“Pakistan is one of the most plundered countries whose riches and potential yet awaits to be discovered”, remarked my driver-cum- guide as we took leave from Eagle nest- the hotel where I had spent the night. I had traveled all the way from Islamabad to Gilgit –Baltistan, the newly formed province in North Pakistan to view the famous high peaks rising above 6,000 meters.
Ever since my cousin Ahmad had returned from a trip to Hunza, his images capturing the picturesque beauty of this mountainous valley had mesmerized me and I had put Hunza on top of my “Must see” list. Among all, the “Lady Finger peak” seemed to attract me the most. However, I had to wait a couple of months till the temperatures up there were favorable for tourists. Hence it was the start of June when I finally decided to visit the Valley- perfect time to escape the scorching heat wave which hits the rest of the country. May till October marks the peak tourist season for Hunza because November on wards temperatures begin to fall below freezing point and heavy snow often restricts access to this enchanting valley.
Mountain climbing is not my cup of tea. As much as it fascinates me, it also exudes a feeling of fear and the most dreaded thought “What if I fell off” which has always kept me from giving it a try. It was my fifth day in the beautiful valley of Hunza, situated north/west of Hunza river at an elevation of about 2,500 meters.
This valley provides spectacular views of some of the most beautiful and magnificent mountains of the world, including the 7,788 meters high Rakaposhi, Hunza Peak and the famous 6,000 meters high Ladyfinger peak which drastically resembles a female finger.
The friendly locals and remarkable scenery provided by the surrounding mountains had made my trip to the famous tourist destination Altit quite memorable.
It was early morning and the sun rays had turned the snowy “Golden peak“ literally golden. “What a beautiful sight”, I exclaimed looking outside from the jeep’s window.
Enjoying the bumpy ride and nature’s exhibits from the jeep’s window I found myself playing with my wedding ring, twisting it around the middle finger.
“Lady Finger peak, hmm how interesting”, I thought.
I was munching on some sweet and sour dried apricots that I had bought along with some mix dry fruit last evening from the Bazaar. The market also had a huge display of cherries, plum, peaches and grapes- the specialty of Hunza valley and I planned to buy some on my last trip to the market before returning for folks back home. Our jeep was now taking a sharp turn along an uneven bumpy road.
The driver disrupted my thoughts by adding a lovely fact to my knowledge,
“Madam Do you know that the literacy rate of Hunza valley is above 95% and all children have access to High school?” My face beamed with pride to hear this wonderful statistic.
“Now that’s something to be proud of”, I replied gleefully.
No doubt I had found the people very friendly and hospitable but being part of a country where few eyebrows are raised at child labor, this happy news really made my day. The bumpy ride had finally come to an end. We had safely reached our destiny. I could see the real thing right in front of me. Unlike other peaks the Lady Finger peak hardly had any snow on its apex due to the sharp pinnacle.
The pebbles crunched under my joggers as I jumped off the 4×4. And then for a couple of moments I just stood there, speechless! There was a strange silence in the air. Glad to have my Reeboks on, I stood on a ridge and took a deep breath. Nature had its own beauty even in solitude and I wanted to savor the whole experience.
“Hellooooooo” I shouted on top of my lungs.
The stark silence broke. “Hellooooo”, my voice echoed back!
It seemed as if the rocky mountains were about to pierce the sky. I stood in awe devouring the splendor of the scenery spread before me and the power of its Creator. That moment answered many questions that had been in my mind since a long time. Had n’t my entire life revolved around the word “ME”? MY plans, MY decisions, MY strength! My eyes fathomed the size of the gigantic mountains surrounding me and then I looked down at my own being- so tiny, frail and utterly helpless.
“Who am I after all?” I found my heart questioning myself and this time the reply was quite different than it always had been.
“Nothing!” a single word said it all.