expressive face, soft melodious voice, most romantic. many of them had good singing voices, everyone joined in solo or chorus, alternating between Urdu and Wakhi. dancing always followed, dancing in pairs or four somes, Nargis, Nafeesah, Kamila and of course Nadir weren't sitting back either. i couldn't possibly manage dancing on one foot, so taking over the drums and pounding away with the hands where the feet couldn't go, happily provided the constant background music instead.... mirzaw wrapped up the evening with his love poem - banafsheh - Gul translated, we all ooed and aahed.
then came the 'sleeping under the stars' part of the Goz Khon legend. seemed pretty uncomfortable - poky stubble for grass is what the campsite was. unless you found a rock or a sandy bench along the river the rest didn't look too inviting - we all debated the nights sleeping arrangements - Nargis and Nafeesha opted to sleep in the shepherds hut with the porters, Kamila wanted her tent, my dilemma was the usual claustrophobia of sleepless tent nights opposed to poky grass but star laden skies and beautiful weather. nadir started out in his tent but decided to sleep out at some point. then Gul spread out his mattress pad and made it look so comfortable i figured id try it outdoors myself - nothing to loose except more sleep - i was used to that anyway.
so outdoors it was. at first the stars - a million or gizillion - were very distracting, once i was over staring endlessly at the sky, trying not to slip off the narrow mattress pad on to the brushy undergrowth kept me awake, then the temperature began to drop and id layer up some more to keep warm, except that would make me feel really stuffy ------- at some point finally i stopped fidgeting and began to ignore the little discomforts, enjoy the starry night and fell asleep - i was the last one up next morning, in no hurry to crawl out of the comfortable sleeping bag - the sun was already pounding at 8 am, so there was no choice but to start the day.
breakfast, then fishing, then bathing, then lazing, napping, reading, writing, rock climbing, playing cards, drinking tea, eating pakoras and fish for snacks, finally dinner and dance.
fishing --- Kamila's voile dupatta was used for fishing net, two guys held it at the far end of a side stream, while two people ran the fish right into the waiting duppatta. the meagre fish that were caught got tossed onto the pebbly river bank - this went on for a long while - for us, mostly just fun getting all wet chasing the fish to their deaths - for Gul and his men, a matter of pride. so much had been made of our 'fishing side trip' there was no way they were going to make do with a handful of tiny fish. together we caught at least 30 something skinny little baby catfish, as delicate looking as their captors! fried lightly with just salt, the bony little creatures tasted sublime. Gul kept telling me not to run in the river, the cold water wasn't good for my swollen ankle, but i could be his mother, so there wasn't much bullying he could do - twisted ankle or not i wasn't missing this for anything.
bathing---- once all the (Wakhi) fishermen dispersed we were left to pick our bathing holes. some sections of the meandering river had warm pools of water we used as tubs. the whole place was camouflaged by shrubbery, some bull rushes, some pink blooming bushes. all with channels of water running out towards the main Braldu river. we bathed ourselves and each other, washed all our clothes, hung around till they somewhat dried, sun bathed, took more pictures and just relaxed in this gigantic spa for which we had walked so far and so hard.
Nargis missed out on the fishing and bathing - Gul insisted she not wet her feet, she herself wasn't going to make it worse. so i helped her wash her hair and bathe behind one of the many giant boulders close to camp.
by late afternoon porters and all, we had all bathed somewhere or the other - every ones hair looking clean, every ones faces looking fresh and rested. all those layers of sweat and grime washed away, showed off each of our very tanned, very burned skins beautifully!
after some more rock climbing, ruckus games of bullshit, Kamila showing us her tai chi moves, Gul showing us some of his prowess - effortlessly lifting the giant mamas on his back, stick dancing under a starry sky, a noisy game of tug of war, a good hearty dinner and finally jam session in the hut, we all opted for the out doors - Nafeesah and Kamila shared a queen sized rock bed, nadir, Nargis, myself and Gul spread out on the stubbly brush, a few men slept in the hut, the rest scattered all over the campsite.
the magic of goz khon had enveloped us all. on a balmy star laden night, breathing in the soft smells of the herby underbrush, this would be my only complete restful night.
it was the equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion, between walking towards a goal, yet finding it in every step we took, a place that gave strength and joy to body and soul alike.
to leave so quickly was to end a perfect experience, but as all perfect moments in time, experiencing it meant letting it go, making it vanish!