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Archive for July, 2011

After twenty six hours of hectic journey from home, I asked the driver to stop the bus. With twisted necks and aching backs (lets not go down to more aching and sensitive areas for the time being), we disembarked the passenger bus at the narrow Raikot Bridge (1280m ASL) built over raging and gushing Indus waters. A gust of hot dusty wind greeted us as did the towering barren rocky mountains surrounding the narrow gauge in the middle of nowhere. My only companion looked at me in utter disbelief searching for some signs of insanity. In my defence, ignoring that probing look, I wore my backpack and braced my hiking stick pointing towards the rickety jeep-likes reassuringly as I started walking across the bridge. The young man followed helplessly.

We embarked on the jeep_ the first one in the queue offering a standard deal. Soon we found the fit for purpose, strange modern day innovative invention ascending and negotiating unbelievably sharp twists and turns disappearing into the barren mountains. The narrow stony track laid on loose rocks and soil along the precipice was an amazing engineering marvel; As if cut and laid to perfection just to accommodate the pair of tyres separated by a standard tie rod and nothing more. Extension of a singular inch would have meant a complete waste of resources. A negative error in width, however, remains both acceptable and a possibility.

Driving that jeep-like requires special skills and merits particular mention; Whereas, the right hand stays firmly on the steering wheel, the left continuously juggles and orchestrates between the steering wheel and hand break moving in exemplary rhythm and in sync with the foot juggling between the clutch and brake pedal. The spasmodic juggling and dancing of the struggling driver continues for well over an hour before you are transported to a lovely green speck amidst the towering barren mountains named after the hot springs flowing there_ Tato.

See! Jeep wider than the track

A serpentine? Meandering track clinging to the face of the mountain along the precipice

The collapsed old bridge provided the first taste of the exciting challenge on the trip. While the re-erection was going on, all pedestrian traffic across the bridge was stopped. The only alternate was to cross the stream along a narrow reach where the makeshift path on reposing face of the muddy formation of the mountain was continuously dissolving and sliding.

Bed of roses! Crossing the stream

Erecting the bridge; Community at work on self help basis

 

If you are lucky and a chosen one, you are able to hire another jeep across the bridge for a short ascending ride to a place called Jhail. Welcome to the reality. Yeah! That bites. That is where you have to start the trek officially. Standing in the blazing sun that is beating down; Amidst stony rocks radiating all the afternoon heat; Landscape sparsely vegetated; A gushing mountain stream flowing through the gourge and the towering snow clad Bulder peak, from its immense heights, staring down at you.

You trail down, cross the stream and continue to walk upstream along a moderate grade. Half an hour or so on the trek, along a path that begins to sprout junipers and pines, you are led to the Fairy point; The first potential stop over in a peaceful spot at an elevation of 2,666 m with abundance of water.

And then they insist on calling it ‘Fairy point’

Brace yourself up for all the challenge and excitement that ensues. The hike to Fairy Meadows is amazing but a bit demanding. You start your walk along a stony and muddy trek laid in a narrow gourge surrounded by lofty mountains. Following a moderately steep grade that ascends sharply, the distancing raging stream and the ravine getting farther down, the landscape begins to widen and unfold, exposing the overflowing treasures of immense beauty. With Rakaposhi at a distance right behind you, rapt charm and glory of Nanga Parbat peeping occasionally from behind a shroud of sky rocketing peaks, though dwarfed miserably in comparison with the matchless heights of the giant, all clad in white for kilometers, in particular, is almost spell-binding. 

The higher you rise, the bewildering it gets. Pine growth thickens_ Their fragrance permeating and suffusing the air. There is plenty of water and the landscape turns green and rich. Finally a sharp ascent and a demanding walk leads to the top of the wide plateau and an unbelievably amazing clearance marked by verdant meadows and thick clustered pines. The magical place is called Fairy Meadows.

Located at an elevation of (3,306m), the resort offers basic wooden cottages and camping to the tourists. Hot water facility, wash rooms, dining halls and basic electricity are the ultimate luxuries unknown to the trekkers else where in Pakistan where we have to thoroughly plan and organize it to the last nail. 

The meadowof fairies;

Fairy Meadows offers the most stunning views of the Nanga Parbat round the clock_ its changing hues and shades, glistening in moonlight and sparkling in sun rise. The aerial views of the surrounding slopes, gourges, streams and mountains, once you walk to the edge of the ridge showcase mesmerizing beauty. Serene ‘Phantoora’ lake exhibiting its mythical beauty is known to host and attract descending fairies, unfortunately, not when the devils (like me) are around. Murmuring water courses with refreshing and revitalizing ice cold crystal clear mineral rich water add another scale and dimension to the dreamlike atmosphere. Natives are extremely hospitable, courteous and welcoming yet you are not supposed to take pictures of their settlements and ladies in particular.

Lush green pastures of Fairy Meadows

A gradual uphill afternoon walk on a trail that runs amidst a thick cluster of pines along a murmuring stream unravels the idyllic heavens on way to the scenic Beyal camp. Beyal camp ( Beel camp in some books) is a small romantically tranquil camping spot located right at the foot of towering peaks by the stream at few kilometers from Fairy Meadows at an elevation of 3,500m ASL. Well clear of the pines and growth, the vista is wide and clear, the place appears as if captivated amidst a cluster of magnificent heights. 

Quaint flavour of life; Beyal Camp

A scenic walk to pictursque Beyal Camp

The trek traveling upstream along the stream from the Beyal camp is gentle to start with. You encounter lush green grassy planes and junipers along the course. Gradually, the ascending trek leads you to a lone giant rock standing at the verge of a vertical cliff. As if the skies shift and part, an unbelievable and mind-blowing horizon of surging peaks, huge masses of snow and glaciers encompassing the world around you appear in close proximity invading your field of view.  This is lower view point (3,667m ASL). 

From thereon, it requires shifting gears with the trek offering greater degree of challenge and resistance. First of all, it is a stiff walk up the steep hill along the inclined face covered with birch trees. You part ways with the stream and gain height quickly, the views becoming increasingly scenic. Frozen Rai Kot glacier running for miles endlessly, the crevices with gaping mouths belching at every drop of a slide or an avalanche. Once you climb to the top of the hill and further beyond to the upper view point, the vistas expose a whole new surreal world before your eyes. You literally see the clouds of snow soar to the skies accompanied by thundering sound of avalanches intermittently at one point or another. That is where you find yourself enclosed within a cluster of peaks surging jointly in formation of a half circle comprising the most lethal, naked and vertical north face of the killer mountain Nanga Parbat (8,126m ASL) as if offering an insurmountable resistance and line of defence with howling terrifying seracs and avalanches guarding the majestic heights, ridges and cliffs of royal Nanga Parbat. From north to south, roughly, the peaks stand in order of Bulder (5,602m), Rai Kot (7,070m), Chongra ( 6,448-6830m), Silver saddle or Daimer Gap, Ganalo (6,608m), Juliper North and South( 5,245m & 5,206m) together with immense unruly glaciers running for miles and miles.

On your trek to Nanga Parbat base camp following a walk on a narrow goat path along a ridge overlooking Rai Kot glacier, it descends to a stream originating from the melting Ganalo glacier. The water level soars significantly as the day progresses thus making it harder to cross later in the day. Once you cross the stream, the trek rises to the top of a ridge on the base of the snowy mountains. Another descent leads you to a narrow reach of Ganalo glacier marked by ice walls and big boulders affording access across the glacier where you listen to the melting and trickling of ice blocks right under your feet. 

Crossing Ganalo glacier; On way to Nanga Parbat base camp

Vertical heights; Either keep your eye on the top or keep your cap on your head. Choice is yours!

Following the glacier, the trek rises again leading now to a wider grassy plane and meadows in the wilderness with wild flowers above the tree line. Nestled between the monumental peaks, Nanga Parbatbase camp (3,967m ) offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and huge masses of snow and frozen world. Situated at a stone’s throw is Drexel’s Monument built in honour of four Germans and six porters who lost their lives in 1934 in a storm followed by death of seven climbers and nine porters who were buried alive in an avalanche that swallowed their camp in 1937. The latest in line was Karl Unterkircher who lost his precious life in his quest to climb the bloodthirsty monstrous North Face in 2008.

 

Steeped in exotic thrill, fun and adventure, the hike is besieging and ecstatic right from the word go until that nostalgic moment when you cross the dangerous wooden bridge over the hundreds of feet deep ravine and throw your backpacks into the jeep again only to return to the dins of life across that land of fantasies that gradually sinks and engraves itself into the layers of your memory with each distancing moment and mile.

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It has been one bewildering week. Soaked in freshness, permeated in raw beauty, bathed in exuberance. Loved every minute and moment of it_ Like being transported to a surreal land and heaven of fantasies, dreams and fairies_ And it all felt so intoxicating and unreal; So out of this world! 

 

Felt like reaching out to the skies and touching the naked face of vertical cliffs and majestic mountains. A cluster of glorious peaks encompassing the mere mortals, from one end to the other, making everything look so ordinary and microscopic in comparison with the grand scale of the surrounding universe.

 

  

More to follow. Until you begin to get a feeler and a vague idea what the experience must have been like!? And just wondering, if you can figure out and name the places, I have been most fortunate to set my foot on. Lets see!?

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“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)

 If I didn’t believe in it till this morning, I do now!

I was going through that much controversial book “ The Secrets” by Rhonda Byrne a few days ago that talks at length about the law of attraction and the conviction that thinking and acting positive exudes positive waves and energy in the universe that attract and earn all the positive returns. You’ve got to believe in your dreams and determination was the simplified crux and message that I was able to grasp.

I am not sure if it actually works but it did pretty well for me. When I was craving for a trivial innocent personal wish to come true and everything seemed to go against it, I refused to budge. In the words of my best friend “ I know the stubborn soul in you is not going to give up!”

And so it happened. The things turned unbelievably in a matter of hours if not minutes. While it all looks sorted out for now and with all signs and indicators going green, looks like it is all set to finally embark on another mind-blowing trek in the days to come 🙂

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And this time around it was just not a hike. What spiced up all the fun was what followed shortly. On our way back to Abbottabad from Nathiagali we took the new partially completed alternate road being laid. On its winding course it leads to a lovely water fall locally known as ‘Aab Shaar’.

Aab Shaar ( The Waterfall )

 The narrow road bisects the thick heavens of pine jungles unveiling the idyllic beauty of the mountains, villages and lush green fields. Permeating raw beauty and purity that suffused the environs reminded me of the childhood trips on now much developed and commercialized Nathiagali Abbottabad road being brutally stripped of its natural treasures.

Guess what! The best part is yet to come. Upon his insistence, we decided to stop at the native village of one of our mates near Bagnotar who was accompanying us on the trip. As it turned out, the lovely mountain village perched on top of a hill sat romantically across a hundreds of meters wide and at least one thousand feet deep ravine. The only alternate access, other then crossing the stream on foot, is rendered by means of an innovative generator operated cable car look-alike installed by one of the domestic investors.

‘Galiyaat Cable Car’

 Just like the sighting of the Eid crescent ,the instantaneous sighting of the queer conveyance gadget without appropriate warning triggered a couple of immediate in volunteered reactions. As expected, I went berserk with thrill and excitement, adrenaline pumping high. To an equal or even greater disappointment, the mates refused to take the risk of the ride. It took the best of my negotiations and motivational skills, some oratory, eloquence and rhetoric, rich incentives and good emphatic fifteen minutes of coaxing to finally win all the votes if not hearts.

