your head.”
At exactly 9:00 am we set our way towards Deosai plains. A dreadful sense of loneliness engendered our soul as we entered “Deosai National Park” from the Chilam gate.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
– William Wordsworth
Deep inside I was contented and fulfilled in my solitude. A strange sense of peace of soul and mindfulness persisted and heart wanted to dance in these forsaken lands. “Lo and Behold! The golden marmots and brown bears scrambling across the flats teaching you the rules of happy-go-lucky life”
Sheosar Lake aka Blind Lake greeted us with an eerie poise lapsed into an eerie silence. The specks of iridescent sparkle on its surface, like a trail of lights made us feel surreal.
We drove further to Kala Pani. The freshwater of the streams looked dark due to the black pebbles’ underneath.
Our apparent beauty is a reflection of our inner heart. Keep your heart pure, keep doing good. Don’t dim your light to become dark as those dark waters. Shine above them like the reflected sunshine.
As we reached the start of Skardu city we gazed with awe at the tremendous expanse of the Satpara Lake from where the whole city gets its water supply. The day had reached its pinnacle with the city etched in charcoal. We settled into a hotel and the hot water bath helped remove all of our exhaustion. We then had Chapli kabab with raita for dinner and cold banana shake for rejuvenation.
5th day of the tour started with the visit to the Shangrilla Resort aka “HEAVEN ON EARTH”. The combination of shapes and colors was amazing. The garden full of red blood apples lured our attention and we grabbed our share. Our next destination was Upper Kachura Lake. We did boating in that crystal clear water.
Our next visit was of Katpana Desert. One would think of a desert as desolate and sparse, but Katpana being a cool desert left us in awe.
Pleasant weather with sand dunes and mountains provides a beautiful backdrop. After traveling through Shigar and Kharpocho fort with their unique stories we went back to the hotel. The very next day we booked 3 seats at NATCO from Skardu to Pindi. Paying half and enjoying the last perk of student life. Finally, we reached Pindi after 26 long hours of travel.
“Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly being unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one’s own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so engrossed in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the physical self. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, and cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.”
― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle