Heaven on Earth
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
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