The ride, eventually proved to be much fun. No less thrilling than the cable car ride to Santusa islands from Mount Faber in Singapore or a long delightful ride to Genting heights near Kaulalampur. The village was a blend of colours , revealing a glimpse of gay rustic lifestyle and culture with increasing infiltration of modernization and urbanization. Adobe houses are paving way for concrete construction, the slanting tin and asbestos roofs being ruthlessly replaced by flat roofs. The arenas are getting bigger and wider whereas the households are shrinking to smaller numbers progressively diminishing the sense of sharing in all probability. The simplicity and naivety is losing its irresistible spontaneity, although the exemplary hospitality, warmth and open heartedness prevails and I sincerely hope it lasts as it steadily has for centuries.

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Give and take is the universal principle. No exceptions. Not even divine. It applies everwhere. You lose some. You earn a few. That’s how it works and is bound and meant to be. No two ways about it.

In every relationship, we maintain a joint emotional bank account with that other self. Be it your spouse, dear or loved one, parent, child, mate, buddy, pal, friend, customer or an adversary for that matter. There is a continous stream of sprouting transactions taking place all the time, all the while, from both ends with or even without every exchange. Incessant deposits and withdrawals. Unending debits and credits.

Little things make huge difference. Small acts mean big. It is not the word or act, kind or harsh, but the potential or value that translates into and brings about that corresponding debit or credit that really counts. It is all relative and it all varies with relation to the uniqueness of the other self.

So it is not just what is said that is important. Equally or perhaps more so are the unsaid words and undone deeds. The unexecuted transactions having an enormous potential to turn things around or tip the balance. Then what is left to retard the bonding ?  The barriers! Ego, apathy, priorities, time and other resources or lack of understanding and realization ? Or are they just taken for granted ?

And what are these said or unsaid things, done or undone deeds tied with ? Expectations ? Is that what assigns a value to any realized or unrealized transaction ?

Apart from unique and distinct personalities, these expectations are entrenched in mutual communication. When there is symphony or harmony of thoughts and understanding, it  all flows and sails in unifying rhythm and sounds melodious, reinforcing the beats to kindle an enviable resonance. Whilst, the lack of it creates a sheer noise and distortion.

The golden rule is ” Try first to understand and then to be understood……”  But is it that simple!? You bet your fortune! Much much easier said than done !!!

In theory and text book, it is still damn straight and simple to deal with. Communicate. Identify and remove the underlying causes. Avoid potential conflicts. Avert ugly situations and confrontations. Understand the realities. Expect little or nothing. Give selflessly. Don’t demand and be happy and content with whatever comes your way.

Pratically, it gets increasingly winding and stringent  when you encounter the intricacies involved and revelation and surfacing of multiple overlapping paradigms and domains. What does it all lead to ? Avoidance or abstinence ? There is a big tag dangling with it. SELF DENIAL! Now where do we go from here?

In the end, the analogy may seem mundane, businesslike, absurd, bizarre and even mean and insulting being applied to most endearing, palpable, intangible and selfless emotions such as love, trust and care. But then why not ? When every single thing is destined to undergo or supposed to be subjected to some sort of simulation. Even all our virtues and sins would be evaluated eventually, deciding our ultimate fate or so we believe! Broken down into numerous tiny numeric pieces against a yardstick whose guagability remains an enigma. But it is going to be something MEASURABLE and QUANTIFIABLE, specific and relative for sure. Whatever the ultimate unit or tool is supposed to be.

To conclude it all. Let me assert. Loud and clear. What has been a tacit belief and understanding so far or not been uttered with all that vigour.

You mean a lot to me. My friends. All of you. A blessing in my life…….

