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Many jewels in waiting……

By Leader- Sarfraz Usman

The sun had only drifted behind the mighty Hindu kush a short while ago but its countless valleys had already gone under the complete cover of darkness. The snow covered towering peaks of one of the biggest mountain range were glittering like crimson diamonds in the light of setting sun but were too arrogant to allow any ray to effect the serenity of night below. We were trekking in one of its numerous uninhibited, rarely explored, beautiful valleys for last two days. It was today afternoon that we reached this small isolated lake, a feared spot among the local Gujars because of fairy’s dances in the full moon nights. We were young; and wanted to see few.

The lake was hidden behind two small hillocks so it was not visible from the main track of the valley. Its banks were covered by weeping willows with their branches drooping down into lake water. Its freezing water was crystal clear with distinct green and blue shades at different places. It had a small island in the middle with a single tree on it. It has a strange calmness in its character, looking atop the hillock it felt as if no body has ever visited this place. We had selected a grass bed to pitch our two dome tents just on the bank of the lake for the easy access to the water. It was a July night but the altitude of 12000 ft and the light breeze blowing down the icy peaks and flowery slopes had together brought the temperatures to below zero. That was the reason other then cooking food that we were all gathered around the fire which we had lit well in time, we had gathered enough dry wood to survive the night. Tired, fatigued and hungry but totally spell bounded by the charisma of the environment we were alone in a hundred square mile radius. Pollution, noise, artificial lights, modern fabrications, egoistic aspirations, abstracted self images, there were no impurities, nature was dominating the soul and body alike. We were experiencing new things, a jet black sky with trillions of stars brightly shining in its each corner, a sight diminished in the bright lights of modern day world. We could see thousands of pearls lying in the base of the lake, sparkling with the mellow movement of the waves or perhaps these were the stars reflecting back but who cared, the magic was on. Splashes of a distant stream, whistling of the wind and the crackling of the burning wood were the only noises. We were all quite, too over awed to speak. It felt as if we have lost our past and there is nothing left to think about but the only question “who we are?” and “why ?”…..

Our stove was made of three rocks with pine wood burning in it and we were cooking pasta in white sauce with tuna, cheese, eggs and peas as its main ingredients. It smelled good, our cook was an ABCD (American born confused desi), who had joined us for this trip. Unexpectedly we heard few voices coming from the upwind side, as we all looked in that direction we were surprised to see two tall white men appearing in the dark on the narrow trail along the lake. “Hi are we interrupting?”, “we saw the fire from our camp atop the nearby hillock” were their cautious introduction. So we were not alone in the hundred miles radius, as we thought earlier. A British doctor and a Dutch hockey team physiotherapist, also startled by the utter beauty of this spot were camping and surviving on chocolates and cheese for the last two days and hadn’t had any cooked meal, so they were invited for supper. Each spoon of pasta was priceless. A light drizzle had started by then. With coffee brewing on the stove the conversation slipped from religion, history, hockey, hobbies to mythology. It seemed little strange that a place that isolated had knitted together the people of so far of lands with such contrasting life styles in to a perfect harmony. Wrapped up in our rain coats, sipping over the coffee mugs we chatted around the fire for a long time. The night was slipping away but an unforgettable memory was permanently settling down. Alas! It was not a full moon night…..

In the years those followed, we roamed many valleys of northern Pakistan, Swat, Naran to Babusar top, Hunza till Khunjrab Pass, Khiplo & Shigar around Skurdu and the mesmerizing Deosai to name few. Each expedition was unique; different in flavour but soul enriching every time and now it’s the most cherish able part of our memories. Many joined us to experience the magic of …….., well I can’t say what because I have noticed all these years that, though it equally hypnotized all but each member of the group had a different story to tell about the same trip. Perhaps it is because of the reason that mountaineering is the only sport in the world where there are no spectators; it is just done for a very personal reason. I can tell now that some will get inspired by the sheer beauty of untouched nature, some will be over awed by the Allah’s wondrous creations, others will be simply exhilarated by the absolute physical aspect of the experience and few will find themselves.

My dear readers now please realize the fact that Pakistan is the only country in the world the world’s three biggest mountain ranges i.e. Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush meet. Out of thirty, thirteen highest mountains lie in Pakistan. Perhaps the biggest collection of world’s total matter lies in our countries . Only the peaks which are above 25000 ft are marked and well known like K-2, Nanga Parbat, Gasherburam 1 & 2, Rakaposhi, Tirich Mir etc but the ones above 20000 to 25000 ft are in countless numbers. In contrast, the highest peaks in Europe, Africa, north / South America, Australia and Russia range between 14000 -20000ft of height. Pakistan in itself is a wonder of Allah in a way that comparing its small size it holds such numbers of this Planet’s gigantic landmarks. Here I am not trying to preach high altitude climbing but I am only trying to make a point that mountains are life sustaining source of our world, they have many lessons to teach. We have a chance to explore them since we all live so close to one of the most astonishing terrains of this planet. My dear readers lets embark on the journey of a free spirit lets enjoy the pleasurable flight of an independent soul. Take a first step and I assure you there are many jewels awaiting your path.


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