As I looked towards my husband in shock, he heaved a sigh of relief and assured me about everybody’s safety just through his eyes, without uttering a word. I remained curious till we reached the Raikot bridge where the boys told us how the previous night Ahmed Bhai, one of the staff members had told them about W and R’s jeep ‘s incident. Basically, the driver was the owner of the jeep, inexperienced and unprofessional. When he was going downhill after dropping W and R to the fairy meadows trek, his jeep had fallen in the crest while he himself had jumped out to save his life. So, the boys had arranged for another jeep for W, R and the girls. The day we were going back, the smashed jeep was being taken out. So a word of caution: Please make sure the jeep drivers you hire from the Raikot bridge are experienced. You can find that out by asking other drivers around or by interviewing them yourself about his experience, etc. The path for jeeps is not an easy one. Driving on that path is a very skillful job so please doesn’t risk your life by hiring an unprofessional driver.
Anyhow, at Raikot Bridge, we had lunch (not to forget the KnN kebabs we were served, Rs. 100/kebab) at the Shangrila Hotel where we had parked our cars and headed to the Naltar Valley, taking the Gilgit route. Naltar is a forested valley known for it’s wildlife and breathtaking mountainous scenery.
After a long car journey from Raikot bridge and finally through the Nomal village, we parked the cars at a police check post. Jeeps! Again! Start of another bumpy ride, this time in total darkness. Raahim had gone to sleep so I enjoyed the chilly wind. I couldn’t see anything; only hear noises of water flowing recklessly. I was thrilled about the next morning. I wanted to see where I was. I wanted to know how Naltar looked.
The next morning we were all up and ready to leave by 8am. Raahim’s nose got runny and I freaked out a bit, gave him an anti allergy medicine and prayed so much to God to keep him fine at least till we reached home. We had to reach back to Chilas during daylight; time was short so we did not want to waste a single minute. Anyhow, morning at Naltar was beautiful. It was chilly but comfortable. We got into our jeeps and headed towards the three famous lakes. The ride was breathtaking. We passed through lush green forests, saw vibrant colored birds, waved to the village children passing by and enjoyed the wildly flowing, aqua colored streams, criss crossing the entire village.
Our first stop was the Satrangi Lake. It had changing shades of green and blue. As soon as we reached, my semi toilet trained child felt the need to poop. With no toilets around, convincing him and then actually making him poop into the wild was not an easy job. But I guess, now he is ready for a camping trip too!
We passed by the beautiful but small Pari Lake and made our next stop at the Blue Lake. Blue lake is untouched breathtaking beauty, looked upon by snow capped peaks and so serene that we didn’t feel like leaving the place. Raahim and I spent considerable time throwing pebbles into the water. While I kept stopping Raahim from stepping into the water, the girls remained busy collecting pine cones.
The ski resort and chair lift were closed and the snow leopard wasn’t there in his cage so we went back to our hotel. As we drove back down to the police check post, some sort of sand storm layered us and our luggage with loads of sand and dust.
Sun burnt, tired and full of exciting stories; we headed back to Chilas, applying aloe vera gel on our burns throughout the way and buying fresh cherries and apricots. Raahim had seen cherries only in his caterpillar book but now they had come alive for him. He enjoyed eating cherries, leaving a whole lot of mess for me to clean up. We reached Chilas and left for Lahore the next morning-back on the spectacular Babusar drive! We stopped at the Babusar Top for some snacks where it started snowing.
The journey back was long. We were all exhausted. I was scolding Raahim way too much now. However, he still showed applaud able amount of patience. We reached back in 20 hours. Boys were tired of driving. But they had done an incredible job, driving so skillfully through the mountains.
I would like to thank A and N for bearing so patiently with a child for such a long journey. He created so much mess in the car, cried hysterically at times, slept at times forcing us to lower the music volume but this couple did not complain or fidget for even a second. I was also amazed at how N had managed the trip despite having a swollen knee since the Beyal Camp trek. Hardly any complain or any sign of pain on her face, she managed it so well. Three cheers for her! The girls were so good to Raahim, took care of him, played with him and kept him entertained. He had become such good friends with the girls, he still calls out their names randomly while playing or even in his sleep. Despite having children on the trip, I was surprised to see how nobody was ever late. The entire group was so punctual, co operative and helpful. Frankly, I have travelled with a lot of groups but this group, I must say, was the best in terms of cooperation, punctuality and compromise.
Travelling teaches you so much about life, people and about patience and compromise. Travel teaches you how you are so insignificant and there is so much to life. Travelling in the mountains esp in Pakistan is hard, you have to move out of your comfort zone but it is so totally worth it. Don’t wait for your kids to grow up, don’t wait to save up enough money, don’t wait to get time because that you will never get, just pack up your bags and travel! Everything keeps falling into place once your start your journey.