wed had a pretty long day, so us mamas called it a night fairly early - Nafeesahs migraine was escalating, walking back to camp she mentioned not having peripheral vision - she could just look straight ahead or her head really hurt. she had developed migraines of late - no worries it would go away she said. shed had some Tylenol but it wasn't helping much.
next day we were to walk to Goz Khon at the headwaters of the Braldu, a days walk from Shuwerth, for a two day fishing side trip - Gul had described the place endlessly, both in his emails to me earlier in the year as well as during the trek. very close to the Chinese border, it was a place few tourists visit. famed for its abundant fishing, and unparalleled scenery, it was a grassy oasis, alot warmer than all our campsites so far. wed get to fish, bathe in the river, sleep out doors under starry skies, rock climb, ofcourse eat and make merry. we had imagined heaven. the drop down was a good 3000 feet. which was fine, except that meant 3000 feet back up! with Nafeeshas huge headache, Nargis' deteriorating feet, and most importantly Kamila's hyper thyroid condition, i was beginning to get seriously worried.
it was a toss up between nadir and Nafeesah climbing 6000m Mingalik Sar, while Kamila Nargis and i hung around at Shuwerth for two days, or going down to Goz Khon.
with Nafeesahs headache and nadirs escalating cold, Mingalik Sar was looking very dicey, going back with out seeing the fabled Goz Khon would feel wed been cheated - we discussed this at length - Kamila and i - and finally decided that night, Goz Khon it would be. wed give it a try - if it was too strenuous for any one, wed hire two yaks for the trip.
even so, i stayed awake for the longest time - mulling over all the negatives in my head all night. what if Nafeesahs headache got much worse, what if Kamila's heart condition got out of hand, what if Nargis simply couldn't walk any more - what if, what if, what if--- kept me awake till 3am. finally after the usual out to pee walk, under a bright shinning moon and clear crisp cold morning air, i crawled back into my sleeping bag and called it a night, too exhausted to worry for anyone anymore.
next morning Nargis refused to use a yak, up or down any trail.
Kamila barely used one for most of the walk.
Nafeesah perked up - headache a thing of the past.
on the return journey, it was me who ended up making most use of the one yak - while the second one got used sporadically between Nargis and Kamila during the two day journey.
our walk covered a huge rocky expanse of dry river bed, till we came to our first river crossing. Nargis wasn't allowed to wet her feet, so was forced to cross on the back of one of the yaks - one look at that undertaking and the rest of us opted right out of yak crossings!
with the help of our spindly legged guide and porters, all of whom proved to be a lot stronger than their looks implied, we walked across the rocky surface of the river bed, water moving at fantastic speed. we each crossed with a couple of them holding on tight on either side, guiding us through the rough spots.
once wed crossed, all of us were showered with flower petals and given some to stick in our caps - proverbial feathers for crossing so smoothly! after the endless walk on rocky plains this woke us all up and energized us for the rest of the fairly monotonous trek over more rocky expanses. we had at least two more river crossings - off came the shoes and socks and got slung across shoulders, up went the pants and right into the water with one man or two if you wanted it, right across a cold rocky fast moving river. it became easier with each crossing.
by mid day we got to Chikar - descending down a steep scree slope to this small pasture, our lunch break. a small green oasis in the middle of this arid, monochromatic landscape - the sun shinning bright and clear all day.
after a long and well deserved break we continued further to our fabled camp site Goz Khon - one more river had to be crossed, and one more large expanse of rocks had to be walked across - it seemed this drudgery simply wouldn't end. by now i was in no mood to keep pace with anyone. if Gul was getting bored out of his mind having to walk at 0 miles an hour so i wouldn't walk alone, he was out of luck - i wasn't going to be bothered by it. i simply walked as slowly as i wanted, the sun was too strong and the walk too long - finally after having sung and re sung all those telephone book songs - even taught Gul 'akay wabasta' , talked about everything i could possibly talk about, kept quiet and walked in silence for ever, we spotted Kamila, Nargis, Nadir and Imran sprawled across soft green grass - i felt like a drunk, (whatever that feels like) disoriented, malang, finding his lost tribe in the dessert. we both plonked ourselves on the welcome grass and just lay there for a while - all 6 of us relieved not to be walking on rocks or scree or at all for that matter!
we had no idea how far Goz Khon was from this junction - seemed never to materialize - but this was almost 'it'. another 5 minutes and we were there----
puny little patch of greenery??
this poky grass and shrubs with rocks all over is where we're going to sleep out doors?
wheres the river were going to bathe in? and the tons of fish were going to catch?
no wonder tourists don't bother!
'this is it everyone - this is Goz Khon the most beautiful place on earth', Gul was announcing.
(remember you 'didn't choose me?' well here's my revenge!!- is what i was hearing him say.)
once again i was only looking and not seeing - jumping to conclusions and forming opinions without scratching beneath the surface.
as we continued to walk around this small camp ground, i began to see it for the magical place that it was - the beauty whose songs Gul had been singing for months -
the jagged snow clad edges of the Karakorum's made an amphitheater right around the camp site, in the distance the wide silvery expanse of the Braldu river glistened in the late afternoon sun, the walk to which was through a long marshy expanse, interspersed with a soft hue of pink (some shrubbery that was in full bloom), huge boulders broke up the flat landscape, some so inviting you'd want to sleep on them.
a small shepard's hut sat on one side, a large boulder on another marking the boundary of the actual campsite.
Nafeesha had already been in camp for a bit - re energized she, Nargis and Nadir were off to the river with the men - already getting a head start on the fishing expedition! the others began to set up our tents and the evenings dinner got cooking.
Gul gave us a rock climbing lesson - nimble Nafeesah the first to follow him up and try it out. Nadir was next, as i watched on, debating whether i wanted to be bouldering after a long day of walking - it was too tempting to ignore - so up i went - trying to remember some of the pointers from many a moon back. felt like a piece of lead sprawled across this huge rock. i got up somehow - Kamila followed next. everyone got down, my turn came around and impatient me decided to jump the last section instead of finding foot holds and hand holds - why bother when there were short cuts.
that was it - my ticket to yak riding on the way back! i landed squarely, only to twist my right ankle nice and good. more salt and warm water wraps for Gul to deliver, even slower pace for me to walk! bummer bummer bummer bummer - i was sooooo pissed at myself!
the rest day that ensued took my mind off the twisted ankle for a bit - but the ever present pain wasn't about to let up any time soon ---
more on heavenly Goz Khon later..........