N and I started reciting Quranic verses while A accelerated the car. To our mere surprise or rather shock, the dacoits did not stop us but all of us remained frantic for the remaining part of the journey. We continued to ask a plethora of questions in anxiety. Hats off to A who drove with such courage and confidence with three terrified people in the car. We weren’t sure if we would encounter any more dacoits on the way but A literally flew the car taking some risky turns but trying his best to take us out of the danger zone as fast as possible.
Anyhow, it had been almost 20 hours since the beginning of the journey. Raahim was now crying hysterically. I had run out of all ways of entertaining him that included showing him cartoons on my phone, reading books, playing with the few toys we had, snacking, dancing in the car, coloring, napping etc. He was tired and hungry. We had taken hardly any food break on the way and now stopping the car on a dangerous road was not an option. When nothing seemed to soothe him, I massaged him with mustard oil that I had kept in the car which calmed him and he went quiet for a while. Yes, it was gas! Gas and babies definitely do belong together!
Finally, after a long, adventurous journey we reached Chilas to stay the night. Tired and hungry, we slept like babies but hey, is that even possible when you have a baby in your room. Maybe he was too tired or what, he woke up crying screamingly in the middle of the night thanks to which we went out and gazed at the starry sky that we city dwellers often crave to see. Stars up above and Indus down below. The noise of water thrashing against the rocks was frightening and peaceful at the same time. Water scares me. Indus flows so carelessly, it stuns you, it startles you! It makes you realize the power of water, the power of current-so powerful and so petrifying.
Next morning, we set on the Karakoram Highway to reach the Raikot Bridge. On the way, we saw people huddled together looking for a car fallen in the ridge, lost in the deadly Indus River. Sometimes, this excursion seemed like the Final Destination movie. We were escaping death at every stage of our journey. Anyhow, we reached the Raikot Bridge, parked our cars at the Shangrila Hotel and started THE jeep ride. Off-roading! So that’s what you call it. No road, narrowest path, crest on one side and mountain on the other! The jeep ride took almost 1.5 hours and literally shook up each and every bone in my body. The ride was so bumpy that I had to hold Raahim’s neck to save it from any shock. We hired porters and horses when we reached the point where jeeps could no longer ride. A porter took our bags while we started our journey on the horses. It was a 3 hour horse ride. Raahim was with me on the horse. I held him as close and as tightly as possible.
The trek to fairy meadows is not easy if you are on foot. People we encountered on the way seemed tired and exhausted. Most of the ride was on a very constricted and steep path with a bloodcurdling gorge on one side. Right when the ride was ending, Raahim slept. Yeah! He SLEPT on the horse and kept falling on one side. Losing balance on such a track was a risky game so I had to keep shaking him to make him stay up and sit straight. It is definitely not easy to force a two year old toddler into doing something against his will.
We crossed streams, forests and meadows and finally reached our heavenly destination. Only short of the cottages, W and Rs’ girls who were together on a horse fell off. Their horse had mistakenly stepped on a weak link of a small wooden bridge while crossing a stream. It was only good luck that they did not fall in the canyon or did not bump their head against any rock. They fell on a plain ground. They did get slight injuries and were in a state of shock for a few minutes but their bravery was remarkable. They were totally normal after a short while enjoying the meadows, running around and giving us lifetime memories with their beautiful smiles and giggles.
Our Cottages at Fairy Meadows
Meanwhile, Raahim had reached the Big Park we had been telling him about since the past few days. He was out of control. He was running around, jumping, drinking water from the stream and enjoying the herds of sheep, screaming “baa baa”. His animal farm had come alive. Horses, cows and sheep, all of them together! He was into the wild, having the time of his life. There were huge meadows in front of our cottages with a stream running in the middle, overlooked by the huge Nanga Parbat, snow covered and majestic. What a sight! Nanga Parbat, also called the killer mountain is notoriously a difficult climb and is the ninth highest mountain in the world.
View of Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows
Another breathtaking picture of Fairy Meadows
Night fell, it started getting really cold and a bonfire got lit up. The meadows were full of camps. It was a pretty busy week for Fairy Meadows with lots of tourists and visitors. At night, when we got together, we decided to change our plan. To my utter disappointment, the plan for Deosai got cancelled and after an unending round of discussion we agreed on going to the Naltar Valley after spending another night at Fairy Meadows.
Into the wild with baby and baba
After a rainy night, it was cold and cloudy the next morning. My husband, Raahim and I went into the woods to explore the micro hydel power generation that was lighting up all the cottages. With two small turbines, the electricity was being generated through the stream water flowing throughout the meadows. It was so serene and peaceful there. We spent some time there only to find out that our friends were leaving for Beyal camp, one stop before the Diamir base camp for Nanga Parbat. I couldn’t find a horse to be able to go to Beyal camp with Raahim so I put him to sleep with my husband while I went to explore the meadows on the backside of the cottages with W, R and the girls. Those meadows were more plain and lush green. We even came across a small pond that had the reflection of the mountains but sadly the majesty kept refusing to show up. We anxiously waited to see the snowcapped peaks but the clouds didn’t budge.
Power Generation Unit of Fairy Meadows
The next morning we bid farewell to the Majesty, still hidden behind the clouds. With the horse incident two days ago we were really scared to have kids going down on horses but we took this leap of faith and went ahead with the journey. We took the same route back and eventually settled in the same jeeps. In the middle of the bumpy ride, my eyes popped out and my heart sank. I saw W and R’s jeep smashed with their driver standing on the road, worried and drained. My head started spinning-Where were the girls..where were W and R…
To be continued…
Title Credit: Nauma J Alvi
Photo Credits: Waleed Ahmed, Nauma J Alvi