After having a tough few years of struggles, this one morning I woke up with the decision to take charge of my life. In need of a fresh start, I decided to discard all what I needed to leave behind in order to move forward. I decided to break open the chains that have been locking me down from choosing the brighter side of life. And so, I signed up for this date going down in history as the best decision I took for myself.
I took a decision for a therapy for myself and by myself. And that is when I packed my bags and joined a group of people I did not know.
As this trip did not just mean a fun travel luxury for me, I chose to go alone. Despite of my friends and family constantly advising me to delay it so I could go with my friends, I stood firm on my decision to be with a group where I was away from everyone and only close to me. After hearing about a trip by my very close friend Fatmah, I signed up for it with an agreement that we do not know each other for some time. I joined a group running with the name of Rover Adventure Club on a trip to Hunza and Fairy Meadows with students of IoBM University.
I reached Islamabad by flight and decided to join the group at Monal for dinner. As I stood there alone, shifting my bags to the coaster, I could feel my heart sinking down. While I watched people of my group passing by and not knowing I existed, I started to get cold feet as to why I came alone. No one knew me and I didn’t know anyone. With a heavy heart and close to having a panic attack, I saw one of the leads of Rover Adventure Club coming towards me to introduce himself and take me to my coaster. In that moment he felt like a ray of hope that just shined on a lonely dark valley.
I chose to sit in the front alone as I did not want to intrude personal space of friends laughing and dancing in the back. With utter disappointment of not being able to read my book due to dark (HATED IT), I opened my window and gazed outside the streets of Islamabad. As an angel in disguise, a foreigner named Fredrick (who later became Freddy and Farhan) joined our group and I was relieved to see I was not the only one traveling alone.
The long distance traveling then helped people of the group connect over chai stops, choice of songs, “could you please take my picture Asad/Waqas” and cigarettes. As time passed by I started to open up more and go easy on the anxiety.
We stopped over at Chilas for a night to get some rest. After a nice warm shower, with a book in my hand and a view of water and mountains, I sat outside cherishing the serenity of that place. The trip officially began and we bonded over conversations I thought I would never make friends by. It started off by what do you do and escalated to Dissociative Personality Disorder in no time. What reinforced the environment even more was that clear sky full of stars which came to me as a surprise (I underestimated Chilas). With tears in my eyes when I looked at it first, it felt like a sheet of diamonds put on display. There we learnt each other’s names while playing Kings and savored the most melodic voice of Kanza with Muneeb on the guitar.
Things were good, but of course not the best. Something still felt incomplete. Like a partially finished fine art of puzzle.
We left the next morning for Hunza and for the first time in 23 years I was not bored of looking outside the window for almost 8 hours. We stopped over at 3 mountain ranges, junction point and Rakaposhi view point. I was wonderstruck by that mountain the minute I saw it and nothing else could trump it throughout the trip (yes, I am biased). The trip then became even more compelling with Saad bhai’s coolest stories of Jakarta (who also by the way was traveling alone), trying out the local food called Chap Shoro, Neha and Nastran pulling Freddy’s leg in Urdu, Avinash’s ‘Paltyy‘, Fatmah and I looking out for each other without showing, phones disappearing and appearing and Mursal’s I-bet-you-can’t-get-cheaper-than-this playlist.
We finally reached Hunza and it was like a roller coaster that started off slowly with things not feeling right but then intensifying to therapeutic level of placidity. Though I lost my phone and all the lovely pictures I took here (which I am still highly convinced was a spiritual activity) but later it felt like it was meant to be. Could it BE anymore more pacifying than this!!!
Hunza was lessons for life of all sorts. As told by history, Attabad Lake being made due to landslide showed how you can wear your sufferings like a cape and refine to infinite levels of purity. Strong independent women teaching how to lead lives on their own by running small businesses on the streets. People of Hunza responding to your shukriya with a ‘you are welcome’ for you to know that the rate of literacy in the region is 90%. Not being able to move even a single step across the border at Khunjerab Pass (failed attempt) tells you to always remember boundaries of your realities in life. Baltit Fort teaches you how to stay connected to your deep roots in order to flourish while Altit Fort send chills to your spine when you stand at the tip of the execution point about how God’s nature could be calming yet haunting and appalling at the same time. The musical night at Hunza View Hotel where Tasmiya came in fusion with the local music of Hunza created the best you can get out of unity. Looking at Rakaposhi so high and far away, all I could see were my problems fading away from the peak, disappearing into the clouds forever. After all, like Raza said at Eagle’s Nest, all we needed in that moment was some “fucking me alone time”. And lastly, damn that walnut pie of Café De Hunza reminded why I should not regret my decision of choosing food over weight anymore.
After 3 days in Hunza we left for Fairy Meadows with my legs outside the jeep on the most dangerous road I have been to so far. The trek to the top which was supposed to be of 3 hours took me around 6 hours. What did keep up the adrenaline were that daal chawal, mesmerizing view during the walk, Babar’s playlist, Ahmed bhai with a stick saying ‘chalo chalo’ and the most exasperating at that moment but best for later, “ONLY 10 MORE MINUTES”.
Although it was a tough trek but for the first time my legs did not repent walking so much and we decided to keep walking while jumping on inclinations of the mountain to make way for the horses, where there was space for only one thing to walk. Be it human or animal. The trek at last treated us with a delight of Nanga Parbat coming out of trees like a scenery finely crafted by the Lord of all Heavens on Earth.
On our way back with an almost travel of 18 hours, there was not even a single person in those two coasters who wanted the route to end. Never did I think I would come back with a bunch of lovely memories and new friends from a trip where I thought I was going alone.
Here I explored what I had lost.
Here I found the reason of my exhaust.
As the missing pieces came together of my puzzle.
Here I shined like a pebble glossed.
Because here in the silence of hills
I think i just got my voice back.
Here, I got myself back.
26th May, 2017