You are a highly stupid person, Pervisha, and this is going to be the end of your life, I told myself out of frustration and fatigue. But you can do it, yes you can. I repeatedly gave myself this pep talk, while water dripped down my face, ruining my heavy layers of sunblock. There goes my complexion… there goes my skin, and there goes my enthusiasm to consider another hike in this terrible hot weather. We had started off towards Passu Glacier Viewpoint as a group of 5 girls along with our guide from Borit lake, where we had reached by jeep, but despite our enthusiasm for the trek, something, somewhere felt terribly wrong. And it didn’t take me long to realize what was that.
Extremely hot, and remarkably punishing. The burning sun of July was shining right above our heads at 12 in the noon. It was most certainly not a good time to start this hike. At a time when people were returning from the other side, we were rubbing tons of sunblock on our faces to get ready for the great stroll.
For those who aren’t familiar with Passu or Borit Lake, Passu Glacier, it is situated in the south side of Passu village. Where is Passu Village? Passu is a small village on the Karakoram Highway, beside the Hunza River, some 15 kilometers from Gulmit, the Tehsil headquarters of Gojal in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and about 150 km upriver from Gilgit. It lies very near the tongue of the Passu Glacier, and just south of the tongue of the Batura Glacier.
About the Borit Lake, it is a lake in the Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan. Borith is a hamlet in the surroundings of the Borith Lake to the northwest of Husseini, a village near Gulmit, Gojal, in the upper Hunza. The altitude of Borith is roughly 2,600 m (8,500 feet) above sea level.
Regret, regret, and some more regret about the place made me cherish my existence as if those could be my last moments. This may sound an exaggerated account of my exasperation, but I kid you not, this is exactly what happens when we go into the wild, without calculating the consequences. Our plan was simple. Get water, have sunblock, get a cap, march on! Once on the viewpoint, go further. Touch the Glacier, stick out our tongues, taste it and run back to home. See? But plans go wrong, and when that happens in a place where survival is entirely based upon you stamina, you got to keep your spirits high.
When one is faced to trek in extreme weather conditions, so daunting as to dehydrate you to the core, your stamina for walking automatically decreases. So it was obvious to have little stamina at that point, and dread such a herculean task that lay ahead of us. With so much distress, I stopped again and again, and viewed the surroundings. Dry, blazing and punishing rocks stared back at me and I knew, our plan had awfully failed. Except for the lovely apricot trees and homes made with stones, everything else was absolutely bronzed and terribly dry. This is not what I had fantasized about when I had woken up that morning, all excited for the hike.
As they say in Urdu, Ab chiryaan chugh gai khaith, tou kia rona (Why cry over spilt milk). We all decided to march on, nonetheless, despite one man’s declaration near the lake that we wouldn’t last for long in this tapti dhoop(scorching sun). We will, we said. We rather shouted at the top of our voices and trekked on.
15 minutes later: We wanted to have a nervous breakdown and cry.
20 minutes further on the track. A few of my group mates had abandoned us.
To call them weak hearts perhaps, wouldn’t be right and would sound extremely false, for one of them couldn’t just continue due to health reasons, and the other two girls wanted to make sure their friend reaches the lake safely. So the trio returned, while me and my one other stubborn trip mate decided to keep on going with our guide, Muqeem bhai. He was a master at this! I don’t remember ever seeing him gasping or losing his breath, at any point during our entire trip. Could it be because he is a mountaineer and from Hunza himself? Of course, the people of Hunza walked faster than us. So fast and gracefully that I felt being born in Lahore was such a crime. I should have been born in Hunza to have the same strong stamina for heights. Thinking this, I wanted to just give up walking frankly speaking but there came someone, to remind me how unbiased God really is, and anyone can do anything in this world as long as they have the courage to do it! In this instance, that person was our driver uncle. Soon enough when he joined us on the trek along with the other driver (yes the same guy who had predicted our demise), he began to praise our speed at which we were walking. I was named the Lahori bakri, and my mate, The Abottabadi bakri for our himmat and speed despite the heat. Just hearing this, raised our blood by 2 liters and gave us a lot of stamina.
Huff and puff. We produced the strangest, most annoyed and tired noises on our trek. “Are we there yet? Ahhh! Why are we not there yet?” The same driver who had laughed at the idea of city girls doing this, now accompanied me and offered to carry my backpack. Things had gotten a bit stable by that time. Whenever I needed to stop and catch my breath, he would locate some shade for me under some giant rock, offer me my water bottle and we would chat a little. We talked about his work, as a driver. His adventures included taking people from this side across China border. Quite fascinating for me, but for him it was just some ordinary work. I also noticed he was quite aware of the political debates and our country’s administrative scenario. Thinking about my interaction with him now makes me ponder on the beauty of interactions itself. Where would we be if we never make the first move, lower our walls, and get to know someone? Having interactions with people from different backgrounds is what makes us understand not just our surroundings, but our own place in this moving world. And getting to know him there, talking to people around me and laughing all along was the thing that kept me going, on that punishing track to be honest. Indeed the shortest way to get anywhere is to have good company.
The exhausting hike still drained us and seeing our condition, our guide tried to reason with us. We stopped in the middle and had a quick standing meeting for decision. It was wise to make the trek short by reaching till a point from where we can get a glimpse of the glacier and trek back to lake. No more plans to go for the actual viewpoint or near to the glacier. We agreed on this without any further argument. I, for one, was very happy with this choice, as I had run out of water. It was during this time that the farce happened. I spotted a bus coming towards us. Confused, exhausted and perplexed beyond words, we asked the men around us why the hell are we walking if a bus can come up to this point?
“Because our bus bla bla bla and some more technical bla bla” is all that I heard. Apparently our driver had this idea that it could be dangerous to go up to the viewpoint on bus so let’s make them walk and they can lose some weight by walking.
Our guide waved at the bus, signaling them to stop.
The foreign passengers in the bus waved back, signaling a friendly exchange.
And then, very smartly, and shamelessly, they moved right past us.
I stood there stupefied. Muqeem bhai tried to explain this kartoot of goras by adding how sometimes foreign tourist buses have rules to not let any local in.
Forlorn and some more forlorn, we began to walk again. And we did reach the view point after a nearly 2 hours trek. But the adventure for me didn’t end here. What waited for me on my way back to the lake was the real fun. My team mate Sumaira had taken a different route for her way back with elderly driver, so the three of us, that is me, my guide Muqeem Baig and the political-enthusiast driver guy, stole apricots from the apricot heaven.
With bag full of apricots, and heart filled with happiness upon making this memory, I happily strolled back to the lake, and tell tales of my sweet grand theft and the finest hours spent huffing and puffing.
Although, we couldn’t finish the task that we had aimed for, but we learned many things about trekking in summers. The idea was pretty simple in the mind but logistics let us down. So my advice to anyone going out to Borit Lake, Passu Glacier Viewpoint or to the glacier itself is to make sure you do not choose the summers for this. If, however, your adventure must take place in June or July, then make sure you start out this trek early morning right at sunrise. The high temperatures during noon hours are simply fatal and downright punishing. You’ll not only be dehydrated but also sun burnt.
Also, keep big bags for apricots. You wouldn’t want to miss plucking them off and eating fresh apricots on your way back. After all, what’s a Hunza trip without this fun, eh? 😉