Lest those words remain unsaid and are lost, silenced and buried in the sands of time or shadowed by merciless and endless shrouds and currents of oblivion without getting themselves registered or counted………   

Now I want to embed the link to the video ‘ I want to spend my lifetime loving you…..’ by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena but this damn thing in my hand won’t allow. So if someone would be kind to do me the favour ? No returns guaranteed

 

 

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The bewildering 39 kms long trail that runs from Thandiani to Nathiagali and unveils the heavenly beauty of pine covered ‘Galiyaat’.

 
 

Dilapidated kitchen look alike at Dagri Bangla

 

Ruptured forest bangla at Dagri. Never repaired following the massive 2005 earthquake. The word is that the structure is going to be demolished soon.

 

A sublime sunset

 

Our sweet lil abode 🙂

 

 

A breathtaking view of Nathiagali from Miran Jani top; The heighest point of 'Galiyat' 9,561 ft ASL overlooking pine clustered Nathiagali

 

 

The poor natives; The unwashed masses

 

The quaint Church at Nathiagali

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It was another cracking dawn swallowing the looming shades of a pitch dark night that lingered a while ago. The receding darkness and shuddering cold silence gave helplessly in to determined and steadily advancing streaks of illumination with a buzz of life. A quaint lonely little house glowed in the first rays of sunlight. Amongst other signs of life, quite at odds with the idyllic environs, a tall thin silhouette moved along that mildly sloping and utterly green plane stretching in all directions at the top. There was something peculiar about that definite but measured and poised gait. A dignified fall of straight dark flowing hair that caressed her shoulders every now and then in the mild rustling wind as if voicing its apprehensions and vigil in her ear drums, two intelligently piercing hazel eyes embedded in large sockets encased in beautiful half arcs of thin black eye brows, a slightly pointed and attractive nose together with the weather beaten tanned complexion that lent more maturity than delicacy and beauty to the aging sharp features and countenance of the lady.

The rays of light pierced and gulped the curtains of suspended mist that had shrouded everything until now. Layers of rapidly melting snow with jagged boundaries perched at the top of distant towering peaks bathed in early sunshine.

Life for her was now steeped in besotting calm and tranquility but had it lost it objectivity? The only noise other then the bites of conscience and solitude unlike the din and clamour of activity from another lifetime was that of a murmuring stream and gushing raging waters. Everything had come to a standstill. One thing she always thought had eluded her was now at her disposal in abundance and nearly as stagnant as the shimmering glass sheet that formed the surface of deep blue nearby lake. Time had lost its meaning or had lost its measure possibly. Days would merge into endless nights only to be transformed back into the eternal daylight once more. Sometimes she just wondered if she was caught in a vicious circle and these continously repeating cycles were nothing more than an illusion.

Was there an escape? Such an irony! It was the solace of escape that she had been pursuing and seeking all along and that caused her to end up in such dreamlike world. An escape from biting realities; Escape from the jaws of madness and commotion of a bewildering mundane material world; Escape from her shattering dreams and painful memories and a man that suffused her past.

The colourful world appears so deceptive and charming with its rainbow of splitting shades when seen through the prism of love. It just absorbed and sucked her in the whirlpool, blinding her view with its hypnotic charm. Dazzled as she was, staring into the daylight, she was unable to see the obvious or refused to do so. It was all so heavenly and surreal until the moment had passed and she woke up to the stench of bitter reality all by herself. And once the bubble burst the only thing that sustained and lasted was the excruciating pain; The throes of which dug and bit more into her soul than corporal flesh and existence.

All her dreams were shattered or was she living in her dreams till that defining moment in her life and just woken to the reality?

Having lost her world or completely abandoned it, still she realized there was no escape from dreams and hope. She even laughed at the miserable helplessness, sheer absurdity and ruthlessness of it as the tears rolled down her wrinkled cheeks. Who can pick up millions of minute broken scattered chards and bond and glue them into a seamless shining mirror again?  While the sun began to shine and brighten everything in her surroundings, she couldn’t suppress a surge of warmth sprawling in her heart like the sprouting fresh fountain emanating from the heart of the rocky mountain.

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