Heaven on Earth

Nanga Parbat

The 7th of July 2002 hosted the departure of Thalassaemic studded expedition of ten children along with their parents and a handful of volunteers to the base camp of Nanga Parbat.

It is the ninth highest mountain of the world. The steep ridges, which bear hardly any snow or vegetation, culminate into a crest of peaks, giving this natureís sculpture itsa mammoth size. Its awesome presence makes you gasp.

 The two day drive had its own excitement and fascination. The beginning of the Karakoram Highway was marked by a subtle change in atmosphere. The weather became cooler and the surroundings, even more scenic. The evergreen forests and wild flowers were a sight for tired eyes-eyes tired of looking at concrete structure. The fragrance emitted

 

by the clean mountain air tingled the olfactory senses. Just before Besham, our first night stop, we came face to face with the mighty Indus ranging across the boulders. We spent the night at the PTDC motel, nestled in the fold of the river. The sound of the river lulled us to a deep and restful slumber.

 Next day our drive to Gilgit was quite tiring. The mountains kept on getting bigger, barren and the river channel narrower. The peaks, which looked like huge beasts in hibernation and the river roaring like a lion, portrayed Godís supremacy over human. The scorching rays of the sun and the dryness nailed us to our seats. But soon all of us were awestruck, as the mighty Nanga Parbat showed its peak near Chilas. After another hourís drive we reached Gilgit, where at last a rest day awaited us. We remained in our beds throughout the second day wearing off the fatigue. our first camping resort and the beginning to the trek.

 

 We went back on the Karakoram highway up to Jaglot. On our way we stopped at a junction point of the three mightiest mountains ranges of the world i.e. the Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush range. Then we took a small narrow bridge across the river Indus to drive through the small mountain town ofr Bunji, where we came upon a dirt track, on which the only vehicles which could be driven were the tough Villy jeeps that we had hired.
The track hugged the mountains as it twisted and winded itself to the valley of Astor. The flowing blue water of the river Astor reflected the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayan range. To our astonishment, a totally changed landscape was witnessed near Ramah, a small town, where we stopped for lunch. The mountains were huge but full of Conifer forests, lush green grass, alpine flowers and the clear mountain streams all joined hands to give us the most scenic view that a person could imagine. The beauty and the chilly breeze hardly gave us time to even sense the discomforting jeep drive. Traveling in the Himalayas, our journey to Trashing was intriguing and exciting. The new adventure of camp like awaited us. Despite being well equipped with high-tech sleeping bags and tents, the first night was tough enough to make us realize the luxury of our beds and toilets, which we take off granted living in a big city like Lahore.  

Next day our walk started on a small trek, leading to the glacier. Walking on a river of snow was one good reason for our uncontrolled excitement, not considering the fact that by evening we would be sitting right in from of our destination.

 Some of us even slipped on the glacier, but lady luck was with us and except for a few bruises we crossed the glacier unscathed. It was after the first half on hour, our real test of courage and wit began. The sun was out and the monotonous walk on the green pastures for hours and hours was all we had to do. But to our satisfaction the ascent was not that steep and snow covered peaks went side by side. We had our lunch at a small meadow along side a stream. Our walk after the break was even more tiring. The ascent kept on becoming steeper and the land barren. The heat was piercing. Now it seemed like an everlasting struggle for survival. After eight hours on the trek all of us breathed a sigh of relief, as we caught a glimpse of our camping site. The wind has picked up and now a need for thermals was being felt. We hurried towards the campsite known as Bazin. The gigantic Nanga Parbat now faced us in its complete glory. There was a chill in the air and everyone was tired, so we surrendered to our tents early in the evening after having supper. 

Lataboi, our next camping site and the base camp of the Nanga Parbat was a walk of another four hours on the same narrow rugged trek. We walked another tow to three hours on the glacier, before setting foot on the plains of Lataboi. The steep ascents and descents could discourage event the fittest, but it was the spirit and will shown by the thalassaemic children, which kept us walking and walking.

 

As we reached our destination., all the fatigue vanished everyone stood stunned gazing at the peak of the gigantic mountain finding its way out the clouds. Standing at thirty five hundred meters and a temperature below zero degrees Celsius, no one was interested in sleeping the night our. We had a memorable rendezvous with the natureís wonder, sitting around the fire and singing out our emotions.We were swaying in the deep side of the dream pool. 

Next morning, everyone was taken with surprise. There was not even a single speck on cloud to be seen. Clear blue sky, the snow covered peak of the mount and the lush green plains awaited our admiration. As I gather, if heaven is anywhere to be found on earth, we have been to it. We had mixed emotions; on one hand all of us were overjoyed to see the large snow wall in its full esteem and on the other saddened, as it meant the beginning of our journey back. The next two days, no one had time to feel tired. Everybody was absorbed in discussing and chatting about what they had seen. 14th of July, saw all of us back at Trashing, from where from where we had to climb another fifteen hundred meters on jeeps to reach Deosai, the highest plain in the world. We turned left from Chillum, a small town in the Himalayas. The drive to the plains was too eventful and hazardous to be ignored.

 

The wind was as chilly as it could get and the road as bumpy. We camped beside Chaucer, a lake fed by icy cold glacier water. We were welcomed by swarms of mosquitoes making us cover ourselves from head to toes. Gradually a wind started, we got rid of the mosquitoes but the chill factor made most of us take refuge in the large mess tent, which was comparatively warmer due to the large petromax lamps kept there to provide heat and light. The temperature and the chilly wind made us shiver down to our backbones. Hardly anyone dared to enter the freezing cold tents, and the ones who finally did, were unable to have the same peaceful and sound spleep as before. Everyone had their eyes on the next morning and the comforting sunlight. 

The morning of 16th of July meant the last day of the trip. Roaming around early in the morning we were awestruck, as we saw Nanga Parbat protruding out of a vale and being reflected in the lake. It was a sight to be remembered. We had our photographs taken and set our on our journey back to Shurdu, the capital of Baltistan and a place where we would be welcomed with a roof on our head, walls on the side, a bed to sleep on and a toilet to enjoy privacy. Most of us had become tired and homesick. Harldy anyone cared to look our of the jeep for the next four hours. We had grown immune to the sound of the raging glacier water beside us and the alpine flowers were now a formality. 

Everyone slept out the last night in Shurdu. The 17th of July signaled the farewell to the whole expedition. All of us left for Islamabad by air. Except the ones who had to come to Lahore, the rest parted their ways at Islamabad airport. The walk was a success and a feat well performed due to great teamwork and mutual exercise. Join us on the next 7th of July, on the walk of the base camp of Mashabrum. 

Note: More information and pictures on www.thalassaemia.org.pk